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How Generating Architectural Concepts with Sensory Design Leads to Innovation

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

‍Image Credit: © scusi | Fotolia

Design Ideas: From Mediocre to Amazing

When you understand how building occupants respond to the environments they inhabit, you will have a much easier time generating architectural concepts. But what separates a good concept from an amazing concept? Perhaps this lies in your ability as an architectural designer to innovate occupant experience through your architecture. Yet, what does innovation mean in this context? And how does one innovate an experience?

It is beneficial to begin generating architectural concepts by separating your best ideas from the mediocre ideas. This means that you must critique your own work, and use sensory design to more deeply understand how your architectural environment will impact the occupants who use it. Yes, many factors converge into an architectural design concept – everything from site analysis and sustainability, to contextual and cultural interplay are at work within your design concept formulation. And, it is within your design concept that all of these solutions must converge, where your design solves for core challenges and provides optimum occupant experience.

How Do You Think About “Building Occupants”?

To help you unravel the type of experience your environment will provide for its occupants, it helps to research and study the architectural journey that your occupants will experience through your design. This occupant-centered approach means not only “seeing” your design through your occupant’s lens, but also more deeply understanding the nuances behind the lens of each occupant that is likely to experience your architecture.

For example, when you read the words “building occupant”, what do you think of? Do you think of a human being, a man or woman, a young or elderly person, or does another notion of “occupant” come to your mind? Do you think of your building occupants as a collective group that will experience your space, or do you think of your occupants as individuals – with unique ideas, experiences, capabilities and behaviors?

It is important to think of all of these aspects of “building occupant” when you are generating architectural concepts. In other words, when you design your architectural environments, it is important to design for both the universal qualities that make us all “human”, and the individual differences that make us perceive and interpret experiences differently. This leads you toward the innovation of architectural experience.

Expand Your Perspective as a Designer

By being able to design architecture that meets the experiential needs of a group and an individual, your concept formulations will be more beneficial. This is another way to think about “scale”. After all, the same design idea can help one person, but hinder a group of people. Innovation can occur when you know how to balance, optimize, and use such design ideas for the advantage of all “experiential scales”.

So, expand the way you think about your “building occupants” when generating architectural concepts. This mindset exercise will help you to become a more innovative designer – one that pushes the boundaries of how architecture can benefit people. And to do this, it helps to pull from sensory design – to better understand those universal qualities that make us all human, and those differences that inform experiences for each human. By thinking of building occupants from a multi-dimensional perspective, innovative levels for your architectural design concepts will increase.

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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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