5 Tips to Design Like an Architect

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5 Tips to Design Like an Architect

five ways that you can design more like an architect. The first thing that we’re going to talk about is the idea of a concept Now concept is something if you go to an architecture school that you’ll learn about pretty immediately, and a concept can be super literal or abstract, so an idea of taking any sort of object is fairly literal.


So let’s say, for instance, an apple could design a building to look like an apple and that could
be your concept, but you could also learn a lot about an apple. It’s makeup, how it’s formed, how
it comes from you, know the tree, in that process, and inform your architecture that way. And so
that’s like the range of abstraction that you can get to, and so for something like, let’s say, the
project is a furniture store, and they make all the furniture out of applewood. You Could use an
apple as your inspiration for what their building might look like. And that could go like I said,
either way.


Now I have a personal opinion of that and I’ll share it with you guys later

I understand if you’re not in architecture that this might look really cool because there’s a lot of things going on that you don’t see every day, but from an architecture perspective, there’s just no composition here. You have some circles, there’s some symmetry here, but then you get up to this top thing and it looks like an alien spaceship or an alien just landed on a building and started taking it over like I don’t see the purpose to a lot of these things. And While it’s interesting, architecture needs to be functional and compositionally attractive. And this just misses the mark. That’s what I want to say about this, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


But we’re gonna move on to the next one

Now, this is sort of what I was talking about before. This is a Longaberger, I think that’s what they say it. Building and the weaves in here make Windows which is kind of cool, but this is like a literal building that’s a basket, so Longaberger I’m pretty sure makes baskets, and this is just a big basket that somebody made, and it’s kind of cool like it’s nice to have something like this. But it’s super simple, almost like it’s really elementary, and this is called kitsch.


Now what I love about this building is that it’s kind of weird, right


That’s where you like to take something literal and make it literal. It’s like being inspired by real
things, but like not taking them that far, that’s my layperson’s explanation of it. Google it if you
really want to know the definition of kitsch. So there’s that. And then this is one of my favorite
projects. This is the Seattle Public Library. Now this was designed by an architecture firm called
OMA, the office of metropolitan architecture, led by a starchitect who’s one of my favorite REM
cool houses.

So it’s interesting, in its form, but its form is actually super functional.

And the layout of the building inside is what helped generate that form. So it’s not arbitrary, so what’s really cool about that is that this is a library like I said and OMA took the idea of a library and really extracted it into its core pieces, so typically a library design around at least in the United States design around the Dewey Decimal System, so there’s a series of numbers that help you find it’s your wayfinding to find books,

5 Tips to Design Like an Architect


so you go to the card catalog, you find your number, your book and then you go through the
library and find that place and then you can find your book. The downside of that with most
libraries are that they’re not linear, so there maybe like 300 on the first floor and then it starts 400
or 500 on the second floor but the floor plan could be completely different the on the second
floor, the layout might be slightly different.

So but you then have to go up the stairs if you were to go from 1 to 300 you’re on the other side of the building, does it start over here is that were 400 stars, so you have to then go up the stairs and then come all the way back to the beginning, so they decided: hey, we’re just gonna the ideal library would just be a long line, but for practicality reasons you can’t really do that, so what they did in this building is that they made a ramp that goes all the way up, so you can literally start from the beginning of the library and go all the way up to find your book.


They’re obviously places that you can stop and go up an elevator and get off at a specific floor


but that was like the forum, the idea behind that shaped the architecture, and that’s really I think
where the beauty of architecture comes out is when this your idea starts to inform the design
and it’s not necessarily you as the designer coming up with all these cool little things looking at
pictures and being like oh this is cool, but the functionality of the program of the building,
how it’s being use is what is informing the architecture. And I think that’s really where beautiful
and inspiring architecture comes in when it is purposeful and not purely aesthetic.


I think the most important thing in architecture if I had to pick really one thing to distill all this
down to, would be alignment. Now that’s from working in architecture through three different
firms and being an architect myself, alignment is the most important thing in architecture. And
I’m gonna show you why. So if you look at this photo here, this is a bad example of
alignment.

5 Tips to Design Like an Architect
Unless it’s purposeful

 but this isn’t purposeful and I almost have this exact condition
in my house, so I’m not bashing, I didn’t build my house, but or design it, but, yeah.
So you have these three points here coming to a point, and then just a little bit off if this was
lined up it would make a world of difference and you have this beautiful single line of a, I’m
going to call this concave and convex. It’s not because it’s not curved but you would have this
beautiful arrow thing that was being made, but just really missed the mark on that, just by
adding like another piece of drywall over here you can make it work, but you know the
contractors not always looking for stuff like that. And the architects sometimes don’t think about
that kind of stuff, so just to miss the mark on this one now.

 This is a really good example of alignment

 So what you can see here, you have a circle here, these little portholes, and then this comes down, you have an arch here which has the center point, so those are aligned, this comes down to the center between these things, and then when you come over, lines up with the middle point here this point here, and then this circle here. Even if you want to go further, there is this pointed arch here that is also aligned with them. So you get this repetition of aligned elements and it becomes really beautiful, because of the alignment. And it’s very purposeful and, to be frank, precise.

And that’s really where architecture comes out is when it’s been thought about and there’s precision involved

This one kind of pains me because I like it but there are some things that I’m gonna pick on about. So you can see here that all these lines line up, right, so it’s perfect, you have this line here with these lines with these mullions, the same thing all of these align.
So in that respect, we’re golden. You can see this line comes across, we’re all good. Now what
happens is that you can see that this tile here is this joint doesn’t align here, and it doesn’t align
up here. It looks like they may have centered the window in that, but you get all these little cuts
because of that, so you get cuts in all these instead of just being the same height for all of that.


And then the same thing up here you have this line that comes across and then it doesn’t,
there’s no line here. Now that could be like an architectural feature that you’re not there’s no joint here, but I would say why not make it too, right. Even still just make it too and then it should be consistent. If it’s too above these, why isn’t it too above these? Just a thought here, but that’s sort of where

5 Tips to Design Like an Architect

alignment like you can see the beauty of alignment

 And why an architect is so important is that I’m sure an architect drew this in a specific way that it probably aligned, but when you get to building the architect needs to manage the project to make sure that the design intent of his drawings bein follows, and that little things like that aren’t being missed. Scale. Now I really want to talk about scale, because, you know, it’s probably in architecture overlooked for most of everything.

And I recently saw a video by Zed I guess it was actually by Architectural Digest of Zedd, and its house it was sort of like an MTV Cribs thing that they did, and they went through his house and it was just completely out of scale, so I like the modern architecture, I like contemporary architecture, but his particular house was just like so completely out of scale a front door like so massive, it’s a pivot door they made it easy to open so like that’s not a problem, but it’s just like for a party that’s great, but for everyday use it just becomes impractical. And like the ceilings are super high and that’s great for art, that’s what Zedd says he wants to use it for, but like from a daily activity thing it’s just too big for one person.

It’s great for a space that’s like a gallery or has a lot of people

 You have a lot of movement, so you want space, you know, you couldn’t imagine going through a subway with low ceilings, you’re like waiting at the Train with a super low ceiling and obviously, that happens in a lot of cases, but it’s not a good design.


You don’t want people in public spaces to feel claustrophobic, you want them to be able to get
air so that they’re not breathing in each other’s air because of a low ceiling. So just think about
that kind of stuff when you design: is this sort of a human scale, an intimate human scale that I
want to be designing for, or is it a more grand scale where you’re looking at making huge
architectural gestures.

Just think about that in your designs. And I think because we think in like a certain way and it’s easy to just forget about that.


After alignment

I think the second most important thing in architecture is probably proportions. Now That means a whole lot of different things, but to me, it’s really a unification of alignment and scale in a geometric sense. So alignment is when things obviously align, and scale is the

relationship to the user. And proportions are related to those two things, so alignment but with
portions, things don’t necessarily need to align, but they do have a relationship to each other.
And that’s really where they unify. Is it appropriate for the person and then what size is it? Now
proportional to me is you have one side and then is the next side, is it two times as long as that.


Is it three times as long as that? Is it the same size and I think when you start to develop these
sort of like units or these measurements that show up over and over and over or have
relationships to each other, that’s when it becomes proportional.

5 Tips to Design Like an Architect

So for instance

if you look at the Parthenon in Greece, this is said to have the golden ratio and
I’m not going to really go too far into the golden ratio, you can find a lot of really good videos on
the golden ratio, but there’s a proportion that is going on here, so you can see that this tophere is
actually the same here, so there’s this relationship that is made you have this sort of like
stepping, which is similar to this, right.

So you have a square here, this square looks like it. It doesn’t look like it’s exactly this. But it is divided into threes, and you probably have if you divide this might be four. But you have that relationship. That geometric relationship between things. Now the golden ratio is, it’s a fraction. It’s like three points something. And it shows up in nature a lot. And it’s like something that I think architects hold on to, but because of standards it’s really hard to pin on a golden ratio, so I might start with a golden ratio or something like that and then get something that’s sort of close to it. Not exact. Or just make it proportional to itself. So, like I was saying before, where you have one measurement and maybe the next thing is two of that or three of that, so you have that one measurement that is proportional throughout the project if that makes sense.

So this is a good example

 This is also a good example, you have this relationship of this looks like the same
size as this you have this space here which looks the same as this, and that’s really, you know,
what happens is you get this proportional relationship of things, these look like their similar
sizes, if not the same. And you get that repeated throughout the windows don’t have different
sized panes. Why would they be that?

 It just doesn’t make sense, you’re developing this a proportional system that shows up repeatedly throughout your design, and then starts to pull it all together when you have that relationship, so thinking about a house you have these windows that have certain pane sizes, now when you go to a new window maybe you wanted to be a different size but how do you get that same windowpane size to show up on the other one, what size does that make your window? Maybe you want it instead of three by five tall?

Maybe this new window you want it to be six by five tall?

And so you use that same ratio, that same windowpane size to inform what your new window size will be. And the last thing here is oh, I know a lot of people probably if you’re not educated in architecture probably think that this McMansion is really cool, but I want to show you what is happening here that makes this not that great. So you do have a line of symmetry here, it’s pretty balanced, so in terms of that, it’s good.

 B +ut then you have like an arch window here, okay you have a bigger arch window here but it looks like it doesn’t have any of the same languages, you have this is a different finish but the
window is completely different. You have this wide frame on the outside that you don’t have on the others, this shutter arched obviously because this is arched, but then some of these other windows don’t have any shutters like this one doesn’t have a shutter, but these do.

There’s great here, there’s great here, but like these have the same language, even though they’re on different finishes, there’s like a little window here above that. Okay, so maybe these start talking to each other, but then you look at these windows, what is going on here, you got a little clerestory window there, but you don’t have that anywhere else.


So it’s just like the proportions here are thrown off because someone’s doing too much

They’re trying to add things to make it fancy and it loses its continuity because you’re trying to put everything in your toolbox into this project. And maybe for a developer our contractor for this Mc Mansion that makes sense because they can charge you more money and they may have
like a ton of these windows, so they’re not like spending more money, but they get a premium
price for the product. So this is like something to think about, think about your proportions and
how they relate to each other, and if you can set up a module that you can then use throughout
the project that’s ideal.

Y ou knows

Like if I have five feet and I know like if someone asks what this dimension is I know it’s gonna be increment office feet, or two feet, or three feet, or whatever I pick. And that just helps you as the designer to remember things if it goes to construction. But it also just visually helps tie everything together. Lastly, I want to talk about the details.


Details are like an architect’s wheelhouse, a really good architect you can tell by the quality of
their details. So that’s taking that concept we talked about earlier and really distilling it down so
you can see that in the details. So here we have a detail that looks like a shot looking up at
some sort of screen that’s over something. Now, this is a really good example of good detail, I don’t know the architects intent here, but the detail really makes the architecture shine through, so there’s this really flat matte geometric pattern that is going on, you can see that this is it’s literally recessed it isn’t just applied here.

And you get this beautiful design where you’re nothing is taken up by a seam

The seams are hidden, and then even here you have a little reveal and this lineup, it looks perfect. So the image can really shine in, in this piece of architecture instead of the details looking clunky. It’s just a beautiful way to do architecture and to carry it all the way through until the very end to make sure that even the smallest details are making your concept shine through.

Now this is an example of a bad detail, and you’ll see this happen a lot in architecture, obviously,


these steps were here, and then this railing got put in so you can’t use any of this. What probably
What happened here was it was a code thing. The architect was like oh this is this would be cool to have these stairs, and then the code official said no you gotta put in a railing and that’s where they put the railing. So what is happening here is just the details in terms of code and that’s something that you always need to be thinking about is the code implications of your designs in architecture for sure. How that affect by the moves that you’re making, and this is the last thing that you want to happen to your design.

5 Tips to Design Like an Architect

 There probably is a much better solution for this, maybe you’d put a railing here so that someone doesn’t fall over, and then maybe there’s a railing that goes in the middle, I don’t know the exact code implications where this is to be able to tell you what this should be, what would be a good design, but that’s just stuff to think about. Is that your design is good, the details look good, but then also the code implications. How is it, how does it work with the code, and does it work with the code, and does it address those concerns?

This is a tato Ando building

 It’s probably one of the most iconic things in architecture and it’s really awesome because of the level of detail. He’s Making these concrete blocks sort of float, there’s still alignment here, you can see this joint still aligns with these, and it’s creating this light, so he’s thinking about light as part of the detail. What, you know, if this was too wide you’d start to see what’s out there, but by just having a little bit and being dark in here and light outside you really start to get this detail of this cross showing through and becoming light becomes what is painting or positive space, and that’s really cool to be able to think about that in terms of your details.

 Even here, look.

That this joint lines up, this is aligned in the middle, this joint lines up, so just thinking to that level of detail obviously there’s alignment, but that goes with the detail. Alignment and details are you need to make sure that’s communicated. This is a different kind of concrete than this, it’s special, it’s set apart. So just thinking about those levels of detail, how you’re thinking about light, how you’re thinking about the material, how you’re thinking about alignment is what makes good architecture and I encourage you to think about that when you’re designing

Read More: Interesting things about 3D Architecture

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