The basic purpose of design is to decide upon the look and functioning of products (in this case buildings) but designing like an architect isn’t as straight forward as mathematics where the end is certain as long as you follow laid down formula and steps.
Therefore how do architects design?
The steps to designing like an architect discussed here were garnered from my experiences in practice and teaching, and also from observing colleagues.
1. Study the brief . . . Study your client.
You will have an edge here if the client explained this brief to you in person because this would afford you the opportunity to hear him; observe him and know even those things he could not voice out; his likes and dislikes and also ask questions.
The secret to not only a good design but a design that meets the client’s expectation is to clearly take note of the client’s brief.
Some of us receive briefs by proxy, don’t listen well during the briefing or fail to ask the right question and end up design buildings that do not meet the client’s expectations.
A few clients are enlightened and know what they want, have done their research and may even know more on certain topics than you and may also already have built a building similar to the brief and can thus enlighten you on the functioning of that building type.
|Analysis of the Guggenheim museum showing its form, plans and sections.|
2. Relax . . . and do some research.
If its a project you have worked on before and you are confident that you know the project thoroughly then you can skip this stage.
Here you will study how the architects achieved his own design and try to pinpoint one or two uniqueness in his work. Just joggle these observations in your mind, you may not need to draw then down or write them down because your aim is not to copy.
3. Chill and dream.
So what you need to do is to chill, if you are the type that meditates maybe this may be a good time.
Sometimes you don’t have time to chill while the ideas form. If you are this type then take a pencil and paper and just make random sketches as the thoughts come to you. You may not get that special idea until after several tries.
4. Conceive the idea.
For inspired ideas
This should be when you are unable to develop your own mental picture of what you want by your self or you don’t have time. So what you do is – From all the case studies you looked at am sure you saw certain patterns and uniqueness in their layout or forms.
So in this case, in conceiving yours you would tinker with the design principles or massing you observed in those projects. You can extract inputs from 2 or more designs and harmoniously integrate them into yours.
Try not to copy verbatim, the inputs you want to extract are concepts which you will interpret in your own ways. let’s look a the drawing underneath.
For example, from the drawings above – If your case study was the architectural plan at the middle (the square layout) and you want to develop a new (inspired) design from it, instead of copying; why not study the drawings – In studying it you will notice that the basic concept of the square plan was to design the rooms around a center core using square configurations.
Therefore what you want to do is to tinker with the configuration but retain the basic concept. In so doing you can a circular configuration (as on the left) and a derivative of a circular configuration (which is a totally unique configuration as on the right) and many more other layouts.
If what you desire is a completely original idea then you can either wait for your formed idea to strike your mind like in a eureka moment or you take your pencil and paper and start sketching the ideas forming in your head.
Try not to mentally dwell on your case studies so they don’t influence your ideas.
5. Sketch out your ideas.
Meaning that from the idea you can tell what the basic form of the building will be like and at the same time tell what the basic functional layout will be like. It may still be very sketchy but you can tell it is unique.
6. Take a good nap…
7. Detail your sketches
If the detailing seems to spoil the design or brings out the impracticality of the design them you may discard it and pick another sketch. But if you are convinced that the sketch is too unique to be discarded then you can put in more effort to make it work.
Also, you will want to study the spaces and forms you have created. You can either use a 3D model or physical model to do this. Build a small scale model of your design and observe it from several angles both interior and exterior, if you are satisfied with the result it means you are set for your presentation. If you aren’t, tweak the model till you like what you see.
Even good architects sometimes fail to come up with great design ideas the first time, so don’t beat your self when it isn’t working out, just study your own way of coming up with ideas. Don’t pressure your self, relax mostly and you will get it.
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