When we are first approached by prospective clients, we have found that few fully understand what an architect does. Many interview draftspeople and volume builders also, and find it difficult to distinguish between the various levels of expertise and design engagement on offer. Invariably, a large part of our first discussion is devoted to explaining how our services differ from those of other building designers and why there is great value in the cost of an architect.
What follows is the 4th of ten articles that explore the question: why engage an architect? An archive of the series can be accessed here.
4. We have creative vision
Designing a building is a sophisticated exercise in problem solving. Our clients come to us with a problem (you need your house to accommodate a growing family) and we provide the solution (a renovation comprising extra bedrooms and mixed use living spaces). This is much easier said than done. To design a house, we must navigate many oceans full of potential icebergs: functional performance, sustainability, contextualisation, planning regulations, building regulations, structural engineering, construction, durability.
The best solutions are the simple ones, the ones that resolve all the parts of the problem into a singular, holistic form. Neither draftspeople nor volume builders attempt this. The products that they sell are solutions for only a tiny fraction of the full problem. They sell houses that ignore the unique requirements of site, context, history, culture and client.
The reason for this is that simple solutions are very difficult to produce. They require deep research, sustained effort and a great deal of patience. They require creative vision.
The great German industrial designer, Dieter Rams, preached the maxim, “Less but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects… Back to purity, back to simplicity.” Steve Jobs passionately followed this philosophy in establishing Apple, the largest and most design-focussed company in the world. He observed, “It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.” Jony Ive, Apple’s head designer, agrees: “Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity… You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”
A building is as complex a product as any, requiring not only technical expertise to reconcile its many different requirements, but creative vision to do so in a simple, sustainable, resourceful, inventive, enduring and beautiful way. This is perhaps the greatest advantage of engaging an architect: our creativity stems from both technical and artistic understanding. We are able to solve your problem with both pragmatism and imagination.
- Dieter Rams; 10 Principles of Good Design; Vitsoe; accessed 22nd June 2014
- As quoted in Walter Isaacson; Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography; Simon & Schuster; United States of America; 2011; p. 343
- Creativity, author’s own image.