contact maria lorena lehman

send your message

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

spECIAL MASTERCLASS: Design concept formulation


Join Now to learn my HPA Design Formula to improve your architectural design concept formulations. This formula will help bring your mindset, skillset, and project design results to new heights. Plus, get the Design Insight Digest, FREE.


Do You Design Architecture "Beyond the Box"?

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

Image Credit: © Pexels | Pixabay


As an environmental designer, how do you keep your creative edge sharp? In other words, what do you do to keep your design process fresh and innovative as it pulls from your experience, research, and skillset? When doing this as an architect, your creativity will be ever-expanding and your ability to think “beyond the box” will grow evermore genius.

Developing the ability to evolve your design process is critical not only to your architectural brand, but also to the clients and building occupants your design projects serve. By formulating design concepts that push boundaries, you eliminate getting stuck or plateauing as you improve your design thinking and design doing from project to project.

Of course, as emerging trends and market needs drive many architectural practices, it is in how you as a designer are able to properly translate such factors through your design process that will yield success. Translation of such factors into a successful environmental design occurs when you are aligned with a design process that dynamically evolves – particularly as emerging trends, market needs, and your own skillsets and toolsets change.


  • STUDY CREATIVITY: Learn about what makes a creative mind, and how to hone your creative muscle. Also, study the creative process of others for more techniques to try to enhance your own process. The goal is not to copy another’s final output, but to instead learn from their process and to make it your own. By understanding more about how creativity works, you will gain insight into how you think, why you think in certain ways, and how to challenge your thinking to unlock your creative genius. I invite you to read books on creativity, journal about your own creative process, and analyze your creative patterns (to strengthen what works and improve what hinders).
  • MEDIUM MASTERY: Gain mastery in a particular medium, while also pushing boundaries in that medium by working in different mediums. While the latter sentence sounds contradictory, it actually makes a lot of sense. For instance, it will help your creative process to gain mastery with your desired design tool; yet, to quickly overcome plateaus, it is beneficial to explore your design questions in other mediums that will inform the question itself, and will help you see your original mastered design tool differently. This calls for a design tool “reframe”, where you learn your design tool as deeply as possible, and then widen your understanding of that tool by pulling from other tools. As a result, you will see your design tools more creatively, and your resulting designs will push boundaries because they originate from a design process that did this as well.
  • QUESTION PROMPTS: Make a creativity deck of index cards where you write a question on each card to push your design concept even further. On the surface this sounds simple, but what if the questions were very targeted at your design challenge, or were designed to get you to think and create “beyond the box”. For example, ask a question that starts with “What if…”, or unlock a limitation to free your mind by asking a question like “How would nature solve this problem?”. By filling a stack of index cards with such questions and then writing, sketching, or modeling your answers, your creative process is bound to take a quantum leap.


The latter three techniques are really provided here to give you stepping stones into evolving your creative process; and thus, your architectural concept design results. The most important part of advancing the way you design, is to develop how you “listen” to your design process and “see” what it is creating. By noticing your creativity, with all of its strengths and weaknesses, you are best able to takes steps to evolve and refine how you work. Ultimately, you may find your most creative and successful design solutions take less time to create, and lead to a deepening of breakthroughs for your own practice, and for the design discipline.





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
read more testimonials
journal article collectionsresearch designs

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.

maria lorena lehman, as seen in...
featured posts
Urban Design

Urban Architecture – A Design Process of Co-Creation

To view urban architecture as the result of a design process of co-creation fundamentally shifts how it can be used to bring higher levels of thrivability to citizens. By integrating citizen ideas, behaviors, and experiential insights into how such urban systems and elements adapt, the city becomes a more joyous, peaceful, healthier, and inspiring place to live. This is how urban architecture can help cities to reach these higher levels – by pulling from the wisdom and ingenuity of its citizens through its buildings, that together act as a bridge that opens communication between people and city.

Design Process

Schematic Design – Using an Occupant-Centered Design Approach

Schematic design is the first stage of an architectural design project, and within this phase there are important milestones to get right that will greatly leverage the project’s results throughout the rest of its impending design phases. For example, by iteratively designing through various schematic prototypes, it becomes possible to optimize one’s design concept idea in a way that prevents future errors and expands the discovery of new design opportunities.

User Experience

How Architectural Poetics Improves Human Performance

With the design of each built environment, it is possible to help make the world a better place for individuals, the collective, and the planet. The key is to rise as architectural designers to create poetic architecture, not mere status quo buildings. You see, it is with poetic architecture that environmental design can awaken potential to nurture the self-actualization of those it serves.