Shades of Ideas : Ramps

In design studios, we generally use the words like notions, ideas and concepts bluntly. Without much caution, we interchange them comfortably. I came across this compelling text on a similar note in the book ’The Art of Looking Sideways’ By Alan Fletcher (p 72)

.“The difference is one of weight, A notion is a small idea, a brain wave, a cute whim, a cockamine thought – something of small consequence and little stamina. It generally confirms to the well known rule that the length of the description is inversely proportion to the amount of illumination.

Real ideas on the other hand are of a different order. They have dimension and are resilient and flexible. Like a genuine panama hat which can be rolled up and passed through a wedding ring.

Ideas with big ideas are concepts. A concept amplifies an idea into a scenario in which all the unrelated bits and pieces dovetail neatly into place. There is an inevitability about what a concept embraces, it has a singular solid spherical shape, it is impossible to knock over.

Concepts tie thoughts together, form bridges between one intelligence and the other, provide a common point of reference. With a concept, explains the Chinese rule of painting, the brush can spare itself the work.”

.So all the three terms exercise in the same zone but with different degrees of spatial operation. I thought of taking forward this idea and testing this premise within Corbusiers projects. I took the condition of the ramp.

.01 – Ramp as a ‘notion’ : In the Mill owners the ramp is just a ramp. It provides an alternate entry to the first floor, which is the primary zone of activity. The ramps also accentuates the publicness of the building by piercing into the first floor from ground level. Without the ramp, the internal order of the plan would not be effected. Only the monumental scale of the entry is diluted. A ‘notion’ is a ‘small idea’ of circulation here..


02 – Ramp as an ‘idea’ : The ramp in Villa Savoy is also a secondary device, but holds the plan in place. The movement along the ramp is integral to the experience of the building. It acts as a central loop along which the whole house could be experienced. There is a centrifugal effect if you move along the ramp. It is orchestrating a series of experiences : closed- semi open- open. This catches the spirit of the ‘architecture promenade’ a theme which is recurring in Corbusiers projects. An ‘idea’ with dimension and strength.


03 – Ramp as a ‘concept’ : The ramp in Carpetners Center would be a good example here. It brings order at many levels to the space : the site, orientation, section and program distribution. If you remove the ramp, the building will fail, architecturally . That’s the strength of a concept. The removal of the concept must alter the architecture to its core. ‘Concepts’ is what converts ‘buildings’ into architecture.


If we are employing ‘ramp’ in our own design as a ‘notion’ thinking it is a ‘concept’, we are underplaying the potential of ‘idea. This delineation of these meanings is not to make academic categories and strife design operations but to identify potentials between the threshold of meanings.