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The Visual Matrix:
The case of Mimar Sinan Project Site

Bilkent University, Turkey Abstract. This paper introduces a web-based ‘visual reference system’ model for archi-tectural education and research. The system utilizes visualization to aid in spatial com-prehension and comparative analysis of abstract architectural concepts. The systemestablishes a resource for architectural heritage and differs from such other sources byits matrix-based visualization format. Keywords. visual reference system: architectural education; multimedia resources; e-learning. Introduction and background
to virtual museums on specific architects such as Tsai’s Palladio Web Museum (1997) or Allegra The introduced model forms an online ‘visual’s prototype work for comparing the woks of reference system’ of visual and textual informa- two specific architects I.L.Kahn and F.L.Wright tion for architectural heritage. The system collects (1995). There are systems that establish tools for and orders data. The acquired data from the sys- accessing architectural information such as tem is displayed on a ‘visual matrix’, capable of DOORS (Sklar, 1995) or ArchiWAIS (Choi, 1994) handling simple sorting operations, such as and virtual reconstruction techniques are widely chronological sorting, or sorting by size. The used to model existing or non-existing important acquired data can also be organized to form and buildings, cities and/or sites (Lewin and Gross, store individual files (called as the profiles) 1996) of architectural history. To sum up, use of according to different users or different purposes.
the Internet and databases are not new in archi- tecture; yet, the proposed system introduces an allows for adding new information at any time. As integrated way of employing both techniques for such, the system has a dynamic and expanding establishing an original reference system, based character. This architectural reference tool for on the interrelated multi-layered matrices. In order research and education may serve scholars, to display the operation of the introduced model, researchers, architects, designers, and historians a demonstrational project is developed.
from all over the world. The introduced model can The project is developed in two phases.
be applied to diverse topics and periods of archi- During the first phase, general framework of the system was laid out. This initial phase was carried There are similar efforts utilizing the Internet, out at the Digital Design Lab of Columbia databases, and multi/hyper-media systems in University Graduate School of Architecture, order to store, organize and display architectural Planning and Preservation. In the consecutive information. Such efforts span from electronic phase, the system was filled in with visual and libraries of significant buildings representing textual data. This second phase was carried out selected architectural periods (Chan 1999) with the support from the Media Center for Art History of Columbia University and Turkish mosques. Also each structural element can be Academy of Sciences ( analyzed on an interactive table. On this table the user clicks on the name of the element on the left hand side, and the element is displayed with a Mimar Sinan Project Site
view on the right hand side of the table.
‘Comparisons’, introduces matrices for com- The demonstrational project is called the paring Sinan’s architecture to the contemporary Mimar Sinan Project Site (MSPS) and focuses on Western styles (especially to Renaissance), and to Classical Ottoman and its contemporary Western the Early Islamic architecture. The matrices con- cultural heritage of the 16th century. The system tain plans, sections, elevations and site plans of consists of multi-layered web pages containing the Early Islamic and Renaissance buildings. All visual and textual data about the art and architec- the views in the matrices can be opened up in an adjustable separate window. Hence, an instructor Classical Ottoman architecture is an impor- may easily have the plans of Hagia Sophia and tant and rich part of architectural heritage. This Suleymaniye Mosques side by side on the screen era is almost synonymous with the great architect for comparative purposes. Finally, the ‘Glossary’ Sinan’s (Mimar Sinan) works. MSPS combines the introduces visually supported definitions of fea- extensive, yet dispersed information about this tures, concepts and elements of Islamic and era in one major source, accessible simultane- ously by numerous users for diverse purposes such as specific (one item-one criterion), complex Matrix-based structure
(more than one item and criteria) or comparative (more than one item – one criterion) researches.
Current education and research techniques convey data in a linear sequence. Recollection of ‘Mosques’, comprises architect Sinan's selected this data for later use relies upon one’s memory mosques both in list and matrix format. The plans, and its organization is a tedious task that may not elevations, sections, and site plans are organized in inter-related matrices. Each cell of the matrices Moreover, notion of space is best perceived in and the items on the mosque list are linked to the three dimensions. For instance, the characteris- individual mosque pages for acquiring detailed tics of Classical Ottoman architecture, such as information on the specific mosques.
the play of the masses, transformation from ‘Design Principles’, displays the common human to monumental scale, centrality of form, properties of mosque architecture. These proper- symbolism of form and delicacy of the structure ties are linked to multi-level matrices to observe can be better studied with cross-references from how unique designs are derived from common plan to elevation, from site to section. MSPS intro- principles. For instance, the textual information duces the possibility of cross-referencing in about “site-building relationship” is linked to the between the multi-layered data and also inte- grates QTVR movies of the interior spaces for a ‘Structure’, contains an overview of the struc- better understanding of spatial characteristics.
tural elements and structural principles utilized in Islamic architecture. There are matrices of the design features specifically and comparatively by roof structures and the domed interiors of the The main idea behind organizing the visual materials in a matrix format is two fold. First, the matrix structure gives the possibility of displaying all the visual data together for comparative pur- If the user wants to have a look at all the plan views, the plan views are arranged on a matrix Figure 1. MSPS main visualmatrix displaying the draw-ings of the selected mosques(some views are temporarilyinactive). Conclusion: Uses and Users
MSPS contains textual and visual data about the Classical Ottoman mosques, Early Islamic mosques, Renaissance architecture, principles of Islamic architecture, structural elements of Islamic architecture and architectural elements of Classical Ottoman period. By a standard library research, the amount of visual and textual data side by side. As such, the user can have a notion contained in the system can be accessed at about the amount of data included in the system instructor, a scholar or an architect the system Secondly, the matrix format enables sorting operations to be handled on the data. For i. historical, social, political documentation of instance, the user may have the plans sorted chronologically or may re-sort them according to ii. Classical Ottoman Mosques, enabling the the different plan typologies (Figure 3).
user to move back and forth among the buildings Architecture that helped shape Classical Ottoman iv. major examples of the contemporary 16th Century Western styles for comparative purposes v. concepts related and unique to Sinan’s architecture that can be comprehended better in 3D (such as; the play of masses, the organic rela- tionship between the building and the site, struc- tural solutions, inside-outside relationship), sup- ported by written definitions, drawings and pho- heterogeneous database of architecture and vi. definitions and visual documentations of the structural and architectural elements vii. the possibility of forming and storing dif- ferent profiles (that accumulate order and organ- ize data in a certain manner of presentation) according to different users or different purposes.
However, MSPS is a demonstrational case for the introduced matrix-based visual reference sys- tem model. The model can be applied to other architectural styles or periods, enabling similar kinds of use and aiming at a similar group of References
Allegra, M., Fulantelli G., and Mangiarotti G.: 1995, A New Methodology to Develop HypermediaSystems for Architecture History, Multimediaand Architectural Disciplines Proceedings ofthe 13th European Conference on Education inComputer Aided Architectural Design inEurope, Palermo, pp. 43-52.
Chan, C., Maves, J. and Cruz-Neira, C.: 1999, An electronic library for teaching architectural his-tory, CAADRIA ’99 Proceeding of the FourthConference on Computer-Aided ArchitecturalDesign Research in Asia, Shanghai, pp. 335-344.
Choi, J. W.: 1994, ArchiWAIS: A Multimedia-based architectural information system for teachingand learning architectural history and theory,ACADIA Conference Proceedings, Saint Louis,pp. 161- 169.
Lewin, J.S .and Gross, M.: 1996, Resolving archaeological site data with 3d computermodeling: the case of CEREN, DesignComputation: Pedagogy ACADIA Conference Proceedings,Tucson, pp. 255- 266.
Sklar, H. F.: 1995, Opening DOORS: Online access to design resources, in A. Koutamanis, (ed),Visual Databases in Architecture, Averbury-Ashgate, Hants, pp. 161–183.
Tsai, D. E.: 1997, The Palladio Web Museum – A


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