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A Recipe for Achieving a Timeless Design

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Detail of the Parthenon | philos from Athens | Flickr

Buildings change through time. Not only do their materials weather, but their intended purpose can become altered by a changing society’s or culture’s needs. So, how do you design a building that is both timely and timeless? This is an age-old question.

It is important to stay on top of the latest trends that affect building design and construction processes, but that is not all that is important.

New advances are taking place in other fields. In the sciences, for example, researchers are unraveling great findings that both directly and indirectly will affect the way you design and how your occupants perceive your spaces. Such advances prove to be important because they impact how people live — this influences how they think, the choices they make and what they like to do.


A timely design can reach timelessness by really staying free from hype and gimmicks. Form with no meaningful purpose or pure function with no attention to form and aesthetic are two sure fire ways to design architecture without true synergy.

To reach timelessness, your architectural designs need to be carefully thought out and your intentions need to encompass both the complex and the simple. These basics elude many building designers. Although they may seem obvious, they are often quite difficult to truly achieve. This is especially true the more complex a design is. (Think about hospital design as an example.)


So often, architects are faced with the challenge to create designs that break a mold so they may be called “innovative”, “fresh” or “new”. But are they really timeless or universal? Perhaps they look “cool” from the outside. Perhaps they look “different”, but how do they actually feel for the occupant within them?

The perfect fusion between the timely and the timeless within a design is very difficult to achieve – particularly within more complex building types. Start with the fundamentals like…”How should these building programmatic requirements be translated and built so they feel right for the occupant as they journey through the space?”

Use limitations (like budget) as ways to help you push boundaries. With limitations come challenges and with challenges come opportunities to think outside of the box.

Look at better ways to improve upon basic human (and planetary) needs. Do this, while reaching for something innovative, but without forgetting the fundamentals. Then your designs will start to sing.


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 multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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