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How to Build Change into Your Architecture

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

As a building stands serving its occupants over time, it goes through many changes. Some of those changes affect its design directly, and some changes occur without ever altering the way the building works. But what about adaptive architecture? Can an architecture that learns be more responsive to changes that occur?

You may ask — what specifically changes that can affect an architectural design? Well, there are changes in technology, occupant changes, and contextual changes that can all benefit from an architecture that learns. After all, if a building can upgrade its technology, can grow to meet the changing needs of different occupants, and can morph to meet the changing demands of its surrounding context — then it is adapting in the truest sense.

So, when designing, I invite you to think about those variables that will change over the course of your building’s life-span. Factor in how your building will account for changes in technologies, changes in different occupant needs, and changes in its own surrounding context. One way to start is to think about how architecture can learn. Think about how your building can evolve over time, to change to the needs of its present day.

Once you have the makings of a design framework in place, think about what parts of it can evolve while also factoring for the parts that need to remain the same. Work with projections as you design — factoring for different ways in which technology, occupants, and context may evolve.

You must understand your main architectural design intent, and prepare to have that intent evolve over time so that it is still relevant to those that are impacted by your building. So, when you design your architecture — remember that it will be a building that sees much change over time. It will be surrounding by change, and because of this, it can evolve to remain not only relevant but also helpful to those occupants whom it serves.

The key is to design an architecture that learns — a building which adapts to change while still providing positive impact for all those that experience it. So, the next time you design such a building, remember to think about its future. Don’t get stuck with designing a “snapshot” for tomorrow, but instead design a building that can grow and morph over time.

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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 an award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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