The development Sources of Architectural Design Ideas (Essay on


The development Sources of Architectural Design Ideas (Essay on
Jurnal UMP Social Sciences and Technology Management
Vol. 3, Issue. 1,2015
The development Sources of Architectural Design Ideas
(Essay on the Ideation Process of some of the Architects,
teaching at the Faculty of Architecture, Mashhad)
Atousa Ghannad,
MSc student of architecture, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran
Pedram Baghani
MSc student of architecture, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran
The basic idea of design is a reflection, which is formed in designer’s mind when
facing with a design problem and is not obvious in many occasions. However, the questions
that "from where the basic idea of architectural design is stemmed? What are the sources of
architectural ideation? And how much is each one’s share in it?"Are the ones the present
study seekes answer to them? In order to answer the mentioned question, a survey was
conducted in which data on the ideation process of some of the professors of the faculties of
architecture of Mashhad city, Iran, were collected through a questionnaire during two years
and the report of its results is presented in this paper. In the study data collection was
conducted through some questionnaires and also interviewing the architects. Analyzing the
responses of architects, this paper introduces the factors that the "design problem" and
"designer" bring with them as the main elements of "the design", as the sources of
architectural ideation. These sources include the issues under focus in the design problem,
factors related to design precedents, human factors and design tools, which may have
contributed to the development of the basic idea of architects. The results are represented in
tabular form in the paper.
Keywords: Architectural design, the process of design ideation, design problem,
Concept Perception is a design step within which the designer experiences the maximum
levels of joy and hopelessness (Mirmiran, 1999: 62). Questions such as “why an architect
derives his/her ideas from different sources in facing with design problems?” or “which
factors are influencing in architects’ ideation processes?” and “how are their priorities of the
factors effectiveness?” have always been in designers’ minds. But one usual question of the
students in architecture design workshops is that from which point the design process
should be started and from where stems the basic design idea. This important question can
be pursued in a literature that has been the result of six decades of research on design.
(Bayazit, 2004; Broadbent, 1979; Cross, 2007).What is nowadays drawing more attention of
the researchers is the research focuses on the expert designers and competence in design (for
example Cross, 2004, 2006; Lawson & Dorst, 2009). Because the actual mechanism of expert
designers thought can be followed in all expert designers’ minds with its complexity.
Understanding the pros and cons of the process of designers’ ideation process can bring a
kind of knowledge and self-confidence for the students and novice designers.What is
introduced in design research literature as design primary generator is mostly derived from
other researches or is according to the researchers’ analyses. For example we can conclude
that in the research of Restrepo and Christian (2004) the two primary generators have been
the design problem and the solutions in designers’ minds, and we can mention the triple
classification of Lawson for the sources of primary generator including design program,
The development Sources of Architectural Design Ideas
external limitations such as the site and designer’s guide principles. (Lawson, 2005: 224 - 240)
Dr Nadimi divides architects’ ideation sources into two general classes including the factors
related to the designer and the factors related to the design problem. In the present study we
have tried to evaluate the results of the researches and finally we have revised the architects’
ideation sources in a corrective pattern.
Research methodology and procedures
The study is conducted in a two years of research. In order to research we have studied the
ideation process of 100 architects (professors of architecture in Islamic Azad University of
Mashhad and some other institutes of higher education). We should explain that the process
is done in two phases; in the first phase we have examined the results of other researches.
According to what was said, 100 information packets were collected during the study, each
packet containing the documentation of answers to the questions in the questionnaire and
interviews. In the questionnaire all architects answered to seven main questions. Then they
were invited to explain the ideation process of themselves at the bottom of questionnaire and
explain what had been neglected about ideation sources. Then, the key propositions were put
together in order to extract common concepts within them. Relying on research and related
literature review and conclusions extracted from the questionnaire, a new classification of
"the sources of development of ideas" was achieved. Studies have shown that all the
architects have not received their primary ideas from the same source and have not taken a
consistent approach in dealing with the design problem. Such changes in ideation of an
architect, in two different design situations, indicated the changeability of proportion of the
sources in generating the primary idea. The second phase aims to evaluate the classified
sources in the process of ideation of architects, in order to determine each factor’s proportion
in another survey questionnaire. The results will be discussed in another article by the
authors in future. Analyzing the data collected from architects’ answers was done using data
extraction in software. Thus, concurrent comparing of the answers in seven classifications
became possible and this way common concept in answers to each question for each
architect and also among different architects in research was extracted. Finally, the two
authors discussed the subjects and classifications and compared them with the architects’
answers to achieve agreements and conclusions.
Research results
The designers were asked about the first impression about the design problem in order to
find out what had been the most important issue in their first facing with the design
problem. Then the designers were asked about their first spark of an idea and its source. This
way, the researchers were determined to find that is it possible to classify design ideation
sources using data analysis? The design is formed when a designer faces a design problem,
and this confrontation, becomes the beginning of the design process. So it can be said that
the design includes in the first level all the factors that have become associated with the
design problem and the designer. Analysis of the data from the architects ‘descriptions
represents four major focus of their attention in dealing with a design problem that can be
considered as the main elements of any design; they are: Factors related to the design
problem, factors related to design precedents, human factors and factors related to the
design tools. Each of these elements can be identified in the architects ‘description of their
first spark of an idea and its origin as a source of ideas.
Architects ideation sources
Each architectural monument and urban design and so forth and so on is a subordinate of
the five factors of political, economic, social, cultural and geographical factors. Therefore, in
each design project, identifying the components of each of these factors related to the subject
and the analysis, causes achieving the desired results. But, firstly we cannot apply all factors
in design process practically and secondly all of the factors don’t influence the designer or
Jurnal UMP Social Sciences and Technology Management
Vol. 3, Issue. 1,2015
the design certain subject similarly (Rezvani, 2014: 14). Accepting the influence of the 5
factors based on the results of the questionnaires, the architects’ sources of ideation can be
classified into 4categories:
1.3. Factors related to design problem
The factors related to design problem are divided into two general groups of “design subject”
and “site”. “Site” takes into account just the features, such as geometry, topography, etc.
“design subject” includes all those things that always come to design situation with the
problem but aren’t considered in the definition of "site” (Nadimi and Shariatrad, 2012: 9).
2.3. Factors related to design precedents
Some researchers believe that utilizing design precedents and patterns especially in the
initial phases of the design is so beneficial and increases the designer’s ability in solving the
design problem (Schon, 1988, p: 185, Gelemter & Payne, 1997; Ledewitz, 1985, p: 5).
Oxman (1994) believes that a set of experiences and design solutions is saved in the
monuments that can be retrieved and used in new designs. The process is called “design
precedents” when being used in physical production and is called “design memory” when
being used in mind and thinking area. (Oxman, 1994, p: 152)
Eiliuti states that design precedents can be defined as a design or a precedent solution to the
problem that contains important issues such as form, structure, composition and meaning
and engineering or architectural systematic components that can be used in new design
(Eiliuti, 2009, p: 356). Some researchers consider precedents samples as a kind of indirect
research which is conducted usually before designing and includes evaluation of present
samples in terms of their subjective similarities with the designing subject (Jamil, 2009, 9:
385, Milbum & Brown, 2009, p: 59). Many evidences have been recorded in the field of
architecture in which the architects had used previous samples, before designing and also in
design of new products (Health, 1984, p: -, Clark & Pause, 1985, p: -, Akin, 1986, p- :).
One of the eternal and infinite sources of ideation that is built by the architect of the
universe is the nature that is permanent and accessible source for design and thus is treated
as a separate case.
3.3. Human factor
Lawson believes that human factors influencing the ideation process include the designer,
the employer and the legislator. In the modern world we cannot ignore the role of planners
in creating different architectural and urban laws. Thus, instead of "legislator" we have used
"planners and legislators".
3.3.1. Factors related to the designer
What is presented in a certain project shows the designers’ way in observation,
understanding and explaining that project and is based on his/her accepted values in life and
his/her design viewpoints (White, 2011, p: 46 - 38). Diverse factors affect the designers’
decision to choose a project’s idea and concept and they are: The designer’s experience
Multi-dimensionality of architectural design has been evident from "Vitruvius" time. He
described the architecture area as adynamic balance between the three areas smaller areas:
beauty, durability and practicality and he considered them as the three corners of his
mythical triangle. But nowadays, there is the need to a polygon with more corners to portray
different issues that an architect should know about. With new developments in the
profession, architects are forced to adopt new roles that require at least being familiar with
very novel areas of knowledge (Heylighen & Neuckermans, 1999: 216). Designers’ viewpoints and ideology
White introduces two factors of “General philosophy and life values of the designer” and
“Design philosophy of the designer” influencing the created concepts of a certain project.
These issues are not within the traditional realm of architecture although they profoundly
influence it. Designer values, attitudes, life views and general behavioral patterns all play a
critical role in the formation of the designer's general views about design. "Designing" in this
sense is but one segment of man's behavior and is as governed by psychological
The development Sources of Architectural Design Ideas
considerations as the rest of his behavior. Certainly these may change over time, having a
corresponding effect upon his design philosophy and procedures. Their influence upon
design activity is a critical relationship to understand in tracing the origins of the designer's
architectural concepts (White, 2011, p: 40).
3.3.2. Factors related to the employer
The problem in design doesn’t usually stem from employer’s mind but from designer’s mind,
and sometimes the designer faces an employer and in some cases faces the employers Board.
"Michael Whilford" emphasizes the importance of therole of employers in the design process:
“There is a great employer behind a great building that spends his/her time and energy on
understanding the ideas of designer (Lawson, 2005, P: 99-98).
3.3.3. Factors related to the user:
Lawson considers an effective role for the design users and states that nowadays most of the
designs are ordered by employers that aren’t the design users (Lawson, 2005: p: 100-101).
3.3.4. Factors related to planners and policy makers
Although the legislators are not so much involved in design they pass some limitations and
the designers should work within the limitations’ framework. There is no need to conceal the
tension between designers and those responsible for executing work determinant laws
(Sukle, 1980) (Lawson, 2005, p: 104-105).
3.4. Factors related to design tools
Design, as the first and most important solution for transmitting one’s thinking has been
examined and evaluated in several studies and there are different definitions which can be
divided into some groups. Definitions like the one of Hank and BElliston (1992) that consider
design as a source for generation new ideas and definitions like one of Han (2004) that
introduces design as an element to express design ideas and concepts and Goel defines
sketches as a necessity for regenerating and revising ideas, producing concepts and
facilitating problem solving process (Goel, 1995). Design has a dual nature, while it is an
element to provide and display the architect’s ideas and concepts, acts asa basis for
generating the projects ideas and concepts.Using computer as an effective utility in process
of designing and producing architectural works is being developed increasingly and has
extended human mind’s imaginary dimensions and has been able to provide conditions in
order for architects to produce dorms and places which without complex computers,
imagining them is impossible (Kheirollahi, 2014, p: 60). In recent years we have witnessed a
series of new activities among architects who use computers to create space and form of the
building. These architects determine a primary law for building the form of the building and
give it to the computer, then; it is the computer that creates the building form. Architects
such as"Hani Rashid", "Ocean North Group", "ShoP Group" and many other young architects
are in this category. They are trying to build buildings that are made of computer brain not
human brain. But answering the question of what would be the effects of the new use of
computer in the future of architecture needs passing some time to judge. In the modern
world, some architects like "Zaha Hadid" and "Peter Eisenman" have delegated their idea and
concept selection and receive power to the computers and they just analyze the information
and pass their chosen information through computer catalyst to achieve the desired results.
On the other hand, we can pay attention to the role of technology in the building process,
which most often because of lack of the building technology, many ideas become neglected.
Jurnal UMP Social Sciences and Technology Management
Vol. 3, Issue. 1,2015
The design situationis formed by the designer’s desire and the problem and the
confrontation of the designer with the design problem is the initiator of design process.
Analyzing architects’’ answers showed that each one has focused on one of the design
elements more in facing with the design problem and they find their primary idea from such
an attention. So, the design situation and its elements can be initially introduced as the main
source of architects’ ideation. Initial analysis of the architects’ answers showed that the origin
of all the ideas provided by the architects can be followed in the design. A deeper analysis of
the interviews, showed that different design elements were obtained dividing into factors
related to the problem, factors related to design precedents, human factors and factors
related to design tools. Each of mentioned sources has a proportion in ideation of the studied
architects. Studying ideation process of the architects showed that they haven’t receives their
primary idea from the same source and hasn't taken the same approach in dealing with the
design problem. Such changes in ideation of an architect show the changeability of the
proportion of each source in generation primary idea for different projects. In the present
research we have examined initial source of some architecture professors of Mashhad
Faculties of architecture using survey questionnaires. At the end in order to summarize the
above points and in order to represent a more appropriate classification in a tabular form we
have brung “sources of development of the architectural design ideas” as bellow.
Sources of development of the architectural design ideas
Design problem
Design site
Design site
Design precedents
Design legislation and principles
Works’ forms
Works’ functionality
Works’ meaning and concepts
Available technological facilities
Using sketches, diagrams and Marquette’s
Design place quality
The type of design process
Human Factors
Designer’s experiences
Designer’s viewpoints and ideology
Architect’s special style
Academic power
Creativity and talent
User’s viewpoints or opinions
Employer’s viewpoints or opinions
Planner and policy makers’ viewpoints
or opinions
Figure: sources of development of the architectural design ideas
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