Tuesday, June 14, 2016


(thoughts on, and the significance of, the design process)

As any one of my former design students would know, one of my favorite topics of conversation in the studio is about the design process.  I am simply fascinated with how creative people think, and work.  I also feel like a solid understanding of the creative process is one of the key skills that I am supposed to be teaching in beginning design studios. 

I have been thinking about the design process as the Design + Build studio is starting to produce initial sketches and concepts.

Recently, Architectural Record dedicated an entire issue focused on Architecture +Creativity.  One of the articles profiles several architects who discuss their creative process, one of which is Steven Holl (another of my favorite topics), and his collaboration with the composer Raphael Mostel.  In this essay appears this quote by the Polish writer Slawomir Mrozek “Inspiration begins on page 60”.  This really resonates with me, and reminds me that it is often fruitless to wait for inspiration so strike, rather, you need to get several chapters into the work before you begin to understand your creative voice.

Similarly, and often, I will see students get absolutely stuck at the beginning of the design process.  As if they don’t know how to start, and are just waiting (desperately) for inspiration to strike.  Or they are trying to be too perfect from the start, as if they expect the perfect solution to emerge on day one.  But it doesn’t work that way.  You have to begin working, testing, and exploring.  And then eventually, with time and a lot of design studies, the really good work will begin to emerge.

So for the Design + Build class, at the beginning of the design process, I don’t want students to get hung up looking for that perfect design solution.  None of these first studies will be perfect solutions anyway, and they don’t need to be, they are just beginning threads.  Instead of waiting for the “eureka moment”, I want to see ideas, tests, experiments, what if’s, and failures.  I want the class sketching, making models, testing possibilities, and getting the “first 60 pages” out of the way.

Then we can begin to clarify, refine and develop. 

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