Design with Conviction
There are many buildings; however, there are few works of architecture.
There are many architects; however, there are few which contribute to the discipline in any significant manner, whether through design, service, or education.
Most of us will create few significant works of architecture ourselves, even among a lifetime of production.
What is it, then, that separates buildings from architecture? How does one begin to make the distinction between insignificant work and significant architecture, with a conviction which contributes to advancing design excellence for our clients, our firms, and ultimately, our profession?
Each of us as architects brings a unique world view to the task of design. As emerging professionals, many of us struggle to develop and articulate a conscious design perspective that informs our work. This design perspective is born of practice, research, experience, patience, trial and error, lessons learned, and most importantly, encouragement by our team. Design perspective also grows out of personal conviction which can eventually inform a body of work, not just a single solution or project, and can lead to a lifetime of study and experimentation.
As a young architect, I was subconsciously designing around the process of making connections: building authentic connections with the client, beginning to understand how materials interact with each other, and experimenting in concepts of form-making such as overlapping and interlocking. In these early years I didn’t have the design perspective to articulate my design process, but I began to understand that the notion of a “black cape architect” handing down a design is not a useful approach. A transformative design makes the client’s goals visible, interacts meaningfully with its site, and inspires people beyond the expectations of the project goals.
As I gained experience, I became increasingly aware that, for me, the concept of connection and defining the meaning of connectivity was integral to my design process and perspective. I continued to explore the formal definition of the word “connection” and developed strategies such as interlocking, tethering, pairing, weaving, bracketing, pinning, stitching, and bridging, which all have architectural design implications. I am now fully conscious of the perspective which drives my process and my designs.. Through design, I work to connect the client and project to the community, to build relationships with the team, to root a design in its site, and to make connections tangible through porosity, dovetailed programmatic elements, and distinctive, but linked spaces which work together as part of a unified whole.
While we graduate from architecture school with an architectural lexicon and a palette of design tools, most of us take years (or decades) to develop a fully realized design philosophy. Designing architecture is not prescriptive, and we do not teach our emerging professionals a one-size-fits-all set of solutions. However, we seek to instill the notion that significant architecture is relevant to its time and culture and eccentric relative to the status quo. This eccentricity and boldness in design moves the needle, elevating a design for the client, the community, and the profession.
Every architect’s design perspective is formed from, and informed by, accumulated experience in navigating project goals, site/context, program, tectonics, and building sustainability. The complex process of design is the application of each architect’s unique design perspective, and involves authentic engagement with a broader team through listening, learning, and leading. Done with authenticity and integrity, this process should result in design excellence. It is only over time, with full development of a design perspective and mastery of the design process, that we begin to achieve conviction. As young architects we may be guided by intuition, our training, and our mentors; with experience and practice we develop a rich understanding of what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.