Of Elephants: Musings on Semiotic Predilictions
SHAYARI DE SILVA (M.Arch ’16)
A few years ago, I did a project for a graphic design course, where I drew parallels between a personal penchant for observing elephants in the forms of everyday objects, and the Sinhalese script. It was an exercise that to me, emphasized that architects and typographers foreground many of the same ideas in their work: figure-ground relationships, striking compositions, and visual sequencing, among these.
Yet the types of gestures we make when writing different scripts varies vastly, and how a predilection or even familiarity with certain types of letter-forms may influence us as designers, is worth investigating. If you belong to a world dominated by the Bézier curves of the Arabic script, and its straight, vertical lines, do the forms for domes of mosques and their minarets come instinctually to you as an architect? Wang Shu reportedly spends his day working on calligraphy in his office; what might such a habit reveal about his architecture? In our discipline, discourse on syntacic explorations of architecture abound, but perhaps there is room for taking a more semantic approach too: would looking to linguistic characters an architect uses, reveal subconscious tendencies that could enrich our understanding of his or her work?
Far left: Sinhalese letters. Middle: A faucet at the Yale School of Art. Right: Vatadage Ruins, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka (Image courtesy Flickr CC Licence/rahuldlucca