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When Architectural Objects are “Food” For the Designer’s Creative Mind

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

Image Credit: © Jeremy Levine Design | Flickr

Architectural environments can be a type of extension of oneself. Thus, by understanding the clues that we leave behind in our environments, we can actually gain a better understanding of ourselves. And such clues are everywhere within the spaces where we spend our time.

Such clues are architectural objects — which are everything from the type of furniture we have to the type of books we read and store in our bookshelves. Such architectural objects collectively say a lot about us. And as such, you as an architect can use this information to not only design better spaces for your occupants, but to also learn more about your occupants before you ever design their space.

If you have the opportunity as an architect, to visit your future occupants’ current environment, I would say that is definitely a worthwhile trip. They say that a picture is worth 1000 words, and I’d say that visiting a person’s environment is worth triple that.

By seeing where your future occupant currently spends their time (engaging in a multitude of the activities that you are designing for), you will get tremendous insight into their likes and dislikes that may very well inform you about the way they think, feel and/or behave. Of course, I am not saying that you should walk into their current space and begin to stereotype or think that because they do something one way today means that they will not want to do it another way tomorrow. But rather, it is an opportunity to give you insight into what systems work for them, what features do not work for them and what elements they have never been exposed to at all.

Then, look for areas within which you can innovate. Understand how the architectural objects that you see today within your occupants’ environment can evolve into the future. And go beyond solely understanding what the architectural objects within such environments are, to more fully understanding the way in which they use those objects within their environment. For instance, how many times do they engage with a given object? How do they engage with it? And when?

The main idea is to understand the narrative behind your occupants’ way of living. And this involves understanding the process by which they do things, as well as your innovative thinking about how you can better that process through your design. By deepening your understanding into their story, you will gain greater perspective about what makes them “tick”— thus, your design will be more innovative while at the same time being more ideally suited for their particular wants and needs.

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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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