Using Repetitive Patterns to Strengthen Your Compositions

Architecture is filled with patterns, from spiral staircases to something as simple as the lines in the windows. Let’s take a look at how we can isolate these patterns in both wider and abstract ways. As well as regular and irregular ways.

Let’s take a look at the Milwaukee Art Museum. In the wider shot, the shadows are not only repeating patterns, but they also act as leading lines. As we’ve mentioned, multiple compositional tools tend to come into play in a single image.

The shadows aren’t the only patterns in play here, the lines in the windows, the fins in the oculus above, the vents that break up all the vertical pattens with the one horizontal pattern. In contrast to the multiple patterns in the somewhat wider shot, the abstract image is only about the repeating pattern of the oculus fins. They play well off of each other in terms of telling a more in-depth story of the space but each works on its own as well.

In this shot of Union Station, there are many patterns at play, kind of like the wide shot of the MAM. The shadows start by drawing your eye into the frame, but the pillars, the lights on the entrance wall and the patterns in the ceiling create multiple layers and depth in the image.

union station

Going even wider, plus a more detailed shot, we have the WMS Clark Park Boat House. Unlike the images we’ve seen so far, both of these use negative space to show off the building’s roofline pattern.

Using the same building and pattern but in different ways, we have the balconies of the Radisson Blu Deira Creek in Dubai filling the frame and utilizing negative space.

So far all of the patterns we’ve discussed have been regular, meaning they repeat in a consistent way. Patterns can also repeat inconsistently. Curves tend to come across as more irregular as you see in Aqua.

aqua, studio gang architects

Though angles are possible too.

Or a mix of the two.


In the Burberry shot below, you not only have the mix of regular (the symmetrical grid) and irregular patterns (the wavy reflections of the building across the street. The combination of the two also creates layering.

burberry michigan avenue

And we can’t forget the spiral staircase. In the wide and angled shot, you get irregularity, layering and multiple patterns coming into play: the stairs, the banister, the windowpane, the building outside the window and its windows. In the straight-on, tighter shot you have less complicated patterns at play: the banister, white of the stairs and the black lines between each stair. Like the first two shots of the post, they compliment each other and tell a wider story of the space.

We hope this helps see the architecture around you a bit differently. And, as always, be sure to share some of your favorite shots with us on Instagram or on Facebook!



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