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Why Your Design Model Should Highlight Occupant Narrative


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

When working to create your architectural design presentation — how do you communicate the benefits of your design to your client? Do you simply rely on your design model to explain how the design will look? Or do you use it to explain the positive value that your client will get out of inhabiting your design?

You see, you can be strategic about the way you use your presentation design model when communicating with your client. You can use it to show how their needs and goals will be met. For example, if you are designing an office building, you can depict how ceiling height will play a role in triggering either more abstract thinking or more detailed thinking among employees. In other words, you can use your architectural design model features to demonstrate how your designed space will function.

The elements that you incorporate within your design model matter, as does the story you tell with your architectural presentation materials. Each rendering or physical model you create acts as a “snapshot” in time of your design. So, you want to be certain that you are choosing the best“snapshot” with which to communicate your design vision.

With your design model you can depict how your occupant’s story will unfold within your designed space. In fact, you can show how a space can change over time, if you use more than one rendering, for example.

So, the key is to highlight your occupant’s narrative within your architectural design model. They will better understand how your design vision fits with them, and they will better understand how that vision will bring them value.

Often, it becomes difficult to explain to clients about the merit of a particular design feature. Often, this is because the client cannot visualize how that feature will bring value to their needs and goals. As an architect, you can make this connection for them through your presentation materials. Tie together the link between your vision and their goals.

To do this, your architectural design model should go beyond the way your architecture will “look”, to further explain how it will function for clients. By using this sort of mindset framework, you will be more strategic about selected the best vantage points of your design to present. You will also know how to convey the importance of architectural features to benefit your occupants. And you will better understand how your client’s concerns can be overcome through your design.

So, use your architectural design model strategically. Go beyond how your design will simply look, to also explain how it will function and uplift quality of life for your occupants. Your design vision will be that much easier to get approved or selected. Additionally, you’ll be clearer about how to best solve for your client’s objectives — making your designs the perfect “fit” for your given occupants.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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