In this article, you will find 17 steps for improving your architectural design process and developing concepts you can implement immediately. There are some concepts we have used as students and other concepts we have learned and developed in our design architect careers.
When you start a design project from scratch, it can seem difficult and overwhelming. That is especially true once a mild panic sets in because the initial spark of inspiration hasn’t appeared yet. The problem becomes even more difficult, and designing under pressure is an incredibly challenging task.
Fortunately, the stereotype of the architect sketching their eureka moments on beer mats and cigarette packets rarely exists, as good ideas are developed, refined, modified, and adapted through thorough site analysis, testing, and experimentation, which takes time and patience.
Additionally, we recommend the following skills and resources to help you develop and improve the architecture design process:
- The literature
- Resources available online
- A variety of exhibitions and lectures
- Being aware of what is around you and what is available
- The mentors and peers in your life
- Influences from the outside and the connections
- Trusting the process and being patient
Architectural Design Tips
To begin, here are a few things you should do:
1. Read Le Corbusier’s An Analysis Of Form By Geoffrey Baker
A must-read for anyone interested in the ideas and thinking processes that underlie some of Corbusier’s most influential works, emphasizing the importance and relevancy of the site as an architectural design tool and the way in which it can be utilized.
It describes how the reader can use key site elements as inspiration for shaping and justifying their own design decisions by using the methods described in this book. It is beautifully illustrated with sketches and diagrams drawn by hand.
As one of our favorite books, Le Corbusier’s analysis of form is one of the first we discovered, providing a methodology for incorporating site analysis data into architecture proposals. We highly recommend this book.
2. Create A Pinterest Account
There’s no need for an introduction to Pinterest, which is the most popular and really the only online image store worth spending time on.
In order to be a successful architect and architecture student, you have to save every bit of knowledge and inspiration available to you, so if you don’t have an account yet, take the time to create one now; otherwise, you might miss out.
It is possible to organize images (called pins) into different categories (boards) to make them easily accessible. Among the many boards, you can create tor houses, schools, public buildings, building materials, lighting, interiors, stairways, and fireplaces; the possibilities are endless. It is almost guaranteed that they will be needed at some point.
The search engine on Pinterest has also grown to be one of the most powerful for images, more powerful than even a Google image search for architecture and design.
It’s useful because it provides recommended images to search results or pins images that have recently been saved (pinned). Using this tool can be extremely helpful when looking for examples and inspiration regarding building types, materials, and more. Pinning is key, so get to it!
3. Visit Architecture Shows And Exhibitions
In spite of the fact that this isn’t a secret, oftentimes, we are lazy about doing so. As a resource for students as well as architects, architectural school shows provide a variety of projects, images, and media to inspire students and architects.
Several of the projects exhibited have been created without or under limiting boundaries and restrictions, which makes them ideal for these shows. In addition to being highly experimental, they often provide a refreshing change from the norm, as well as a sense of nostalgia for qualified architects.
Additionally, these shows offer a great opportunity to stay current on architectural representation techniques, as well as, as a student, compare your work with others, with the goal of improving your work.
As architects, there will be ideas that can be taken back to the studio, even if it is just renewed enthusiasm for future projects.
4. Steel And Borrow, Don’t Copy
A book by Austin Kleon on Steal Like an Artist is a must-read for every young architect, student, and designer. Throughout this book, it is stressed that nothing is original, and as an artist, it is important to acknowledge influences, gather ideas, and reimagine what has already been created.
We find it increasingly difficult and perhaps even impossible to create true originality today, but we shouldn’t be intimidated by it. It is something we should embrace and take advantage of. There have never been many resources available for beginning, borrowing, and stealing. Collect everything you can!
5. Use Your Site
It is the worst thing you can do to design a building in isolation without considering the site-specific conditions. You should always use the project site as the most valuable tool in your design process.
This site is available for you to use and respond to as you see fit. The design process will become more meaningful and contextual when you use it, which, when applied correctly, provides a framework for working within, providing answers to design-related questions.
During the analysis phase, the process and method are repeated and transferable between projects, but it is the interpretation and analysis of results that result in compelling architecture.
6. Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Literature
Online media has become a major influence on the environment we live in today, as well as the need for information. It seems we have become more impatient than ever before, always looking for answers as quickly as possible.
There are rarely any shortcuts in the design process, and this is especially true in architecture. The process of creating meaningful design requires time, and reading relevant books away from your screen can be extremely helpful.
Many of us also claim to “not have the time” to read, but reading will greatly enhance your knowledge if you find the time.
7. Architecture Lectures
To truly understand a building’s genesis or the process by which a practice comes up with design ideas, hearing it firsthand from the architect or architects is the best way to do so.
The lectures on architecture provide this platform and offer the chance to see and listen to your favorite architects share their stories in regard to ideas and inspirations.
Additionally, it provides an opportunity to meet up with other architecture friends and peers, which can provide an interesting perspective on their work.
You can gain a deeper understanding of the industry through lectures, but it is very important to immerse yourself in it as much as possible to gain a complete understanding.
8. Ask Questions
Ask questions no matter what level you are at, whether you’re still researching or already qualified as an architect. It is through this process that you learn.
Don’t hesitate to ask your tutors, colleagues, and superiors any questions you have, take advantage of their knowledge, and make the most out of it.
The ability to understand why things are the way they are, as well as the decisions that led to them, plays an important role in the development of your architectural design skills. As mentioned above, you should be sponges and absorb all the information.
In some cases, you may disagree with what they are saying. However, if you step back and listen, it is always possible to learn from someone else’s insights.
9. Find “Your” Architecture
Make a list of your favorite buildings and architects and become obsessed with them.
When you look at something that you like, ask yourself, “why do I like it?”, “why is their work appealing to me?”. Learn as much as you can about it by researching and reading. Become completely absorbed in their work until you have no more questions before repeating.
10. Don’t Ignore The Landscape
It is equally important to consider the landscape in conjunction with the architecture, as the two need to complement one another.
Due to this, it’s important not to wait until the end of a project to begin this part of the design process. During the early stages of design, it needs to be taken into account in accordance with the concept development of the architecture.
Piet Oudolf is one of our go-to sources of inspiration. It is highly recommended that you research and become familiar with your favorite landscape architects, the same way you would do for your favorite architects.
11. Spatial Verbs Books
Using Anthony di Mari’s books of spatial verbs can provide a quick and handy starting point to generate the form as well as the massing of an architectural design.
As a sort of encyclopedia of ideas, they are not site-specific (even though that makes them more useful ). Rather, they are intended to serve as a source of inspiration for the development of architectural projects.
12. Give Yourself Time
We have already mentioned that the design and development processes take time. There needs to be time for ideas to be tested and adapted, which shouldn’t happen too quickly.
Don’t be impatient, and be sure to leave enough time for your idea to develop before it needs to be presented.
13. Dont Ignore The Structure
When you’re a student, especially, you have a tendency to be unaware of limitations, usually ignoring or brushing over the structural limitations of your project.
Having creativity is one thing, but if it doesn’t stand up, it is pointless and very labor-intensive.
14. Start A Design Blog
The creation of a design blog, even if it is merely a visual diary, serves as a great tool for recording inspiration and creating an inspiration library.
Tumblr is an excellent platform for this. However, if you’re interested in something more formal, some excellent templates are available on WordPress and Squarespace.
15. The Plan Is The Generator
In Le Corbusier’s book Towards a New Architecture, he states that a plan generates architecture.
According to him, “When there is no plan, there is a lack of order and wilfulness. Sensation lies at the very heart of the plan. In the face of the great challenges of tomorrow, driven by collective necessities, put a new spin on the question of ‘plan’. It is essential that we develop a new kind of plan for modern life, both for the house and for the city.”
As a result, during the design of a building, the form must be derived from the plan and the accommodation. The success of any building cannot be guaranteed without continuous and thorough consultation regarding its interior arrangements and requirements.
16. Be Relevant
Learn about the industry you want to be a part of and stay updated on it.
Keeping up with the latest building technologies, construction methods, rules, and regulations ensure that your design process continues evolving and progressing. Stay up to date on the latest discussions within and about architecture so that you can use the discussions as inspiration for your critical thinking.
A great way to learn more about architecture and design is to subscribe to architecture blogs. You can also subscribe to your favorite magazine or periodical.
Make sure you’re subscribed to your favorite design blogs and visit their sites every other day to learn more about what others are doing. It’s important to ask yourself why you admire someone’s work, and the same goes for those you dislike.
In addition, podcasts offer you a great way to stay up-to-date, covering a wide range of topics such as news, industry, marketing, and business discussions.
17. Dont Be Afraid Of Criticism
Architecture is highly subjective, and this is both a positive and a negative aspect. You will always encounter people who disapprove of the designs you make, although there will also be a fair number of people who approve. It is, therefore, important that you do not be afraid to ask your friends, family, and peers to give you feedback on your work.
Take advantage of this. Taking people’s opinions personally is very easy (most people do), so listening to the positives and learning from their reasoning, you’ll likely find this to be very helpful in developing your project.
Every architect starts with a blank piece of paper as a starting point for every design project. As long as it isn’t your first design experience, chances are, you’ll be faced with a blank white space at first, but it will soon become something you can work with. You just need time and patience.
It’s important not to let the initial pressure of a need for an idea or concept get in the way of your creative process. It’s fun to design (that’s why most of us studied architecture in the first place), so have fun with it, try out new techniques, and explore every medium available to you.
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