What is an Architecture Concept?

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

In short, an architecture concept is an idea or approach that serves as the basis for the design of a building or other structure.

This concept can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as the intended use of the building, the site on which it will be built, the cultural context in which it will be located, or the preferences and requirements of the clients or users.

This is typically developed through a process of research, analysis, and creativity, and forms the foundation for the subsequent design of the project. The concept can take many different forms, such as a written statement, a sketch or diagram, or a physical model, and can be used to guide the design process and ensure that the resulting building aligns with the designer’s vision and goals.

But taking a step back…

What is a concept?

A concept in it’s rawest form is an idea or abstraction that represents a class of things or objects.

In other words, it is a mental representation of a category of things or objects that share certain characteristics or properties. Concepts are an essential part of our thinking and reasoning, and help us organize, understand, and communicate about the world around us.

What is an Architecture Concept?

For example, the concept of “love” is something that we learn about and develop through our relationships and experiences with others. As we grow and learn, we form new concepts and refine existing ones, allowing us to better understand and make sense of the world around us.

In general, concepts can be thought of as mental labels or categories that we use to organize and understand the vast amount of information we encounter in the world. They help us make sense of the complexity of the world around us, and are therefore a fundamental part of how we think and reason.

Where does a concept come from?

Concepts are often derived from our experiences and interactions with the world, and among others can be influenced by cultural and societal norms.

The origin of a concept depends on the context in which it is being considered. For example, a concept may come from:

  • Our experiences and observations of the world around us. For example, the concept of “dog” may come from our experiences of seeing, interacting with, and learning about dogs.
  • Our imagination and creativity. For example, the concept of “unicorn” may come from our imagination, rather than any direct experience or observation of real-life unicorns.
  • Our culture and language. For example, the concept of “honor” may come from the cultural and linguistic traditions of a particular society.
  • Our scientific and intellectual inquiry. For example, the concept of “evolution” may come from the study of biology and the natural world.
  • Our personal beliefs and values. For example, the concept of “good” or “evil” may come from our personal beliefs and values.

Ultimately, the origin of a concept can be as complex and multifaceted as we want it to be, and may involve a combination of these and other factors.

One way to expand on this idea is to consider the different sources and influences that can contribute to it’s formation. As mentioned above, these can include our experiences and observations, our imagination and creativity, our culture and language, our scientific and intellectual inquiry, and our personal beliefs and values.

Each of these sources and influences can play a unique role in shaping how we think about and understand the world around us, and can therefore contribute to the formation of different concepts.

Another way to explore this idea is to consider how concepts can evolve and change over time. As we continue to experience the world and learn new things, our concepts can evolve and become more nuanced and refined.

For example, our concept of “good” or “evil” may change as we encounter new situations and perspectives, and as our beliefs and values evolve.

Finally, you can also explore the role that concepts play in our thinking and reasoning. Concepts are an essential part of how we organize and make sense of the information we encounter, and are therefore a crucial part of how we think and reason.

For example, they can help us categorize and classify different things and objects, and help us understand the relationships between them.

They also help us form and test hypotheses, make predictions, and draw conclusions.

To conclude, concepts are a fundamental building block of our thought processes, and play a vital role in how we think and reason about the world around us.

…So we can start to see why and how they are important to our architectural design process.

What is an architecture Concept

Defining what an architectural concept is

As touched on above, 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.

In other words, it is a fundamental idea or principle that guides the planning, design, and construction of a building or structure.

…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, and can be defined depending on the context and the specific goals of the project, such as:

  • The overall aesthetic and visual appearance of the building or structure, including its form, shape, and materials.
  • The functional and spatial requirements of the building or structure, including its size, layout, and the way it will be used.
  • The cultural and historical context of the building or structure, including its location, the local traditions and customs, and the architectural heritage of the area.
  • The environmental and sustainable design principles that will be used in the construction of the building or structure, including the use of natural light, passive heating and cooling, and renewable energy sources.

Ultimately, an architectural concept is a guiding principle that shapes and informs the design of a building or structure, and helps to ensure that it meets the needs and goals of the project.

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.

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Where do architecture concepts come from?

A design concept can come from a variety of sources, including the designer’s own observations and experiences, as well as the input and feedback from clients along with the requirements or specifications of the users. It may also be influenced by cultural and social trends, as well as the designer’s personal style and aesthetic preferences.

Architectural speaking, concepts should (at least in part) 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

This is then often intertwined with other external sources such as market trends, technological advances, political views, emotion, and sense, to name just a few.

…all helping to shape the unique goals and circumstances of the project.

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.

Ultimately, the design concept is a synthesis of all of these factors, and serves as the foundation for the creation of a successful design.

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 architecture concepts influence?

Architecture concepts can influence a variety of factors in the design and construction of a building and/or structure, some of which are:

  • Functionality: Concepts can influence the way that the building is used and the activities that take place within it. For example, a concept that emphasizes natural light and open spaces may be well-suited to a residential building, while a concept that focuses on security and durability may be more appropriate for a government building.
  • Aesthetics: A concept that is based on clean lines and geometric forms may result in a modern and minimalist design, while a concept that incorporates organic shapes and natural materials may create a more organic and natural appearance.
  • Sustainability: Concepts can also impact the sustainability of the building. For example, one that emphasizes the use of natural materials and energy-efficient systems may help to reduce the building’s environmental impact and improve its overall sustainability.
  • User experience: An approach that focuses on accessibility and user-friendly features may create a building more user-friendly and comfortable for the people who use it.

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.  

Others might include 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

As you can see, architecture concepts can influence a wide range of factors throughout the whole design process, from its functionality and aesthetics to its sustainability and user experience.

What is an Architecture Concept?

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.

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FAQ’s relating to what is an architecture concept

How to explain architecture concept?

Explaining the concept of architecture effectively requires a blend of historical context, understanding of design principles, and the role of functional and aesthetic aspects in constructing spaces. Here’s a breakdown of how you can introduce and explain the concept of architecture:

  1. Definition: Start with a simple definition.
    • Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings and other physical structures. It’s an art and a science that shapes the environments in which we live, work, and play.
  2. Historical Context: Briefly explain the evolution of architecture.
    • Throughout history, different civilizations have had their unique architectural styles, from the pyramids of Egypt to the classical orders of ancient Greece and Rome, the intricate designs of Gothic cathedrals, to modern skyscrapers. These styles have often been a reflection of society’s values, technological advancements, and environmental needs.
  3. Basic Principles: Introduce some core architectural principles.
    • Form Follows Function: The design of a building or space should be based upon its intended function or purpose.
    • Balance & Symmetry: This is about ensuring a sense of visual equilibrium and stability.
    • Proportion & Scale: It’s about the relationship between parts of a design to each other and to the whole.
    • Harmony: This relates to the unity of design – where all parts of a building or space are considered in relation to one another to ensure a cohesive design.
  4. Materials and Techniques:
    • Over time, different materials like stone, wood, brick, and glass have come into play, each with its own properties that influence architectural designs. The choice of materials often affects the aesthetics, sustainability, and functionality of structures. Building techniques, influenced by available tools, technology, and crafts, also play a crucial role.
  5. Functionality vs. Aesthetics:
    • Architecture isn’t just about creating structures that look good. They must also serve a purpose. The best designs effectively combine functionality with aesthetics.
  6. Environmental Considerations:
    • Modern architecture also places a strong emphasis on sustainability and designing in harmony with the environment. This includes considerations like energy efficiency, local material use, and minimizing ecological impact.
  7. Social and Cultural Relevance:
    • Buildings often play a role in representing societal values, aspirations, and cultural relevance. They can be symbols of power, spiritual centers, or reflect a society’s priorities.
  8. Personal Touch: Architecture is also deeply personal.
    • Every architect brings their unique perspective, creativity, and solutions to a project. Their personal touch can greatly influence the final design and feel of a building or space.
  9. Real-world Examples: Use recognizable buildings to illustrate your points.
    • For instance, you could use the Eiffel Tower as an example of technological advancement, the Parthenon for proportion and balance, and Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright as an example of harmony with the environment.
  10. Concluding Thought:
  • Architecture is more than just buildings; it’s a reflection of who we are as a society and plays a crucial role in shaping our experiences and interactions in the built environment.

Remember, visuals can be beneficial when explaining architecture. Consider using slides, images, or even 3D models to get your points across more vividly.

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