• Jason

Style vs Vision - Design Thinking

One of the most common question that I get asked from prospective clients is: "What style of architecture do you do?"

What that question is actually asking is: "How do you typically make buildings look, and I really need to know because it had better line up with the things I like."

Asking me about my preferred architectural style feels like asking an actor what favourite role they would like to play. First, the answer may not align with the opinions of the person asking, and second, it alienates other potential incredible roles. It is hard for me to imagine any good actor saying, "I only want to play this one particular super specific role." It would only lead to being typecast.

In essence, I would love the design freedom and opportunity to try anything. Our design training in architecture schools and in architecture firms was not to shoe-horn our stylistic abilities into a one-hit "look". The experience taught us about how to think about something architecturally spawning from seemingly unrelated things.

In fact, when you think about it, "style" itself is one of the lowest forms of design. "Does this thing kind-of resemble these other things that have been established." I believe this does not breed good design - it just recycles the looks of things that have existed.

On the other hand, from our training to become architects, making something look good is rather second nature. If you gave us a bucket of bright orange paint in an awkward space, we would find a way to make that work. That is part of the artistry of our profession.

"I'm an artist, give me a tuba and I'll get you something out of it." -John Lennon

(Also Jack Nicholson quoting John Lennon in The Departed).

What I want to know about prospective clients is what they are about. The things they do during their past time, their goals in life, or even their daily rituals. These obscure quirks of each person can inform what they want out of their homes or businesses, and I want to show them how that may manifest in architecture.

Don't get me wrong, it is still helpful to know if someone's favourite colour is blue so we can find a way to incorporate that into the design. But more importantly, knowing something that defines a person will allow us to design something incredible out of that fact, just for them to enjoy.

An architect should not design something that only makes themselves happy. That's just selfish. And hell, I'm not going to be living in your home when this renovation is done. Ha!

I believe the architect's role is to produce a vision for their clients that is reflective of that particular client. Of course, in an ideal world, the final product is pleasing for everyone.

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