How Is Volume Used In Architecture

What is Volume in Architecture?

Volume in architecture is a combination of three basic elements: size, shape, and mass. These elements are combined to create a structure’s capacity for providing space for occupants, for gathering light, and for holding materials used in the project. Generally, architectural elements can be categorized within the realm of volume in three main categories: fixed, semi-variable, and variable.
An example of a fixed volume element is a room which has a limited capacity in terms of size. The walls and ceiling of a fixed volume room are predetermined and limited. A semi-variable volume is a room with some flexibility and adaptability. For example, rooms with adjustable shelves, curtains, or partitions can be changed as needed. Lastly, a variable volume is a room with the highest level of flexibility and open-ended possibilities. These rooms are often referred to as “volumetric” because they allow for the most flexible use of space.

How Volume Affects Architecture

The way in which volume is used in architecture has a profound effect on the overall design of a structure. Volume affects the overall scale and proportion of a structure, its spatial relationships, the level of light and shadow, and even the airflow. The amount of volume used in a room or building also affects how it feels and how it functions.
The size of a room can make a huge difference in the comfort level and usability of that space. For instance, a large room with low ceilings can create a feeling of being overwhelmed while a small room with high ceilings can create a feeling of intimacy. The shape of a room can also affect how it’s used. A rectangular room might be more suitable for a living room or dining room, while an elliptical or circular room might be better suited for a library or kitchen.

The Benefits of Volume in Architecture

Volume in architecture can be used to create a sense of well-being and beauty for occupants of a space. A well-designed structure will create a sense of balance, proportion, and harmony in the space. Volume can also provide an element of surprise and delight. Interesting ceiling designs, walls that open up to reveal hidden nooks, and floor plans that have unexpected winding pathways can all make a space more interesting and inviting.
In addition, volume can also help to create efficient and flexible living spaces that can adapt to changing needs over time. For example, a house with an open floor plan can easily accommodate a growing family or changing furniture configurations without needing extensive remodeling. It can also be used to create areas within a single structure that can be used for different activities, or to increase the amount of natural light or airflow in a structure.

Using Volume Creatively

When it comes to using volume creatively, there are a variety of ways to create interesting and unique spaces. For example, volume can be used to section off different areas within a single room. By creating ‘rooms within a room’, architects can create inviting and exciting living spaces that are also practical and efficient.
Volume can also be used to create interesting ceiling designs. By adding curves, heights, and sections to a ceiling, architects can create a variety of effects including creating the feeling of height, highlighting a particular part of the room, or creating a sense of intimacy. The use of volume in architecture can also create the illusion of a larger space, which is great for small apartments or houses.

The Use of Volume in Green Architecture

The use of volume in green architecture is becoming increasingly popular. Green architects use volume to help increase the efficiency of structures while reducing their environmental impact. Volume is used to create structures that are airtight, thus reducing the amount of energy used for heating and cooling. In addition, volume can be used to maximize natural sunlight and ventilation, reducing the need for artificial lighting and air conditioning.
Volume can also be used to create thermal mass walls, helping to regulate the temperature of a structure. Thick walls made from materials such as concrete can help to absorb and store heat and can also be used to create thermal break to help reduce heat flow. By using these techniques, green architects can reduce their structures’ environmental footprint while still creating comfortable, efficient, and interesting spaces.

Using Volume in Contemporary Architecture

The use of volume in contemporary architecture often relies on bold and daring shapes and forms to create structures that challenge the boundaries of traditional design. By using unique forms, contemporary architects can create structures that are both visually interesting and functional.
Volume can also be used in contemporary architecture to create a variety of effects. For example, architects can use volume to create a sense of movement or to create a variety of spaces within a single structure. Volume can also be used to create the illusion of more space or to create dynamic ceilings and walls that can be used to highlight a particular area or feature.

Volume as a Visual Element

Volume is also a powerful visual element that can be used to create a sense of drama and atmosphere. Curved walls and ceiling designs can be used to draw the eye to a particular feature and can be used to create an interesting play of light and shadow. Volume can also be used to create interesting visual illusions and can be used to emphasize certain elements of a structure.

Volume as a Structural Element

Volume can also be used as a structural element in architecture. For example, it can be used to support heavy loads, to create internal walls, or to increase the rigidity of a structure. Architects can also use volume to redistribute weight or to create openings or passages that allow for better airflow and light. Volume can also be used to create internal frames and other structural elements used in contemporary architecture.


In conclusion, volume is an essential element of architectural design and can be used in a variety of ways to create interesting, flexible, and efficient spaces. From thermal mass walls to interesting ceiling designs, volume plays a crucial role in the overall design of a structure and can be used in both green and contemporary architecture to create structurally sound, visually appealing, and comfortable spaces.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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