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So how do you approach and start a design process?

Many students architecture students, at times feel they know quite a lot about architecture, and at other times feel they can't relate to the vast, yet small understandings that leads into the design process. What do you do?

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    Oct 8 2013: Too many Architects believe that being artist is their only goal, and it is up to the customer to make it functional. Lazy architects believe in making build functional and put on a candy coating façade for looks.

    Good architects start with function and make that function look like it was done for artist reasons. There is no reason a wheelchair ramp can’t look like a garden pathway, or a support column can’t look a piece of art.
  • Oct 7 2013: Information gathering in two phases: 1) I search for known solutions to the same problem and similar problems which gives me a list of things I do not understand 2) As I come to understand the things on my first list, I continue to ponder and compare all known solutions and ask what if questions where I interject as many variables as I can think of into the process. Part of the interjection is feedback from other professionals in fields relevant to the process. The result should give be a pretty good knowledge base upon which to draw as the design phase begins. In short I gather lot's of data.
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    Oct 10 2013: This is how I approached sketching a design in my former life as a landscape architect. It may work for you, or it may not.

    I think its best to start a design process loosely and organically, by hand, with sketch pad and sharp pencil, to establish a sense of place using unfettered imagination allied to a sympathetic feel to what's already there on site. The process is contemplative and almost meditative. Let the pencil wander over the paper vigorously without lifting it off the pad, while you absorb the scene in front of you. Only glance at the paper now and again. The main thing is to let the scene soak right in and to push your imagination. What you end up with may just be a bunch of scribbles and shapes - but don't stop there - tighten up the drawing by erasing some lines and emphasising others. Keep going until you've got something approaching a design. Maybe start adding dilute watercolour loosely to get an idea of light and shade.

    Use that initial drawing as the basis for line and wash illustrations (plans as well as elevations and perspectives) to tighten up your idea still further. Keep working loosely until you get to the stage where it feels realistic enough before moving on to feasibility from an engineering and planning perspective.

    This process is more likely to initiate a design that fits in with its surroundings, while at the same time encouraging 'happy accidents' that could later be incorporated.

    Starting loose, then tightening up the drawings is far better than starting off with a tightly rendered CAD design, hoping that it will fit in.
  • Oct 9 2013: Requirement gathering is key. Talk a lot with the customer. Talk a lot with those that will be using the building (usually different groups). Need to balance needs vs wants vs resources. This is actually something that is missed. We mistake wants for needs and miss critical needs.
  • Oct 7 2013: Understanding the customer's needs and requirements, all your constraints, and the whole fabrication process would be a good start.

    There are many design process resources.

    A lot depends on what you are designing.
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    Oct 7 2013: In the Coursera course Design of Artifacts in Society, Karl Ulrich, an engineer and inventor at the business school at UPenn lays out a useful design process that works for any design discipline. His ebook costs something like 99 cents online. Here you can flip through it online: