Editor’s note: The following item is republished with permission of houzz.com. See the original article: Tune In to the Music of Architecture.

Editor’s note: The following item is republished with permission of houzz.com. See the original article: Tune In to the Music of Architecture.


It’s a truism that architecture is, as Goethe so famously noted, "frozen music." Just as in music, architecture has rhythm, beat, cadence, tone, style, etc. And just as in music, architecture can be experienced slowly, quickly, forcibly, gently, sweetly, etc. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that some of the greatest architects were accomplished musicians. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright was a proficient pianist, having learned the instrument at a very early age.

So let’s see how some musical terms and their meanings relate, and can be applied, to architectural design.


In music, "adagio" means "to play slowly, to be at ease." Architectural spaces can also be "played" slowly and at ease. These are spaces to linger in, to enjoy like time didn’t exist. Soft colors and spare furnishings allow us to relax and take in the serene environment. Of course, some rooms are like some songs, made to be a duet (for two).

contemporary bedroom by Gary Hutton

Photo credit: Gary Hutton



Marcato is when a particular piece (note, cord or passage in music) is played louder and more forcibly than others. This instance is akin to the accent wall in architectural design. Maybe a bright or interesting color or a different material, the piece that is played marcato takes center stage and enriches the space it inhabits.

modern bathroom by 186 Lighting Design Group - Gregg Mackell

Photo credit: 186 Lighting Design Group – Gregg Mackell



Sforzando: architecturally and musically loud, strong and with force. It can be a roof that’s lit for emphasis and then extends out into space aggressively, a sforzando architectural moment.

contemporary exterior by Christopher A Rose AIA, ASID

Photo credit: Christopher A Rose AIA, ASID



In music, staccato calls for making each note "brief and detached," similar to the practice of articulation in architecture. Though they combine into a coherent whole, each piece is separate from those around it. So, while the spaces are connected, visually, thematically, each is distinct from the other, as are the objects.

contemporary living room by Eminent Interior Design

Photo credit: Eminent Interior Design



In music "vivace" refers to a composition that is very lively and up-tempo; in architecture, it can refer to a design with a lot going on. Stairs, cable-suspended bridges, spaces connected vertically and horizontally, natural and artificial lighting from many directions and all the objects that inhabit a space can create an architecture that is decidedly vivace, maybe even vivacissimo (even livelier).

modern living room by Ehrlich Architects

Photo credit: Ehrlich Architects

More from houzz.com:

Copyright houzz.com 2012

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
We've updated our terms of use.Read them here×