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How to Make Design Innovation Stick by Unlocking Authenticity

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

‍Image Credit: © turgaygundogdu | Fotolia

Your Project Uniqueness

From project to project, it is important to allow design concepts to be authentic for the project context and for the project problem they aim to solve. Do you solve all projects within certain building types with the same solution? Or do you strive to ask new questions and find new insights with each project design challenge for which you must solve? If you aim for the latter, then you are taking a step in the right direction.

Each project challenge comes with its own unique situation. Everything from a site analysis to an understanding of the surrounding culture is necessary to unlock what will make your architectural design stand authentically as a solution that is both innovative and complementary to the inherent context which came before. But how do you ensure that your design approach and subsequent solution is both innovative and authentic? Can both conditions exist at the same time?

I believe that the answer is yes — it is possible to have your design stand authentically and still be innovative as it pushes the envelope. These two conditions are not necessarily opposite, but instead can be synergistic as the surrounding context frames the innovative design which stands authentically. Yet, the goal is to form a relationship between innovation and authenticity that is unbreakable, whether you are juxtaposing or fusing these two qualities.

Again, asking the right questions of your design problem, its surrounding context, and your client’s goals is critical to achieve an architectural design that is truly innovative in such a way that it will “stick” for the long term. It is in the questioning (and ultimate decision-making) that authenticity can be unveiled within your environmental design.

The Questions to Ask

An important dimension to achieving great authenticity and innovation within your architecture is to approach your design challenge from an occupant-centered lens. In this way, your questions will lead you to a better understanding of the project site and its surroundings, project materiality and behavior of those materials, and even better cultural understanding of the history and future that your design will link together. In essence, your architectural design is just that — a tying together of the past with the future.

So, be sure to ask great questions of your design problem as you work to create and discover its solution. Ask — Where was this culture before? Where are they now? Where are they headed? And very importantly, how can my design improve their future?

Part of creating a design to stand authentically means being true to the past while also creating a better tomorrow. After all, how can an innovative design work well, if it has not been tuned for its user? Innovation closes the gap between where a culture has been, is now, and repositions their target for where it is headed.

As an environmental designer, it is important that you innovate to improve quality of life for your building occupants, but do so in a way that tunes to their understanding, needs, and desires. This will help your design stand authentically — as it also strives to reach out into the future to provide what even its users did not know to request.






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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