Visual Reasoning

Robin Boyd called the prevailing post-war urban style of anglo-saxon architecture “Featurism”, with each building shouting to passers-by, “Me!  Me!  Look at Me!”.    Such self-promotion contrasts markedly with the dialectical approach of continental European architecture, where buildings engage in dialogue with the buildings and spaces around them.   A nice example of the latter can be found in Liverpool, UK.
The Foundation Building is a modern, glass-fronted office building between the Metropolitan (Catholic) Cathedral in Liverpool and the University of Liverpool.  Since its private-sector construction in 2006, it has been occupied by the senior administration of the University.

Upon first seeing it, I was intrigued by the 6 columns that navigate its semi-circular front.  Why are there exactly 6 columns, and why are 4 of them equidistant, while the last 2 (shown here on the right of the photo) are much closer together?   Such design decisions are rarely arbitrary; either there are engineering reasons for them or they indicate some great architectural subtlety.  In this case, it the latter reason.
For, just across the street is the red-brick Mountford Hall, dating from 1911, and now part of the University of Liverpool’s Guild of Students.

The street facade of this building has a semi-circular first-floor balcony, supported by 4 equidistant columns, and a ceremonial front door, supported by 2 columns much closer together.  The door is on the left in this photo, directly opposite the 2 closer columns on the Foundation Building.
I note here the architectural tip of the hat by the designer of the Foundation Building, and thank him or her for this pleasing subtlety.

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