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The Arts Tower in Sheffield has a tall, lightweight, cuboid massing.

Massing is a term in architecture which refers to the perception of the general shape and form as well as size of a building.[1][2]

Massing in architectural theory[edit]

Massing refers to the structure in three dimensions (form), not just its outline from a single perspective (shape).[1][3] Massing influences the sense of space which the building encloses, and helps to define both the interior space and the exterior shape of the building.[1] The creation of massing, and changes to it, may be additive (accumulating or repeating masses) or subtractive (creating spaces or voids in a mass by removing parts of it).[4] Massing can also be significantly altered by the materials used for the building's exterior, as transparent or layered materials are perceived differently.[1]

It is widely accepted that architectural design begins by studying massing.[5] From a distance, massing, more than any architectural detail, is what creates the most impact on the eye.[6] Architectural details or ornaments serve to reinforce massing.[7] Because it has a direct relation to the visual impact a building makes, massing is one of the most important architectural design considerations.[1]

Some architectural styles are closely associated with massing.[8][9] For example, the Prairie School is always low and horizontal, while the Gothic style emphasizes verticality and Georgian architecture focuses on solidity and a sense of permanence.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jacoby, Sam (2016). Drawing Architecture and the Urban. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley. p. 52. ISBN 9781118879405.
  2. ^ Born, George Walter (2006). Preserving Paradise: The Architectural Heritage and History of the Florida Keys. Charleston, S.C.: History Press. p. 149. ISBN 9781596291522.
  3. ^ Thompson, Arthur (1999). Architectural Design Procedures. New York: Routledge. p. 108. ISBN 9780415502849.
  4. ^ Dietsch, Deborah K. (2002). Architecture for Dummies. New York: Hungry Minds. pp. 30–31. ISBN 9780764553967.
  5. ^ Leyton, Michael (2001). A generative theory of shape. Berlin: Heidelberg Springer. p. 366. ISBN 9783540454885.
  6. ^ Charleson, Andrew (2015). Structure As Architecture: A Source Book for Architects and Structural Engineers. New York: Routledge. p. 14. ISBN 9780415644594.
  7. ^ Glassie, Henry H. (2000). Vernacular Architecture. Philadelphia, Pa.: Material Culture. p. 69. ISBN 9780253213952.
  8. ^ a b Yatt, Barry D. (1998). Cracking the Codes: An Architect's Guide to Building Regulations. New York: John Wiley. p. 145. ISBN 9780471169673.
  9. ^ Lanier, Gabrielle M.; Herman, Bernard L. (1997). Everyday Architecture of the Mid-Atlantic: Looking at Buildings and Landscapes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780801853241.