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 element that follows a project from beginning to end and remains as important at the start as it is 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.
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.
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. Just look at “Le Corbusier’s, an analysis of form” for examples of how this is achieved.
This can then backed and supported by the design brief and building typology.
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 global conceptual approach for the whole project, or individual conceptual approaches applied to each aspect.
Why generate a concept?
A strong architecture concept gives the architect / 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 to provide a solution within its own parameters to maintain 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 judged by 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.