Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor


Second Advisor



This study defines building envelopes as articulate when they selectively conceal and reveal their constitution, allowing the representation or expression of something beyond their construction. It demonstrates how such envelopes can help situate buildings in place. The study is composed of two parts. The first begins by defining a semantic framework for articulation in historic texts, showing that the idea is not new but necessary today. It then identifies five operations of articulation, demonstrating them in the work and words of architects Renzo Piano and Kengo Kuma. While this part exemplifies how operations can be expressive independently, the second considers them jointly showing how their combination can situate buildings in specific places. It begins by surveying the different meanings of the idea of place and related terms, such as topos, kh�ra, milieu and fūdo, focusing on those that set the ground for transcending a dichotomy between objective, subjective and collective perceptions of place. It then examines in detail six case studies of buildings by Renzo Piano and Kengo Kuma completed between 2000-2015. For each case it explains the context for articulation and the way the operations were used jointly to situate the building. Since the study approach is topical the works are not presented chronologically. They were selected to demonstrate that articulation is not bound to a specific culture, place or climate, but is an adequate tool for many circumstances. The main cultural context for the works of Piano and Kuma are Europe and Japan, and these contexts receive ample attention in all sections of the study. Comparing the contexts and the architects’ variations on similar operations show that articulation can have many sources and that ideas can migrate and still be useful for addressing specificities of place. By appealing to both immediate perception by the senses and to understanding over time, articulate envelopes can provide collective focus for social life in a specific place, enabling and expressing it at the same time.


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