Every architect’s design process is extremely personal and is always inspired by something.
When coming up with concepts a designer initially works with a pencil in hand to begin sketching concepts; makes visits the project site and jots notes of ideas that make come to mind at varies times even when not working on the project.
While each architect’s habits are individual and idiosyncratic, the broader architectural habits we share lay the foundation for good design. Here are six of numerous habits that help guide successful architects during the design process.
1. Order Rules
Sticking to a schedule and establishing order is a strategy for designers to apply, ordering principles to everything, at every level.
Order requires hierarchy. This means you have to decide what’s the most important thing and let the other things defer to it. When beginning a new design project, I usually evaluate three main things:
- the budget.
- the building site,
- the client
Here the height of the concept will derive from the strongest pull circling back to the others. For example, I am working on a project with a limiting budget. In this case the budget is the strongest pull so I will begin my concept crafting a narrative around that force. That’s where the ordering begins. Whilst doing so, I will refer to the building site whether it is existing or proposed and the clients requirements.
However, if the project was a renovation, the ordering principles are often set by what the existing structure is lacking — natural light, space, connection to the outdoors etc. For some projects, I’ve even gone so far as to develop a rule-book to establish specific modules, the grid, materials and a guide for adding modules to the structure in the future.
2. Story Tellers
Our memories of places are inherently linked to stories the architect tells through their design. A home can tell the story of a specific client, likewise an office building design can be linked to the activities that will be taking place. Specific environments can also enriches the experience to bring the story to life.
As an architect we are taught very early in design school to conceptualize projects by inventing a narrative, taking the client on a journey through our design.
The narrative can be sourced from something specific like the view or the location and shape of the proposed site or simply a beloved tree to be preserved in the courtyard. The client’s requirements can also be the source of the narrative, for example, if a client requests a lot of light throughout the building.
3. Risk Takers
Architecture is a creative field. In order to channel your creativity you must not only think outside the box but you must live outside that box. Architects are risk takers. Rethink, re-imaging, retool and invent new ways of doing the same old thing — while the laws of physics still apply, even gravity can be challenged.
4. The Best Architects Simplify
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak,” Hans Hofmann.
When there is too much going on in a design it often act as a proxy for interest. It is sophistication and unique when an architect has scaled their design to illustrate down to the most essential components. Areas where simplicity build strength are material, finishing, and building shape.
5. Breaking The Rules
Designers commonly used thematic elements repeated throughout their designs to help reinforce our previous habit of establishing that order rules. Windows, doors, columns, beams, materials are all part of the natural order of buildings. This makes the building uniform.
Once a repeating pattern is established, we as designers can decide where to break the rules.
You may ask why. Imagine a series of frosted windows aligned on an orderly grid. The one transparent window that breaks this set of rules must do so for a very important and specific reason, like a view to the pool or a distant view of the ocean or mountain.
Change in material is another way to break rules in order to enhance the design.
6. Engaging Senses
We’re taught as architects to engage all of our senses when designing. The view is as important as the design, in order to block out odors from the lagoon or noise from the featured mulberry tree or even the feel of one’s feet against tiles verses timber flooring.
As well as appease the senses, architects must also design in accordance with the movement of the sun and wind to make the living or work environment more pleasing to the user.