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Research Of Historicism And Semiotics In Architecture

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This essay discusses and presents the idea of Historicism and semiotics in architecture through comparative study between the design of Petronas twin towers in Malaysia and the design of Portland building in USA. And here are the elaborations of the Historicism and semiotics.

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Historism is a philosophy and history theory, it set up 19th-century Germany. It asserts the historicity of man. Moreover, his binding to tradition and the consciousness of humans affection by their past. Historist historiography rejects historical teleology and bases its explanations of historical phenomena on sympathy and understanding for the events, acting persons, and historical periods. The historist approach takes to its extreme limits the common note that human institutions are subject to perpetual change. It should not be confused with historism. However, the British habits of using these two words are very much the same. Semiotics is a study of the construction or interpretation of the meaning of symbols, a study of symbolic processes and meaningful communication. It includes researching signs and signs processes, instructions, assignments, similarities, analogies, metaphors, symbols, meanings and communication.

A case for figurative architecture – Michael Graves. One of the famous ‘Five Architecture’, he is an architecture can conversion to postmodern historicism was gradual and influential. Moreover, they suppose that the thematic character of the work is grounded in nature and it is also read in a totemic or anthropomorphic manner. An example international building – Portland Building, Also known as the Portland Municipal Services Building, it is located at 1120 Fifth Avenue in downtown Portland, Oregon, designed by Michael Graves and has a 15-story municipal office building. Portland buildings form the basic elements of surface texture due to their proportion and repetition. In a speech he gave to the New York Architectural Alliance shortly after the building opened in November 1982, Graves said that the facade design reflects the classic, anthropomorphic sequence of the foundation, body and head. In addition, he was a force to reintroducing color into 20th-century architecture, with green clay columns and brown siding walls pierced by square windows.

For local building, the Petronas Towers also known as the Petronas Twin Towers are twin skyscrapers. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH)’s official definition and ranking, they were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world. These buildings are the landmarks of Kuala Lumpur and there are also Kuala Lumpur Towers nearby. The tower was designed by Argentine architect César Pelli. A distinctive postmodern style was chosen to create a 21st-century icon for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia’s Muslim religion. Another Islamic influence on the design is that the cross-section of the towers is based on a Rub el Hizb, albeit with circular sectors added to meet office space requirements.


The Petronas Towers have not just put Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the compositional radar, however it evoked the wealth of the nation’s way of life. The towers are not just perceived for their stature, however it was Pelli’s applied endeavors to join Islamic themes and images into the plan procedure that would impact the structure and the itemizing of the structure. Overshadowing the remainder of Kuala Lumpur at an amazing 451. 9 meters (1,482. 6 feet), these sisters were brought about by ace engineer Cesar Pelli. The first plans by Cesar Pelli were dismissed by the Leader. Executive Mahathir felt the plan was at last not Malaysian enough. He ‘needed a structure that would be recognizably Malaysian, that was of world class standard and which Malaysians could be pleased with. ‘ from the outset Pelli attempted to comprehend what it intended to be ‘exceptionally Malaysian,’. In the long run Mahathir Mohamad comprehended what he needed the towers to resemble: an eight-pointed star Malaysia’s fourth head administrator, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, charged them to be an image of Malaysia’s cutting edge urbanization and as a globally perceived 21st-century symbol. Roused by Pelli’s vision of sparkling jewels in the sun, Islamic craftsmanship themes were consolidated into the structure’s plan, giving them their particular eight-pointed star floor base. In Islam, Malaysia’s national religion, the covering squares framing the star symbolize solidarity inside solidarity, meaning soundness and concordance through judicious and equivalent lines. Its inside structures are emphatically founded on Malaysian culture, drawing designs from songket material weaving, East Malaysian hardwood cutting themes and bertam palm divider tangling, known for the uncommon monotonous triangular shapes prevalent in Southeast Asian culture. AND Pelli utilized the Rub el Hizb, a significant image found in numerous Islamic societies, as an approach to produce the arrangement of the structure. The Rub el Hizb is portrayed by two covering squares, one pivoted 45 degrees, with a hover engraved in the inside. Pelli utilized the image as the impressions to the two towers bringing about two expelled 8 point towers that reflected Islamic workmanship. The Rub el Hizb: is an Islamic image, spoke to as two covering squares, which is found on various insignias and banners. In Arabic, Rubʻ signifies ‘one fourth, quarter’, while Hizb implies a gathering or part. As opposed to simply leaving the structure as a straightforward expulsion of a prior image found in Islamic craftsmanship and culture, Pelli ‘scalloped’ the purposes of the begin to make an increasingly rich and fragile stylish that is found in most Islamic motifs. As the structure ascends to 452 meters, it starts to decrease toward the recieving wires that are put over the towers. The decreasing is intended to balance out the towers fundamentally, however it additionally includes a style and amazing position to the horizon of Kuala Lumpur. Not at all like other twin pinnacle plans the world over that stand autonomously from each other, there is a skybridge that associates the two towers on the 41st and 42nd floors of each pinnacle.

Despite the fact that Postmodernism had been spreading as a reactionary development in engineering from the late 1960s,Oregon, is one of Postmodernism’s most significant structures – and furthermore one of its generally troublesome. As our season committed to the disputable development nears its end, we return to the structure that kickstarted the discussion about protecting Postmodern design. The greater part of the major early works, similar to the Vanna Venturi House, were for private customers. The Portland Metropolitan Administrations Building, also called the Portland Building, was an enormous city structure intended for regular specialists – a merry and grand tribute to the every day working of regional government. The blocky structure is ruled by exceedingly disconnected old style components – including sections, pediments, and a frieze-like enriching band – all set in the midst of a network of little square windows. A greenish blue shaded platform includes the passage level, and highlights a traditionally styled figure of a lady called Portlandia, by craftsman Raymond Kaskey, over the front entryways. In a talk he gave for the Structural Alliance of New York in November 1982, not long after the structure opened, Graves said the veneer configuration reflected old style, human requests speaking to the base, the body, and the head. Thus, while Graves needed his veneer worked in coated earthenware – a material normal in notable structures in Portland – shaded fortified cement and fiberglass were utilized for the cladding and beautifying components. Besides, his minor windows, which were intended to likewise inspire the body – or ‘one window, one laborer,’ as he said in his 1982 talk – were promptly condemned by tenants as excessively little, leaving the inside dull and uninviting. ‘Maybe they were excessively little, however that was,’ Where Portland is level with a pictorially improved veneer, Humana is sculptural, with an all the more complicatedly created relationship to the ground and the horizon. It meets the road with a profound corridor that identifies with close-by low-ascent structures. The top highlights a cantilevered armature that brings out the close-by extensions that cross the Ohio Stream. Time magazine named it probably the best structure of the 1980s. criticism was far reaching among designers who wailed over it is historicism and capriciousness. Portland work isn’t The Structure of Things to come, however a vivacious descendent of numerous structures of the past. The tempest of exposure encompassing the plan has not mystically changed it into a progressive work. Its centrality isn’t diminished for that.


This part of essay presents a comparative study of the historism and semiotics between the Petronas twin tower and the Portland building and identify the similarities and differences between both and how they are connected to the same concept behind their design. As it is mentioned above in the explained theory, the design of both buildings included a lot of signs and symbols. Additionally, both designs included a connection between the idea behind the structure and the historism & semiotics and this connection served to provide the buildings with more symbols and signs regarding the idea of it to the location. An assembly some of those ideas developed for this design performed various functions for using the added symbols.

The design of Portland building had a lot of objectives, but the main two objectives were: The first was about the Project should maintain its historic elements and character and should seek to ensure the Portland Building’s place in Portland’s history. Second was that the Project should result in a significantly improved efficiency and functionality of the building as a workplace. The City of Portland’s vision for interior planning and workplace concepts needed to support the City’s goals to serve the public well and to become an “employer of choice. ” In order to envision an appropriate design concept to align with those goals, their team focused on the visioning sessions on both the public experience and the employee experience. Developing the project vision through this lens allowed them to stay focused on how they should plan spaces and set design criteria within the iconic building as the Petronas Twin Towers are as iconic to Malaysia which is also has the same objectives as the Portland building has the qualities to become a potent symbol of Portland. And this considers as one of the similarities between both designs plus that both buildings have some symbols and signs which are related to the historicism and semiotics.

Both buildings have their own symbols which they depend on while designing the buildings, and this is one of their similarities. In the twin towers came to symbolize Malaysia’s jaunt into the 21st century. And it was to symbolize the nation’s “courage, ingenuity, initiative, determination, energy, confidence, optimism, advancement and zest, and the design of the Petronas Twin Towers adopted on Islamic geometric forms and tradition. While the Portland building was to symbolize and remained a commercial icon and symbol of the solidity of its owner, a private health insurance company.

We can see the similarities also in The concepts of both designs are easy to understand which represented as two overlapping squares, which is found on a number of emblems and flags for the Petronas twin tower, and in the Portland building Its colors represent parts of the environment, with blue-green tile at the base symbolizing the earth and light blue at the top representing the sky.

On the other hand, there are a lot of differences such as the different architecture between both buildings, in the Portland building the distinctive look of Michael Graves’ Portland Building, with its use of a variety of surface materials and colors, small windows, and inclusion of prominent decorative flourishes, was in stark contrast to the architectural style most commonly used for large office buildings at the time, and made the building an icon of postmodern architecture. Nevertheless, the Portland building is considered a major key-point in architecture history, bringing Postmodernism out of the academy and into the public realm. And in the architecture of the Petronas twin tower where many new and tall buildings with Late Modernism and Postmodern architecture fill the skyline.

We can see the differences also in the used materials in both designs, such as the twin towers are constructed largely of reinforced concrete, with a steel and glass facade designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia’s Muslim religion. And the Portland building the extraordinarily low construction budget drove inexpensive material choices as well as a ‘design-build’ approach that put the contractor in charge. The interior was judged to be dark, cramped, and poorly laid out. Parts of the ground floor were redesigned fewer than ten years after the building was completed. Structural deficiencies also came to light, which were partially addressed but still plague the building.

The design of these two buildings also faces some issues while build it, for the Portland building some people claimed the design was overloaded with symbolism and too preoccupied with references to the past, Despite its faults, The Portland building marked an undoubted departure from the monotony of Modernism between vertical and horizontal, white, grey or black. And for the Petronas twin tower’s design was rejected firstly by the Prime Minister of Malaysia because of its idea that was not related to the Malaysian culture.

At the end Petronas twin tower and the Portland building are full of symbolic elements, signs, historic references, cultural and playful ideas even though, the went through some struggling times and some rejection of their ideas and concepts.

31 October 2020

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