Page H1 . 04 June 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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    Patterns of Home
    Pattern Six The Flow through Rooms : Arrival, Passage, and Transition

    ArchWeek Photo

    In this house by Jacobson Silverstein Winslow Architects, the passage along the edge of the dining room connects the kitchen to the front entry and living room. Filled with light, its central location encourages informal use of the dining room.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston


    Arriving at, moving into, and traveling around a house is a completely different way of knowing a building than the more static feeling of simply being in a room. As you travel through rooms entering, leaving, passing along their edges it is necessary to approach spaces with a unique awareness, paying attention to many things at once: where you are going, the rhythm of the movement, the spaces you are passing, the surface you are moving along.

    The pattern "Creating Rooms, Outside and In" showed that the whole site can be thought of as being composed of rooms.

    The different opportunities (or challenges) presented by each new location each room must be bridged by some form of connecting space, and that space plays several important roles: arrival, passage, and transition.

    To accomplish all these tasks effectively, the connecting space must become a real link, including enough of the qualities of each of the rooms it joins to soften the edge between them and ease the transition. At the same time, the space must have enough of an identity of its own to allow a real pause a moment to gather thoughts and belongings before moving on.

    This difference in the way rooms and passages are experienced presents real challenges in home design often a single space will play both roles at different times but it also creates some of the most rewarding and memorable experiences a house can offer.

    ArchWeek Photo

    A connecting space offers an introduction to the next space arrival. It contains the movement as you travel from one spot to the next passage. And it provides a space to adjust from one experience to another transition.
    Image: The Taunton Press

    ArchWeek Photo

    In a house by Huestis Tucker Architects,the hall encourages pausing at a window seat. The play of textures and light creates an active feel that is different from the tranquil quality of rooms beyond.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    ArchWeek Photo

    The flow through rooms begins at the street. Locate the main entry near the center of the house and link it directly with the major circulation routes. Plan a car connection with relatively short distances between car and kitchen, and make the route to the entry clear to visitors.
    Image: The Taunton Press

    Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

    In small houses it's important to minimize the total area used by traffic flow (or circulation), whereas in large houses it may be more important to create spaces that celebrate the movement from room to room. In all homes, however, a few simple strategies can help create a graceful flow through rooms:

    Place rooms along a privacy gradient, with the most public spaces near the entry and the most private more remote. Give circulation spaces a distinctive form; define them with architectural elements: gates, changes in floor or wall material, overhead beams, different ceiling heights, columns, or half-walls.

    Make the most efficient use of space and enliven circulation paths by giving them additional uses as libraries, galleries, and storage and display areas; offer short-term seating when it is possible.

    Circulation paths can lead us to an understanding of the building and its outdoor spaces as a whole rather than as a series of parts. When the flow through rooms is smooth, the transition is gradual and the thresholds are marked, a house slowly unfolds, revealing more about itself as it is used.

    Patterns of Home

    Discuss this article in our Home Design Forum...



    Part of the ArchitectureWeek Patterns series. Text and images excerpted with permission from Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow, copyright © 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc. The book is available from The Taunton Press and at

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