Post 425 –  by Gautam Shah


A system is an entity with recognizable parts or subsystems that in some way overlap or interact in time and space. This overlap of functions and degree of interactions project a singular purpose or identity of the system. A system is conceptual totality, but need not be a fathomable entity, like the atmosphere system. Systems have parts or subsystems that may seem to participate with other system. Such transcending parts individually reflect the nature of the systems they subsist on.

Richards Labs Penn L Kahn

Systems are also finite when they exist within an environment of discipline. Such open systems also have nodes where other distinct systems get attached. Many such interconnected systems again serve a singular purpose. Compared with the interconnected or open systems, there could be self-sustaining systems. Such systems are strongly contained, and so are closed systems. Open systems interact with other systems or outside environment, and Closed systems have little interaction with other systems or outside environment. Our body is an open system as it continuously interacts with the environment, where as a watch is nearly self sufficient entity.


Open system have external interactions, such as of information, energy, material and other resources export-import. Open systems retain the enthalpy to be in equilibrium. Open systems are like a digital word processor article or a spreadsheet which are amenable to changes or can be “adjusted’. Some legal agreements could an ironclad or closed document, which once created cannot be changed in any part, and must be redrawn. A quasi-legal agreement could be an understanding, an open document allowing future change or revision.

Emil Bach House FLW

In Architecture, buildings are classifiable into Open-ended and Closed-ended entities. An open-ended form and structure allow extensions or additions. Open-ended structures allow spatially limited or occasional alteration. Open-ended buildings have identifiable subsystems, each of which can be designed, executed, maintained, operated, upgraded, replaced or terminated by different agencies, at different times and circumstances. Open-ended systems inherently have multiple units of modulated sizes, form consistency patterned arrangement and perceptible organization.


Closed-ended structures have a self-sufficient form and singular purpose. Such structures reflect the one master ownership or single intent, and so are monumental, akin to a piece of sculpture. There may be nonfunctional repeat units in the composition for pattern making. A closed system does not transect anything, and may not have nodes of exchange. One need not be aware of the interior of the system, as there are ‘no repairable or serviceable components inside’. Such tags are very common on technical products of proprietary design.

All Gizah Pyramids

Certain forms or shapes are dominantly, either Closed-ended or Open-ended. Forms that are broader at the base, and narrower or pointed at the top, do not allow extension. Pyramid, cone or tower, are closed ended systems. Similarly drum like shapes allow little additions except in the upward direction. Contrary to this, a square or rectangle is very extendible shape in all directions. Old Basilicas and Church buildings have been added upon, but Hindu temple is rather a static form.

Houses of parliament British

Highly articulated buildings like Versailles or British Parliament, are closed ended or static structures. It would be difficult to add upon them in any relevant manner without compromising the integrity of the built-form. Indian Parliament has an annex connected with an access tunnel. Versailles has glass pyramids (closed ended entities) as new extension.

Sansad Bhavan

Architects create monumental buildings by compromising many other functions or requirements. For such purposes the building is conceived with a single form (though transgressed in many ways), single material, or sensuality, nonhuman or disproportionate scale and fewer sub elements. Some explorations towards closed ended architecture or monumental buildings have been deconstructionist, gravity defying and highly dynamic or mobile forms.

Vitra fire station -Zaha Hadid




Post 256 – by Gautam Shah



Buildings are conceived for a specific use intensity. The use factor, perceived as a probability, makes a building a viable entity for a defined period. This factor must be rational, realistic and economic for the times buildings are designed. Premature provisions for extra capacities, mean a frivolous investment of resources.

Addition mismatch

Buildings designed for current day needs and for a predictable increase in it, have built-in capacities for minor growth. The technologies of building and its amenities have been shifting to miniaturization or micro-sizing and getting synthesized, resulting in substantial space saving.

Addition to Louvre Paris –Glass Pyramid

One can accommodate growth needs of minor nature through space re-planning and changing the existing facilities. Additions occur through outward transgression from local receptors such as gaps, openings, nodes, limbs, etc. Major additions affect the character of a face or entire section of a building.


Building forms or shapes like circle, triangle, or sphere, pyramid, etc. do not allow outward transgressions as these do not have attachment nodes or receptors for additions. For the same reason, even modular additions to these forms cannot be made dependent to the basic building. Some form like a rectangle square or cube or drum have possibilities of axial growth.

Addition in corner

An addition to a building nominally subsists on the existing structural provisions and services, whereas an extension relies more or less on its own newly created provisions. Additions, if any, must be preconceived like a computer’s open-ended system.

Open-ended Architecture -multiple alternatives for additions

Additions could also occur as an afterthought. Additions, circumstantial or planned, follow the regimen of the original building. Additions to complex buildings such as with intricate structural systems, elaborate styles, diverse configurations and multi purpose utility will require an expertise equal to, or even of higher order than the one put into the original creation.

Flatiron Apartment Cities New York City Bronx

Designers prefer to add to a building by creating a self-sufficient entity, sited in such a way that it does not defy the sanctity of the original building. Additions, however, always stand out as a differentiated statement due to variations in materials, styles and technology of architectonic elements.

All Saints Church, New-church Plan showing additions

All Saints Church New-Church Additions with new materials + technologies

Buildings are ‘added’ with certain looks to ‘upgrade’ them to current fashions. The style loading often took ridiculous levels, when bridges and railway stations were upgraded to Gothic or Roman styles. New façades were mounted on various structures. Additions or decorations were superfluous, insincere and made with make-believe materials. As a reaction against mounting of historical or sentimental values of past eras, iconoclast buildings, bereft of decoration were conceived. These often reach the other extreme of punk culture, where nothing is conformist.

Punk Architecture of Additions

Additions allow intensive use of land as a commodity, enriching not only the owner, but also the local administration. In urban areas additions are controlled by minor tweaks or favourable interpretations (for political reasons) to building regulations.


Additions supplement the building with enhanced or new functionality, which can also be achieved by the opposite process, the subtraction. Planned eliminations can help redefine the buildings’ value. Removal of unnecessary appendages leads to efficiency by reducing the wear and tear and other decay causing elements.