5 Types of Forms in Architecture with Examples

In art and design, we often use the term form, to identify an external appearance of an object — the manner of arranging or coordinating elements or parts of a composition so as to produce a coherent image.

5 Main Forms In Architecture 

In the book 'Form, Space and Order', by Francis DK Ching, forms are segregated into five main types.

  1. Centralized form
  2. Linear form
  3. Radial form
  4. Clustered form 
  5. Grid form 

1. Centralized form 

A group of forms that surround and put emphasis on a central or parent form. Centrally located forms such as spheres, cones, cylinders usually personify a sacred or honorific space.

Matrimandir, Auroville

Auroville - Centralised Forms

The central ground becomes the main focus due to the seating area surrounding it.

2. Linear form

A series of forms that are arranged sequentially in a row. It can result due to a proportional change in the dimensions of a form. It can either be segmented or curvilinear or can be manipulated to enclose a portion or space.

Biosciences research building at the National University of Ireland, Galway

This building has an elongated structure that emphasizes mainly on the horizontal aspect.

Even the facade has vertical elements arranged sequentially in a row. 

3. Radial form

A configuration of forms that extend outward from a centre in a radiating manner. It combines characteristics of centrality and linearity in the same composition. 

The Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port, England

This structure looks as if it's spiralling outward from a centre.

4. Clustered form

A number of forms are grouped together by functional requirements such as size, shape, proximity. A clustered form is flexible enough to be organized in several ways such  as they can be attached to a larger or parent form, they can be individual entities showing their different shapes and sizes or they can merge together as one showing different faces. 

Housing complex built for the World Exposition in Montreal 

Different blocks/houses are attached together in a unique way as one whole unit.

5. Grid form

A set of modular forms related and regulated by a three-dimensional Grid. An ordinary square grid, when projected into the third dimension, generates a spatial network of reference points and lines. 

C&P Corporate Headquarters at Graz, Austria

The repetition of squares in the structure gives the essence of a three-dimensional grid form.

Transformation of forms

Let's now understand what transformation of form is. All forms are said to be generated from primary solids, variations are created by the manipulation of one or more dimensions or by the addition or subtraction of elements.

1. Dimensional transformation

A form can alter one or more of its dimensions but still retain it's identity as its initial form.

2. Subtractive transformation

A form can be transformed by subtracting a portion of its volume. It can either retain it's initial identity or achieve a new form.

3. Additive transformation

A form can be transformed by addition of elements to its volume.  Its initial identity can either be altered or retained.

It is due to these transformations of basic primary solids, there exists several different forms in architecture.

Forms in architecture is a fundamental aspect that balances functional requirements, aesthetics, cultural context, and sustainability, ultimately shaping the built environment and influencing our daily lives.

5 Types of Forms in Architecture with Examples