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Design that Reaches for the Impossible

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

‍Image Credit:  © aleksander1 | Fotolia

What do you wish you could do with architecture that you cannot do now? Where do you feel the architectural design of today stops short? And what is the constraint that blocks you from achieving the design results you seek? Is it technology? Your design tools? Or even your design mindset?

This notion of pushing architectural design beyond current boundaries is an important one. For instance, it would be great if an environment could communicate more specifically. Instead of an alarm only sounding when there is a fire --- what if the building could tell each occupant where the fire is located and it could tell them the best route for exiting the building. Also, the environment could help coordination efforts between occupants and any help teams which arrive. Such personalization is one way in which architecture can be pushed beyond current boundaries.

Yet, how does such design innovation occur? It is important to remember that design guides technological advancement. As you envision a particular environmental experience, you may ask: "Does the technology exist today that will help me realize this vision? If not, how can technology advance?" or "Do I have the design tools to help me make this vision a reality? If not, how can I develop them to improve my process?" In the end, your architectural design process must bridge between the possible and the not-yet-realized (the not-yet-possible).

The Nuance of Design Innovation

By pushing environments to do more for occupants, you will delve further into uncovering the nuances behind what your building occupants need, both in the short-term and long-term. As you research in this manner, you will see ways for your design to reach higher synergistic levels by envisioning your design in greater detail. 

From orchestrating architectural materiality to creating poetic meaning, it is important for your environmental design to innovate occupant experience. Ask: "How can my design engage its building occupants to uplift their quality of life in entirely new ways?" It is in the quest for achieving the not yet realized that new and beneficial progress can be made. 

Use your design to push technology further, because its creative development will create new architectural opportunities. Also, use your design tools to push your vision further, because this will unleash new ways of "seeing" function, beauty, and meaning. Achieving design that reaches for the impossible is not an isolated task where you always pull from resources that exist. Think beyond what these resources currently do, to unlock a more profound evolution in your own design work.

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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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