On the design studio days when a new project brief is introduced, we end up wondering, how do I develop a concept for this?
Although there aren’t any foolproof ways to narrow down on a concept, considering a few key factors during our ideation can make it a little less overwhelming. And of course, the more projects we do, the better we’ll get at it.
The following five factors, once thoroughly understood and explored, can help you develop the design concepts
From the design requirements to the finer details, everything often falls into place when we choose the right design concept. Which is why exploring all possibilities before settling on our concept is a necessary step.
The Key Factors to Consider
- The Design Brief
- Site Location and Context
- Climate Analysis
- Regional Culture
These five primary factors we are all familiar with contribute to most of our research. And under them lie a broad spectrum of ideas that have the potential to shape our design concept.
Efficient research can help us know the client, understand the context of the project and assess the practicality of building construction better. And in order to go crazy with our concepts, it’s important that we know the fundamentals first.
“To create, one must first question everything”Eileen grey
(Pioneer Architect of the Modern Movement)
1. Design Brief
Going through the design brief thoroughly will help us understand the client’s perspective and the requirements we need to satisfy through design.
Design briefs often contain the most essential information and also some suggestive ones. By following the prerequisites and getting inspired by the suggestions, we can leverage our concept selection process.
- Basing the concept off of zoning requirements and circulation
- Satisfying the client requirements
- Exploring the client’s design style
- Incorporating our own crazy design ideas, considering the brief.
Hazelwood school is an educational center for specially-abled children. The firm, Alan Dunlop Architecture Limited, while designing the school, took into consideration the needs of the users. They based their zoning majorly on the ease of navigation. And Alan’s priority was the addition of visual and tactile responses within the design and eliminating an institution-like feel.
2. Site Location and Context
We often get lazy and stick to performing site analysis through maps and pictures off google lens. But there’s nothing that can get close to actually visiting the site and exploring before we settle on a concept.
- Studying site location, orientation and shape.
- Designing solutions that comply with the existing topography.
- Examining the circulation and transportation routes flanking the site.
- Checking the problem solving aspects for existing threats in the site.
- Designing around the existing vegetation.
- Taking Inspiration from the massing and colour scheme of surrounding buildings.
- Integrating views from the site into the design.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s residence design, Falling Waters, is regarded as a masterpiece. It is well-known for its site context and its ‘down to earth’ design, among the architecture students. When Frank’s client initially asked for the waterfall to be the view from the residence, he instead integrated the waterfall itself into the building design. The residence also blended in organically with its surroundings when it came to the choice of material, color and design.
3. Climate Analysis
The fancy from-based concepts and the crazy symbolic ones might sound luring. But we’ll soon realise that nothing compares to a functional concept that enriches the user experience in the long run.
Some of the climate analyses done for a site are:
- Prevailing Wind Direction
- Psychrometric Chart
- Solving the existing climatic drawbacks of the site.
- Featuring the positive climatic factors through design.
- Customizing shades and open spaces through climate analysis.
- Developing a form-based concept to satisfy climatic demands of the site.
- Creating new spaces in zoning to highlight the best climatic characteristics.
The Centre for Advanced Research in Building Science and Energy of the CEPT University, Ahmedabad, designed a ‘Living Laboratory’. Several massing techniques were analysed to narrow down on the one that had the most scope of climate responsiveness. They incorporated several technologies including natural ventilation design, light shelves, insulated walls and many more.
4. Regional Culture
The principle of ‘building context’ is very important when it comes to building design. Every space in every corner of the world has been developed from literally nothing. Hence, every location has its own long standing ancestry that the users of the space are often proud of.
- Keeping the cultural integrity of the space intact.
- Exploring the vernacular construction techniques.
- Bringing back the historical features of the space lost to time and technology.
- Tying new technology with the existing traditional designs.
- Encouraging development through improved design ideas.
The architecture firm Li Xiaodong Atelier designed a private residence on the foothills of Lijiang, China. They managed to cleverly incorporate traditional techniques of building construction to produce a modern interpretation. The techniques that hint tradition include private inward-facing courtyards and use of locally available materials such as timber and stone.
5. Available Resources
Resources available in and around the site are what make our building design into a real functional structure. By making sure we choose the right resources, we ensure that it’s practical for construction so that the idea does not have the ability to just stay in the sheets.
- Talking directly to the user to understand their expectations.
- Checking the availability of skilled and unskilled labor.
- Choosing the right material to promote longevity and reduce transportation costs.
- Considering the climate and user experience before choosing a material.
- Checking the material innovation possibilities.
- Bringing in local artisans into the design process.
- Repurposing waste or demolition debris to promote sustainability.
- Using materials that can better the user experience of the space.
Manoj Patel realized that sustainable architecture stands for more than just the solar panels and rainwater systems. He realised that the materials used for construction play an equally vital role. About 40% of the clay tiles he used for construction and design were refurbished. His intelligent incorporation helped gain more attention to the earthy tile manufacturers of Gujarat and also saved him half the cost of construction.
Now of course, let’s not stop here, because these are just the few approaches from a thousand others. We can always find more ways to arrive at a concept. And as creators, it is important that we keep an open mind to exploration.
When it took all this research for us to arrive at the right concept, representing it rightly will be the next important step for us.
Representation of the Concept
We often forget that the progress that got us to the design concept is essential. And we even end up throwing them away at times. But all the ideas and research it took for us to fix on it is as important as the concept itself.
- Visual representation of what inspired us and got us to the crazy idea we now call concept and saving the words for the presentation.
- Inclusion of our progress in the form of loose sketches gives the receiver a sense of trust over the experimentation and research that went into it.
- Understanding the application of the concept in building design is one of the most important aspects. This can be done through massing and form development diagrams.
And lastly, just have fun. Choose a concept that you think is right and do everything you can to own it in your design.
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