06 Feb 2018

On Your Mark, Get Set — Start a Design!

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What do a gunshot, the national anthem and a serve have in common? They are all ways to start a race, event or game. But some events don’t have prominent identifiers to signify the beginning. Are these starters universally applicable to initiate all events? Imagine using a gunshot, anthem or serve to start an architectural project.

raceStarting a design is like a race. Designers take your mark-ers, get set, go! At the <bang> of the starting gun (start-up meeting) the architect, engineers, owner and contractor bolt from the starting block (diagram) to finish the race (design) as quickly as possible. Everyone starts together but finishes independently at different times and no one remembers how they finished. NO, that’s not how to start a design, but I’ve had clients who thought it worked that way…

baseballMaybe starting a design is like playing baseball with client as the pitcher and architect as batter. The architect needs a hit to win the game (design), but the client throws curve balls (redesigns) and sliders (scope changes) to confuse the architect. The adversaries try to outdo each other until one of them prevails. NO, that’s not how to start a design, but I’ve had clients who thought it worked that way…

tennisPerhaps starting a design is like a tennis match. The architect serves the ball (a concept). The client returns the ball (idea) with a little spin. Eventually one of the contestants taps the design out of reach to score the design victory. NO, that’s not how to start a design, but I’ve had clients who thought it worked that way; however, the volley interaction is a decent start…

catchTo continue the sports metaphors, starting a design is like playing catch. The architect tosses the client a ball (an idea). The client catches the idea and lobs a question. That thoughtful exchange is how the architect and client collect information, get-to-know each other and develop a project concept.

Lobbing ideas back and forth in a brain-storm format is plausible but a more focused approach with design exercises promises more efficient and satisfying results. I use interactive exercises such as a space list, AAA matrix, bubble diagram and mass model to start a design.

  • Space List – a list of project spaces. This compiled list identifies spaces, areas or zones to help the architect understand project size and complexity
  • AAA matrix – a table to identify all space objects (Area), major building features (Activity) and circulation (Adjacency). This table helps the architect organize space and size the building
  • Bubble Diagram – a functional exercise to illustrate how spaces flow in the building. This diagram helps the architect zone building spaces together and identify how people and things flow through the building
  • Mass Models – a simplified model designed to show different solutions, circulation, form and function. This model helps the architect show how different solutions address the design program.

Starting a design is neither a metaphor nor a simile. Design starts with a client-architect exchange punctuated with active listening, verbal/written/visual communication, idea generation and defined roles. No guns, balls nor rackets needed. Let’s start a design today!


Architalks Credits

This is another entry in Bob Borson’s blogging brain-child titled, “ArchiTalks”.

The #ArchiTalks goal is to inspire blogging architects with similar educational and professional requirements to opine on the same topic and simulpost their response so other architects and a broader audience can enjoy the rampant thought-diversity within the architecture profession

Select the links in “Architalks Entries” below to read how architects responded to the “Starting a Design” topic.

image/video credits:

Architalks Entries

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Slow Down. Hold Still.

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
where do we start?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
How to Start a Design

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Starting a Design: #Architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
On Your Mark, Get Set — Start a Design!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
.”starting a design…”..

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #35: Starting a Design

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Where do we begin?

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Where do you start when designing a new home?

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
do-re-mi- Design

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
First Thing’s First

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Tips for Starting an Architecture Project

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
How it all begins…

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Starting Wrong – The Amazon Mistake

About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 29 years experience in design, construction observation and life.