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Design Effectiveness: Three Keys to Extend Building Lifespan

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

Image Credit: © rh2010 | Fotolia

Does your architectural design’s effectiveness deteriorate over time? Or does it improve? In other words, does your design solution stand the test of time by remaining meaningful and purposeful for occupants? Or is your solution short-lived – only solving for a short-term need, but not solving for longer-term goals?

In order to extend the lifespan of your building, it is important to design your architectural solution so that it can improve over time. Of course, there are several ways to do this – and the following three methods will help you to design build environments that grow in purpose:

  1. Design for Meaning: A successful architectural design that stands the test of time is able to meet needs on many levels. The design is functional, beautiful, and meaningful. This type of architecture takes on its own poetic identity. By standing authentically while also considering its context, it can serve not only individual needs but also collective and cultural needs as well. Designing for meaning goes beyond your initial design program. It means that you as a designer create space that uplifts people emotionally, and perhaps even touches their soul.
  2. Design for Learning: An architecture that can inspire, motivate, and teach will give occupants renewed insight into themselves, each other, and the world which surrounds them. Just as museums expand visitors minds while opening new worlds of possibility, your architecture (whatever the building type) can do much the same as occupants go about their experiential journey within your building. Learning can occur in a brief moment or over a series of moments — and with each insight your built environment sparks, the deeper its functionality, it’s beauty, and its meaning. After all, an architecture that is designed for learning will help occupants grow, as it enhances its own functions over time.
  3. Design for Emotion: When your architectural solution is able to tap into an occupant’s emotions, it will carry more meaning and spark more profound learning for occupants. This can be done by formulating your architectural design as a narrative where your occupants journey teaches in meaningful ways. For instance, by integrating elements like curiosity and juxtaposition, you are able to evoke the emotion of surprise.

Thus, to extend the lifespan of your building means that you are creating real-time memories that are so useful, occupants want to experience them again – because each time they do, they experience them in new helpful ways. I challenge you to design for meaning, learning, and emotion to create buildings that do more than solve for a problem in the short term. By doing this your buildings will transcend time as they speak to each occupant at deeper levels so they do not just “use” your architecture — instead, they will feel what it teaches, deeply.


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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