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Is Design Balance at Play in your Building?

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

Image Credit: © wauter de tuinkabouter | Flickr

Great architecture exists as a rich conversation between critical parts. I know that is fairly basic — but when you start to consider all of the parts that go into a building it sometimes can become muddled as to which parts are most important and some may be forgotten all together.

Rich Balance for the Visually Impaired Occupant

I recently came across a great model by which to think about architectural design balance. Yes, balance is more that just a visual experience. So, to take this a step further lets explore what it would be like to achieve great architectural balance to best accommodate the visually impaired occupant.

By considering how to design for an occupant that puts less emphasis on the visual sense — it becomes clearer just how important balance is for good architectural design. In this example, there are three main parts that need to be in meaningful dialogue and, thus, balanced: they are aestheticfunction and economy. Now, by removing the visual aspect to our hypothetical design project, you as an architect, may begin to think of each in new ways: (1)

It is interesting that aesthetics for a visually impaired occupant may mean that you design more variation using pleasing acoustic, textural and even olfactory stimuli. Similarly, functional requirements may mean that you pay attention to flooring and other material textures, aural stimuli or even renewed wayfinding techniques. (1)

Now — balancing the budgetary requirements means that you must wisely use the budget to provide an array of useful, practical and meaningful building features to not just accommodate the visually impaired person — but to take them on a stimulating experiential architectural journey. (1)

Hence, balancing without the visual sense in play should give you a mind-shift so your designs are not only more accessible but are actually more integrated and fully dimensional architectural works.

When Something Feels Balanced

Balance means more than just getting the physics of your building to aesthetically and structurally “hold” — both on the drawing board and on the construction site. Architectural balance means designing for all the senses so that your built environment yields a rich architecturally designed fabric that meets more people’s needs.

When something “feels” balanced its pieces and parts seem to need one another to “stand up”, their conversation becomes an orchestration. Hence, the experience of such a design becomes a pleasure because of its comprehensive beauty and inherent rhythms.

Balance may seem simple on the surface, but in reality it can be quite challenging and complex to truly achieve. But when it works, there arises a most beautiful equilibrium state.

Reference:

(1) The Equilibrium of Appropriate Balance and Econo-Functional Aesthetic Balance.

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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 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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