What is an Architectural Concept?

A concept is an idea, thought or notion that forms the backbone and foundation of a design project
What is an Architectural Concept


When referring to architecture; a concept is an idea, thought or notion that forms the backbone and foundation of a design project and one that drives it forward. It becomes the force and identity behind a projects progress and is consistently consulted throughout every stage of its development.

…every architectural project should be derived from a concept

An architectural concept is the meaning and reason to the end product (the completed building or structure), and is the very first part of the design process to be developed and realized much like a seed is to plant. And just like a plant seed it can come from a vast array of sources, and produce a huge amount of variations and outcomes. 

It is also the one of the only consistent elements that follows a project from beginning to end, and remains just as important at the start as it does at the finish.

An architectural concept can be described as an: idea, notion, opinion, abstraction, philosophy, belief, inspiration, thought, intention, theory, image, plan, or hypothesis.

To build upon this further, we cover the source and meaning of a concept in the foundation chapter of the design process handbook that forms part of the below Concept Kit.

Where we begin by discussing a concepts origins, influences, purpose and importance, to enable you to identify both a successful and unsuccessful design approach.


Learn how to start a new design project with confidence.

Learn the process of how to create successful and meaningful design concepts, and the tools and techniques that help to develop them.

Where do they come from?

Architectural concepts should primarily be generated from three key areas; 

  • The Site – climate, orientation, views, access, context, history, use …site analyse
  • Design brief – client and building requirements, accommodation, and construction budget
  • Building typology – Building type and use

…But can also be generated in full or in part by building program, culture, society, technology, emotion, and sense to name just a few. 

That said, more often than not, an exemplar piece of architecture will always be well rooted and relate to its site and context, and so site analysis plays a huge role in architectural concept generation and development. This can then backed and supported by the design brief and building typology.

Just look at “Le Corbusier’s, an analysis of form” for examples of how this is achieved.

Excerpt taken from  Le Corbusier’s, an analysis of form
Excerpt taken from Le Corbusier’s, an analysis of form

How and what do they influence?

Design concepts will and should influence the whole project, and include the:

  • Exterior and interior – orientation, massing, form, apertures, height, light
  • The landscape – hard and soft surfaces, types of planting, scale of painting, arrangement of planting
  • Finishes – colors, styles, textures, materials
  • Fixtures and fittings – genre, style, scale, amount, material
  • Structure – light, heavy, traditional, modern, vernacular
  • Materials – colors, hard or soft, weathering, types, styles, locally sourced, vernaculars

Each aspect of a project should be derived from and be driven by a concept; this could be a singular conceptual approach for the whole project, or individual conceptual approaches applied to each aspect of it.  


Why generate a concept?

A strong architecture concept gives the architect and designer a clear direction and framework when making design decisions; it provides a methodology to the thinking process by offering a type of rule book.

When there is a question to be answered or a decision to be made, the concept is consulted and used to direct methods of thinking in order to provide a solution within its own parameters that in turn maintains the clarity of the design intent.

This stops the architect from branching off into never-ending directions and tangents, that will only hinder and water down the architectures legitimacy.

In academic and professional terms, the difference between a successful project and an average one is the strength of its concept, and whether its clarity remained and was kept consistent throughout.

Architecture needs to be grounded in depth and meaning and the more coherent and relevant it is, the more successful and interesting it becomes …the concept brings richness to the design.

As mentioned above, to delve into this in more detail and to fully understand exactly what creates a successful design approach, our resource The Concept Kit discusses how deep analysis, research, and testing, can generate consistent and successful design responses each and every time.


Develop concept design ideas with ease.

This kit teaches you how to establish, craft, and communicate consistent and successful design responses each and every time.

Starting a new project doesn’t need to be daunting when there is a method and process that can be applied.


Free Site Analysis Checklist

Site analysis forms the foundation to a project’s conceptual evolution …start it with confidence.

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