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Habitat Architecture
Residential Design Architects Minnesota
Residential Design Architects Minnesota

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What is “good design”?

I am often asked what is “good design” and as an architect, what is my design philosophy?  Although I don’t think the two are exclusive, I am going to focus on the first question here and address the latter to another post. I have always believed that balance is one of the most important aspects of life. We find a perfect balance in nature and as such it is our nature to seek balance in our daily lives. It also is a fundamental component in the creative world, including architecture. In an ideal world there is balance and harmony in all aspects of life, including the physical environment we live in. As architects we play a major role in shaping that environment and thus affect people’s lives in a very direct and deliberate way. That places a very important and critical responsibility on our profession and therefore needs to be clearly defined, understood and practiced. In the world of architecture, there are two main ingredients which need to be in coexistence and in perfect harmony in order to manifest “good design”. That is the old adage; the balance between form and function. I say old because in our profession this subject is as old as the profession itself! However in the public mind that may not be the case. The premise is basically that; good design results when forms and functions come together in harmony. When I sit with a client, my goal is to satisfy their needs, which may include their lifestyle, budget, taste and place. Too often and with some architects, function takes a back seat to form. In the words of architect Luis Jauregui, AIA, “That imbalance creates homes that look great on glossy pages of consumer magazines or on a popular home design TV show, but don’t quite serve the needs of those who must live within them.” It would be a disservice to our clients and to our profession if we are more concerned about publicity and recognition than the well being and best interest of our clients. As architects, our trainings direct us to be problem solvers, and one of the most important one is how to solve the challenge of merging the functionality, which reflects the client’s sense of individualism, to a form that satisfies both the their sense of style and your own sense of architectural integrity. Of course architects like most other folks each have their own style and attachment to certain school of thoughts. That is why there could be more than one good design solution to a single problem, each representing thoughtful functionality and pleasant aesthetics of its own flavor. On the other hand it would also be a disservice to the client if we become a yes man and ignore basic principles of architecture, in order to just keep them happy. This requires us to be good communicators and help educate the clients to understand and appreciate design principles we know and often take for granted as a common knowledge. 
Well functioning design requires number of prerequisites, including listening and understanding the client’s needs and desires. These needs may represent things like; Lifestyle, such as family size and age, formal or casual living and entertaining, Re-sale and long term plans of the owner, Building site and what it has to offers and the challenges it might present. Not only the physical characteristics but also such considerations as the average home prices and general sense of scale and style of the neighborhood should be included in the early stages of design programming. We need to be vigilant in discovering and analyzing all these components, before we are able to fully grasp the functional requirements of the design. In my own experience, many of these same areas of considerations will also direct us towards the appropriate form. As architects we are also trained to think and visualize the design three dimensionally. As we are planning the functional and spatial relationship and requirements, we are constantly making that picture in our mind’s eye brighter and more real. There is a circular process of going back and forth between the two dimensional functioning plan and its three dimensional physical manifestation, making continuous adjustments and refinements until the balance between form and function is achieved, making certain that one element has not taken over the other.
“Good design” therefore materializes when these two aspects are taken to their highest potential of physical expression and functional performance, creating a harmonious design balance.    

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