So Simple, It’s Complex

The simpler an architectural design, the more complex it is.  There are so many singular good ideas in the world.  My first question is:  How does this idea address all of the following:

1.  Function

There are many ideas that are rooted in appearance and the genus of what functionally needs to happen becomes an afterthought.  This is where many admonish with the Mies van der Rohe quote of “Form follows function.”   I much prefer the Stephen R. Covey quote, “Begin with the end in mind.” What do you want to do?  Where do you want to go? Who is your audience? How will your life be different when this is built and how will this enhance your life?  And, function is not limited to the task of getting from point A to point B efficiently.  Function includes the emotive aspects of a project. The project goals should embrace that fact. 

2.  Sustainability

Do we really need to design what we are designing? Will the world really be a better place when this is built?  If not, then go design something that will.  Will the seventh generation from now be glad that this object / house / building came into being in the way that it has.  Or, will this object succumb to a landfill much sooner than that? How can we be good stewards to the environment.  These are the root questions of sustainability. Sustainability is not about putting cork flooring in an under-insulated home with a non-efficient heating / cooling plant so that one can appear to honor the environment.

3.  Infrastructure

The quality of a house has nothing to do with the price of the kitchen backsplash.  Yet, so much attention today is focused here.  Is the foundation adequate for the soil? Is the home entirely insulated against thermal, moisture, and air infiltration to the best of current technology?  Is the structural system appropriate and efficient?  How can the mechanical system be as efficient as possible for the given budget and goals of the client?  I’m not saying don’t have a beautiful kitchen. But have a beautiful kitchen in the context of a home with good bones that efficiently serves a larger ideal. And while we are on the topic of kitchens, let that kitchen be the manifestation of health, good food, and love. That is the best reason for a kitchen I have ever heard; a room to hang tile?  Not so much.

4.  Preservation

Not the museum quality, pay your admission and learn about the way things used to be for an afternoon’s entertainment.  I’m talking about honoring the context that came before you.  Don’t throw it away just because you didn’t put it there.  The greenest building is the one that already exists.   And, does the ego really need to scrap everything that was there before and start all over? Sometimes that is prudent; often it is not.  Consciously consider what and what not to keep.

5.  Process

My thirty plus years in architecture have taught me that this is an industry purely about communication. Yes, materials are formed and a building is produced. But each time something is seen as wrong – the root of the problem is always communication. There has been not enough, the wrong kind, not specific, no listening, no reading, not written anyway, not accurate, and non-existent. And always, no time to talk beforehand, but plenty of time to talk about it later when an expectation was missed.  Just as often there is no money to do it right, but plenty of money to pay for the attorneys later.  For this reason, dwell in process.  Have the belief that if integrity and full communication is brought to each step of the process then the success of a project will be assured.  Good design is easier if the larger context is process. Efficiency is doing it right the first time and using technology in that process to make it even more efficient and also confirming whose definition of “right” we are using.

 This is the Introduction to my blog.  I will write more about what I have touched on above within the context of it is all related and unable to be separated. This is what makes architecture the art form that it is. That greatness comes from combining all of the above and achieving a beautiful result as well.