Skip to main content

What can be taught in architectural design? — parti, poché, and felt qualities


This essay begins with a reflection on what has been taught in architectural design since the turn of the twentieth century. I shall trace back to the two disciplinary foundations of the French École des Beaux-Arts — parti and poché — in the education of an architect in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I shall then attempt to superimpose parti and poché on a modern disciplinary framework, say that of mathematics, which leads to musings on a series of architectural problems that include pattern versus type, stability versus mobility, orthogonal versus oblique, confinement versus transparency, and aging versus metallic sheen. These paradoxes, I suggest, demand the education of an architect to address both the instrumental pattern of a building configuration and the ambient felt qualities of a room, rather than vision alone.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Harbeson J. The Study of Architectural Design: With Special Reference to the Program of the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design. New York: Pencil Points Press, 1927

    Google Scholar 

  2. Chafee S R. “The Teaching of Architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts”, and David Van Zanten, “Architectural Composition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from Charles Percier to Charles Garnier”, Arthur Drexler ed. The Architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1977

    Google Scholar 

  3. Evans R. ’Figures, Doors and Passages’ in Translations from Drawings to Building and Other Essays. London: MIT Press, 1997, 54–91

    Google Scholar 

  4. Tuan Y F. Segmented Worlds and Self: Group Life and Individual Consciousness. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982

    Google Scholar 

  5. Leach E. Rethinking Anthropology. London: the Athlone Press, University of London, 1961

    Google Scholar 

  6. Lin Y T. The Importance of Living. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946, 3–4

    Google Scholar 

  7. Tuan Y F. Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974, 11

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bachelard G. The Poetics of Space, trans by Maria Jolas, foreword by Etienne Gilson. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, 6–7; originally published as La Poétique de l’espace. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1958

    Google Scholar 

  9. de Montaigne M. Trans Screech MA. The Complete Essays, London: Penguin, 2003, 1263

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xing Ruan.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ruan, X. What can be taught in architectural design? — parti, poché, and felt qualities. Front. Archit. Civ. Eng. China 4, 450–455 (2010).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • architectural design
  • teaching
  • parti and poché