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How to Use a Cliché to Make Your Building Design Work

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

One way to Juxtapose A Door or Corridor cliché / ImageCredit: © Andy Miah | Flickr

I recently read an article by Seth Godin who describes a very powerful writing technique where an author takes a popular and widely used cliché, points it out in his or her work and then writes about its exact opposite. When done cleverly this can produce a very powerful result whether an author is trying to stir humor, thought, emotion or even trying to change a reader’s belief or behavior.

As architects, we should take a cue from this author’s “gem”.

For example, the way many architects spec doors and corridors in a building design is one type of architectural cliché you’re probably used to seeing. You know — the type of door with “typical” dimensions, hardware, materials and so on.

But what would happen if you pointed this type of cliché out in your design and then immediately juxtaposed it with its complete opposite? What would you create?

If done well, your solution would make for a remarkable occupant experience. Such a juxtaposition would surely redefine what you and your occupant think a “doorway” can do. Also, you would remove those overused clichés that pollute and weaken your designs as they emerge as unnecessary.

Make your occupants re-experience what they take for granted by asking yourself what it is you take for granted. Give both you and your occupant a fresh lens.


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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