We are frequently asked how to originate and develop an architectural design concept, as well as how to typically construct and justify a design response; thus, we will examine the beginning of the design process… with the notion

Every architectural project should begin with a concept, which, in the simplest terms, is an idea that serves as the basis for your design process and decision-making.

For this reason, it should go without saying that this part of a project’s origin is crucial to its eventual success. As a result of its significance, the content and meaning of an idea are frequently the first part of a building to be examined, and may thus be held accountable for whether a design is successful or unsuccessful based on its strength and capacity to be relevant.

There are many ways to develop quick, off-the-cuff concepts, but generating one with meaning and depth that will help to support the development of your project can be difficult, and whilst we believe there is a process that can be followed (described below), it does require time, research, and development to be successful.

In this post, we will examine how to construct an architectural idea and the various ways to do so, including:

  • What is a general concept
  • What is an architectural concept 
  • What is the purpose of a concept 
  • Types of architectural concepts
  • Where to start 
  • How do you create an architecture concept 
  • Developing your concept

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Learn how to generate effective and meaningful design concepts, as well as the tools and processes that facilitate their development.

What is a Concept?

Before we dig into architectural concepts and their evolution, we must first define the term “concept” and determine its purpose.

Literally defining a notion, a concept is:

“An abstract notion / a plan or goal / an idea or innovation to aid in the sale or promotion of a product.”

Consequently, a concept might be an idea, a notion, a theory, an object, an opinion, a representation, or a process that supplies the essential building blocks for the thoughts and beliefs that underlie an idea. They play a crucial part in all facets of a subject’s comprehension.

This might pertain to a book, a car, a piece of furniture, a phone, or anything else, even architecture.

What is an Architectural Concept?

The objective of an architectural idea (also known as a parti in French) is to assist develop a solution to a particular design-based situation by addressing the project brief, context, limits, problems, usage, and structural needs.

All projects should begin with a concept since this serves as the basis for their growth and leads the design process. A building or structure does not, however, need to be guided by a single notion; rather, it may be guided by a variety of concepts that work together to make the whole.

For instance, the materiality may be based on the local vernacular, while the structural arrangement may be a reaction to the topography.

An idea is a method for producing and justifying design decisions, which are virtually always composed of:

  • Site
  • Design Brief
  • Narrative

The work of Bjarke Ingles (BIG) is an excellent example of how a concept can propel a project forward, as the strength of his concepts and the explanations behind them have allowed him to explain and justify even the most outlandish projects, which would have never materialized without their foundation.

What Is The Purpose Of a Concept? 

As previously said, architectural design selections are influenced and characterized by their concepts; hence, architecture is heavily evaluated based on its strength. A weak piece of architecture is typically the product of a poorly planned and executed project.

Its objective is consequently to bring structure and clarity to the design process and building presentation.

As previously established, a concept does not need to be a single “great idea,” but may also be a sequence of smaller conceptual situations based, for example, on organization, materiality, or structure.

These are referenced throughout the process and utilized to assist answer issues and making decisions, driving the project ahead.

A design idea is consequently the impetus for a project’s genesis and growth, and its objective is to express the scheme’s heart and soul by offering answers and explanations to the questions posed about it.

Types of the Architectural Concepts

Many strands of a well-structured and conceptualized concept might include a single or group of important concepts, but the majority can be summed up and split down into three primary categories: the Site, the Design Brief, and the Narrative.

01 Site 

The site should always be the first beginning point for any conceptual process, but in order to do so successfully, you must first complete and evaluate your site analysis. We have written extensively about the many phases of the site analysis procedure, so we suggest you begin with our introduction.

When considering your site’s qualities and aspects, the following might have a significant impact on the creation of your concept:

Typology, climate, orientation, perspectives, access, context, history, borders, form, and characteristics

Here we also give a checklist

02 Design Brief

Second is the design brief, without which the project would not exist. The brief dictates the scheme’s use, program, priorities, end users, and sometimes even the building’s location and may thus be a primary driver and/or influencer in the creation of your design.

The organization of the program and priority of areas must take into account the needs of the end-user and can assist develop either functional or aesthetic notions.

For instance, there might be a play on exposure and shelter, living and utilitarian, public and private, and lifestyle and character.

03 Narratives

Every endeavor should conclude with a narrative describing its origins.

This might be determined by, for instance, the customer, environment, requirements, or purpose. For an architect working on a real project, this is frequently based on the information offered to them during the project’s assessment and briefing, however, for an architecture student who frequently works on hypothetical projects, this may need to be constructed.

For instance, a hospice should be a place of healing and tranquility, and this small amount of information begins to define where the building should be placed (in a quiet and private location), how it should address its site (long distant views / incorporate landscape/face inwards if urban), and what the spaces should offer (connection and rest).

Its story provides insight into the conceptualization of a building’s ambiance, emotion, and memory.

How To Create a Design Concept For Architecture – Where to begin

Finding a beginning point might be intimidating, especially considering that building a good concept seldom ends in a “Eureka!” moment where a single idea comes and solves all problems. As emphasized throughout this text, you must remember and realize that the procedure requires time; thus, the first step is to… Plant the seed in advance.

You cannot produce a concept unless you understand the project’s brief, site, and context; thus, this should be your initial point of contact and the beginning of gathering all of the project’s necessary parameters.

This includes site study, design brief evaluation, building typology evaluation, archetype evaluation, precedent investigations, etc.

The Design Brief

Whether your project is actual or needs to be viewed as real, there will always be a design brief that outlines the client’s and building’s requirements, as well as the location where your architectural proposal must be located.

The type of building and its planned accommodation, as specified in the design brief, will assist in identifying early research routes and the main concepts that will be essential to the construction of that sort.

For instance, does the brief need a single structure or a series of buildings, and/or is the project public or private? maybe both. Following this, the brief will outline the program’s size, the project’s priorities, and limits and provide an approximation of the program’s layout on the site.

The Site & Context

In many circumstances, this is one of the most important factors in the conceptual development of a project, and you should never seriously evaluate a conceptual proposal before doing a thorough site investigation.

In the early phases of a project, a desktop study can provide a wealth of information before a site visit, but this should always be followed by a physical visit.

You may utilize the site’s settings to find the limitations, constraints, and opportunities that might enrich your conceptual approach.

These initial phases are nearly always a sequence of experiments and studies that uncovers aesthetically, organizationally, technically, socially, or contextually contradictory criteria that may be used as components for subsequent analysis and development.

For your concept to be as effective as feasible, it must contain and meet as many of these requirements as possible while also addressing the brief’s important aspects.

How Do You Create An Architectural Concept? 

Your concept should never begin with a strict and rigorous approach; instead, it should try to be as elastic and flexible as possible in its early phases, and you should approach its growth with your eyes wide open to all influences from all angles.

To design your concept, you must first investigate and handle the three concept categories outlined above, as well as a fourth category, the building typology. You should not codify your technique until all of these topics have been investigated and appraised.

These four areas are summed up as follows:

01 Site Analyze. Using the information presented in the preceding section, identify the primary restrictions, features, and characteristics of the site and its surrounding environment.

02 Design Brief. This is the client-provided information that should cover building type, preferences, budget, culture, assumptions, agenda, personality, organization, and program.

03 Buildings Classification. This establishes the type of structure, its function, the services it offers, and how it should function.

04 Project Description. This describes the story behind the project, the individuals who will utilize it, and how it will fit into its context and expand over time.

Identifying these four aspects will build the groundwork for your thought growth and play a crucial part in constructing a meaningful answer.

This information must then be gathered and translated into usable and useful material; therefore, beginning with your site analysis (point 01), overlay the key features and elements, including the site boundary, typography, existing and neighboring buildings, trees and vegetation, and solar orientation and paths, onto a site plan.

The program should then be diagrammatically projected into the site to establish the size of the overall building and individual areas, as well as whether it should be a single-story or multi-story structure, as well as the limits and needs of the project.

In a “real-world” context, this depends heavily on the client’s available money.

The organization of your program should be impacted by the other categories, such as your lifestyle (project narrative), the seasons (site analysis), and the intended audience (use) (building typology).

These characteristics can subsequently be converted into public and private places / served and served / utilitarian and residential spaces.

These are crucial since it is impossible to construct a notion without the essential underlying knowledge to support it. Using the third point and recognizing the building type is essential to comprehend the project’s consequences; if you are unfamiliar with the needed building type, you should conduct a comprehensive antecedent study with the objective of comprehending the inner and exterior workings of the building type. Knowing the typology affords you the option to innovate and enhance what currently exists. The story offers the ultimate layer of relevance to a subject, making it relevant and human. This might be determined by the customer, building type, or site.

Developing Your Concept

Developing a concept enables us to frame the questions we have identified and are posing as a result of the aforementioned research and preliminary formulation and to direct the design process.

Preparation is essential for idea formation; if you follow the stages outlined above, the groundwork will have already been established, allowing the thinking and comprehension to follow.

Analyze the problem the design brief requires to be addressed, consider the restrictions and constraints of the site, and keep in mind that a successful proposal is a balance of features, requiring compromises such as light over shade or screening over openness.

Like a writer, a skilled and experienced designer understands that the initial draught will always require editing; it evolves from beginning to conclusion.

Take Your Time

Incubation of an idea and unconscious thought may be really useful, so take the time to move away and do something else, allow inspiration to occur spontaneously, and then evaluate and refine your ideas.

Find The Project Constraints

Your study will establish the site and building restrictions that serve as natural limits. However, these should be viewed as possibilities and recommendations for design, which will frequently restrict the scope of the problem to be solved.

The site analysis will offer physical restrictions (where), the customer or design brief will specify the program (size), and the building typology will supply the kind (what)


Your design will be influenced by the location of your proposal, taking into account essential site characteristics such as vistas, shelter, typography, and access. Using the elements of the site, begin to shape an early massing model to develop basic shapes; this will identify the dominant forces. The location should influence the architectural design.


Materials may be harmful to the creation of an idea, and their restrictions and qualities should be investigated to establish their weight, thickness, flexibility, and texture. This can lead to structural notions that investigate the limitations and technologies of accessible techniques, which may try to push the limits of existing typologies.

Develop Concept Design Ideas with Ease

This package teaches you how to consistently define, create, and communicate effective design answers.

Get Drawing

Finally, begin to examine a simple plan and 3D massing model in order to experiment with simple volumes and the placement of spaces.

Begin by simply situating the public and private spaces, determining the various degrees of importance, fundamental orientation, and the locations of the transparent and opaque faces. These serve to clarify the concept’s clarity by beginning to address essential questions such as why is this here, what is it doing, and what its purpose is.