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Avoid Conflicting Design Solutions by Injecting Time

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

‍Image Credit: © max dallocco | Fotolia

Detecting A Problematic Function

Have you ever designed for a solution that works in one environment and not in another? For instance, a certain architectural feature that uses color-shifting glass might work for the design of a restaurant, but not for the design of a library. Or a smart watch’s alarm reminding you to check your email or voice-message works well if sounding when you are waiting on a bus, but conflicts tremendously if alerting you while you are driving.

As you can see in the examples above, even the best design solutions may not work or even be detrimental if actuated at the wrong time or in the wrong situation. For this reason, timing is extremely important when it comes to architectural design – particularly when relating to technology integration. It is not enough to place architectural elements in space; they must also be placed in time.

Three Key Questions to Integrate Timing into Your Solution

As an architect, you may ask the following questions of your design:

  • At what point in you occupant’s journey does your solution actuate?
  • What is your occupant doing when your solution actuates? And will the activity they are already engaged in be affected by your solution? Will you solution detract or enhance their activity?
  • When in your occupants’ journey do they most need your solution? Would delivering your solution earlier in their journey be more beneficial? Or would delivering it later be more beneficial?

The above questions serve to get you thinking about your design in terms of time. So often, architectural designs are concerned with spatial programming, but time-based programming for conceptual formulation is critical as well.

When Further Design Refinement is Necessary

Try to see your architectural design features as elements that are released at certain times in your occupant’s journey. These elements are not static features that are sensed by your occupant one-hundred percent of the time. You see, occupants experience architectural features at different intensities and timings – particularly as they scan the environment through their senses.

When your occupant travels from Point A to Point B, do they need your solution before or after Point A? Before of after Point B? Or throughout? After all, timing is not only about when your solution actuates, but also for how long and at what intensity.

Your architectural design will be stronger if you create design solutions that support one another, and do not conflict. Being able to spot conflicting situations as you design your solutions is an important skill to be developed. You do not want to create a design feature that solves for a particular challenge in one situation, while it creates a problem in another situation.

Spotting this issue will likely call for further design refinement, an iteration in your design process that is well-worth the effort. Simply be sure to inject “time” into the spatial positioning of your architectural elements. Doing this will help you filter through the numerous relationships between architectural features, so they are complementary and not in conflict with one another. Doing this will create architectural functions that flow, to support your occupants’ goals.

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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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