Last edited 30 Oct 2020


There a number of different possible definitions of the noun ‘form’.

  • In architecture, a form is a three-dimensional object or building that is perceived by a viewer in space and time, and made possible by the action of light and shadow. For example, a building may be said to present a complex, geometric form on the skyline. However, a form cannot be two-dimensional as it will then merely be a shape.
  • ‘Human form’ is sometimes used to describe the body in a functioning, though not physiological sense. Le Corbusier considered houses and automobiles as essential modern tools that were extensions of the human form. He rejected Cubism in favour of the pure, simple geometric forms seen in everyday objects.
  • Form can also be used in the same sense as ‘type’, so, for example, one may say that office buildings come in many different forms (i.e types, which can mean style, size, general arrangement, etc, or a combination of some or all of these. Or, theatre productions down the ages have taken many different forms, e.g proscenium, thrust, in-the-round etc.
  • The term, ‘form’ can also mean a mould, i.e for holding a liquid or semi-plastic material in a particular shape until it sets. Hence, in construction, formwork is used to create shapes and designs, e.g supporting in-situ concrete until it cures to form walls and floors, etc.
  • A form can be a standard document that can be completed, such as a Declaration of non-collusion form.
  • Plato’s theory of forms suggests that a form is an idealised, universal paradigm of a particular concept or virtue which transcends the real world and by which in comparison, all other manifestations in the real world are nothing but inferior copies. For Plato, forms represent reality to which the inhabited world can only approximate. So, if a thing was beautiful, it resembled some of the aspects of the form of beauty, but its beauty was only participatory, and an imperfect imitation of the form of beauty.

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