I am often asked what is “good design” and as an architect, what is my design philosophy? Although I don’t think the two are exclusive, I am going to focus on the first question here and address the latter on another post.
I have always believed that balance is one of the most important aspects of life. If we look closer, we will find perfect balance in nature, and as such it is our nature to seek balance in our daily lives. In an ideal world there is balance and harmony in all aspects of life, including the physical environment we live in. It’s therefore evident that balance is also a fundamental component in the creative process of good architecture.
As architects we play a major role in shaping that environment, and thus affect people’s lives every day, in a very direct and deliberate way. Which places a very important and critical responsibility on our profession and therefore needs to be clearly defined, understood and practiced.
In the world of architecture, there are two main ingredients which need to coexist in perfect harmony, in order to manifest “good design”. Which brings up the old adage; Form follows Function. Which speaks to the need for balance between the two. I say old because in our profession this subject is as old as the profession itself! The premise is basically that; Good design results when form and functions come together in harmony.
When I sit with clients, my goal is to satisfy their functional needs of the place, as well as their aesthetic desires and sense of belonging to it. Too often with some architects, function takes a back seat to form. That imbalance in my opinion creates homes that look great on glossy pages of consumer magazines, or may even receive “awards”, but don’t quite serve the needs of those who it was intended for and must live within them. It would be a disservice to public and to our profession if we are more concerned about publicity and recognition than the well being and best interest of our clients.
As architects, our primary skill is being good problem solvers, and one of the most important tasks are how to solve the challenge of merging the functionality, which reflects the client’s sense of lifestyle and individual needs, and a form that satisfies both their sense of style, and architect’s own sense of architectural integrity and sensibilities.
Well functioning designs require a number of prerequisites, including listening and understanding the client’s needs and desires. These needs may represent things like; Lifestyle, such as family size and age, formal or casual living and entertaining, or resale value and long term plans and, building site and what it has to offers and the challenges it might present. Not only the physical characteristics but also such considerations as the average home prices and property values, as well as general sense of scale and style of the neighborhood should be included in the early stages of research and design programming. As architects and advocates for our clients, we need to be vigilant in discovering and understanding all these components, before we are able to fully delve into the design process.
In my own practice I have experienced that many of these same areas of considerations end up directing me towards the appropriate form. Being equipped and trained to think and visualize three dimensionally, we start forming a picture of what would be the basis of the “design concept” as we are planning the functional and spatial relationship and requirements. Making it brighter and more real on every turn, in our mind’s eye.
Which is by the way considered the “circular process of design”; going back and forth between the two dimensional functioning plan and its three dimensional manifestation. Making continuous adjustments and refinements until the balance between form and function is achieved.
Good design therefore materializes when thoughtful creativities are taken to its highest potential of physical expression and functional performance, creating a harmonious balance.