contact maria lorena lehman

send your message

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

spECIAL MASTERCLASS: Design concept formulation


Join Now to learn my HPA Design Formula to improve your architectural design concept formulations. This formula will help bring your mindset, skillset, and project design results to new heights. Plus, get the Design Insight Digest, FREE.


Rethink “Transition” to Unleash A New Kind of Design Fluidity

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

Image Credit: © phoosh | Flickr

As new emerging technologies surface, the idea of “transition” will take on entirely new form. Not only will “transition” continue to exist between building materials (like you see in buildings today), but “transition” will also be present within a material’s properties — changing the very nature of how a particular material behaves at any given time.

For instance, smart materials will be able to change in real time as certain variables like temperature, light or stress trigger them. Similarly, new sensing technologies will come together to yield smart environments where ubiquitous computing is tuned to give occupants a more personalized experience.

Furthermore, as nanotechnology and biomimetic systems rise into the forefront, you as an architect will need to consistently rethink how building materials typically function — by building for them from the bottom up.

The “rules” behind designing for material behavior are changing and new smart material systems will give you a new kind of flexibility which you can optimize by taking both function and form to entirely new levels.

A key to doing this is to rethink your notion of design “transition”.

A Systems Approach to Designing with Building Materials

The biomimicry expert, Janine Benyus, says it best as she states that “The material is the system“. You see, it is within materials that we as designers can unleash new forms and functions to optimize our buildings — making them more sustainable, healthy, meaningful and beautiful.

By thinking of building materials down to the nano- scale, your design decisions as an architect will involve more of a “systems” way of thinking as opposed to the, as I have heard Janine Benyus call it, more typical “layered” approach to solving design problems.

Use “transition” as a way to unlock problems within an existing design system and as a way to capture inspiration from external forces that will trigger and react to your built environment. Think of how your occupant will experience your space, in all of its dimensions, and then ask yourself to rethink “transition” as you design.

To get you started, here are three questions to ask yourself:

1. If materials within your building’s design could “move” in real-time, how would you want them to move and why? Think aesthetics, function, efficiency, sustainability and human comfort. (As if your materials could gain “super-powers”, think beyond what materials today can do.)

2. What would be the resulting effect of such transient material “movements”? What new forms and functions would they allow? How could they help or hurt your occupant’s experience or the surrounding natural environment?

3. Is there a way to incorporate new transient materials to not only strengthen your building’s weak spots (design challenges) — but to ultimately strengthen the building as a whole (design opportunities)? What would your materials need to be able to “move” in the way you want? Think self-actuating, kinetics, weathering, interactivity, adaptation and so on.





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
read more testimonials
journal article collectionsresearch designs

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.

maria lorena lehman, as seen in...
featured posts
Urban Design

Urban Architecture – A Design Process of Co-Creation

To view urban architecture as the result of a design process of co-creation fundamentally shifts how it can be used to bring higher levels of thrivability to citizens. By integrating citizen ideas, behaviors, and experiential insights into how such urban systems and elements adapt, the city becomes a more joyous, peaceful, healthier, and inspiring place to live. This is how urban architecture can help cities to reach these higher levels – by pulling from the wisdom and ingenuity of its citizens through its buildings, that together act as a bridge that opens communication between people and city.

Design Process

Schematic Design – Using an Occupant-Centered Design Approach

Schematic design is the first stage of an architectural design project, and within this phase there are important milestones to get right that will greatly leverage the project’s results throughout the rest of its impending design phases. For example, by iteratively designing through various schematic prototypes, it becomes possible to optimize one’s design concept idea in a way that prevents future errors and expands the discovery of new design opportunities.

User Experience

How Architectural Poetics Improves Human Performance

With the design of each built environment, it is possible to help make the world a better place for individuals, the collective, and the planet. The key is to rise as architectural designers to create poetic architecture, not mere status quo buildings. You see, it is with poetic architecture that environmental design can awaken potential to nurture the self-actualization of those it serves.