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How "Unbuildable" Design Concepts Can Advance the Architectural Discipline

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

‍Image Credit: © Geralt | Pixabay

DISCOVER NEW INNOVATIVE POSSIBILITIES

When designing, it is important to consistently strive to push your body of work, so your next project is better than the last. Ideally, as you progress from design project to project, you are learning new insights and techniques that feed into future projects. But what about design projects that are conceptual, and “unbuildable”? Have you ever worked on a conceptual environmental design where the goal was not to build, but discover new innovative possibilities?

BENEFITS OF DESIGNING FOR THE “UNBUILDABLE”

Recently, I participated in a Mars urbanization conceptual design challenge. And while the Martian urban plan I created within a 3D virtual world is not going to be built anytime soon – it was a worthwhile exercise for many reasons. For instance, by designing for an environment on a different planet, I was able to practice and expand my creative process as I had to consider the Mars atmosphere and physics, pioneering and exploration phases, and the many other challenges that come from trying to support human life on Mars. All of these created paradigm shifts that allow me to see my design and creative process through a new lens – so I discover innovations not only for the field of architectural design, but also for my own creative process evolution.

In history, there have been times when an “unbuildable” concept, only realized on paper, was paradigm shifting – as such concepts served to shift the mindset of the people toward greater innovative possibilities for the future. I still find it fascinating to see these “unbuildable” concept drawings from yesteryear, and then to think about how our current “unbuildable” concepts will impact the future of our present time.

YOUR INVITATION TO DESIGN INTO THE FUTURE

Today, I invite you to take on an “unbuildable” design conceptualization challenge. Imagine how environments can be improved with your own “unbuildable” design concept. Doing this will allow you to think more expansively, to dream bigger, and to design toward different limitations and opportunities.  Yes, it is important to keep designing toward buildable futures, but it is equally important to push your design abilities forward by taking on new, different, and bigger challenges. And while your conceptualizations may be “unbuildable” today, they may turn out to have great impact for how we continue to evolve into our buildable future.

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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 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.

maria lorena lehman, as seen in...
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As an environmental designer, it is important to make smart design decisions during your creative process – at all stages. This is where the practice of design fiction can be injected into your process, to help you formulate not just one design solution that you iterate; but a variety of possible solutions that you can compare, test, or explore quickly at the beginning of your concept formulation process.

Technology

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As is typical with the present-time, we are always in the midst of emerging trends. For designers, this means either following the trends or setting new ones by being well ahead of the curve. Environmental design is no different. As advancing technologies like virtual reality lead to augmented realty, or as interactive physical space leads to adaptive physical space, it becomes fascinating (and necessary) to question where these technological developments are heading.

Virtual Reality

How Virtual Reality Design Shapes the Physical Environment

Architectural design in virtual reality takes on many forms: from environmental concept design in films and video games to concept development simulations during the architectural design process. It is fascinating to see how what can be made for the virtual will often find its way into the physical world. For many, the virtual becomes a “playground” for experimentation, exploration, and discovery of new ideas that get translated into the physical world.