Where did the dogma of "design process" originate?


Does anyone know? It seems to be something that is deeply ingrained in architecture and even other design fields nowadays. But, I've never really been given a good explanation as to why we follow the concept with such religious fervour. 

I'd imagine that in the beaux-arts days, process was unimportant. As well, most of the 20th century modern "masters" (ie Corb, FLW, etc.) did not seem very interested in a clear, experimental process. They generally seemed to do the opposite - randomly pluck designs out of their imagination, and there are many stories of this essentially being their design method.

So then, why did process become such a huge emphasis? Is this something that developed alongside the current studio-based teaching style in architecture schools? I personally can see the merits of the focus - accountability, clearer thinking, ensuring that no arbitrary decisions are made, etc. But, I always found it frustrating to feel cross-examined when you didn't have a diagram explaining the development of every little detail. Anyways, any clues or thoughts?

Nov 26, 14 1:53 pm

I'd imagine that in the beaux-arts days, process was unimportant


As well, most of the 20th century modern "masters" (ie Corb, FLW, etc.) did not seem very interested in a clear, experimental process. They generally seemed to do the opposite - randomly pluck designs out of their imagination, and there are many stories of this essentially being their design method.


Thwoomp, you've inherently misunderstood these stories.

When you hear tales of so-called prodigies 'plucking' ideas from random, what you are really hearing about is mastery

What do you know about the Japanese concept of Shuhari?

Shuhari explains the process by which one moves through the motions of martial arts, in stages, until one becomes an expert.

Aikido master Endō Seishirō shihan stated:

"It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shuha, and ri. These stages are explained as follows. In shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebears created. We remain faithful to these forms with no deviation. Next, in the stage of ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws."[1]


This concept reaches out into nearly all disciplines where a process is involved; from learning an instrument, practicing a sport, learning to paint...

...or becoming a designer.


From the limited information I can glean from your post, you seem to believe in 'innate talent.'

This is a tempting belief, but doesn't tell the whole story.

You might find this post interesting:

On Talent


Essentially, you should be thanking your luck that you are studying somewhere where the emphasis is being placed on a coherent, strategic, replicable design process rather than a place that focuses on the 'dogma of random eureka moments striking the talented and screwing over everyone else.'

Nov 27, 14 11:32 am  · 

Everything is process. Or to put it another way, process is everything.

Random trial and error is also a process, although the lease intelligent one.

If you're hung up on experimentation you've been drinking too much Kool-Aid. If you're just trying to survive what is passed off as an architectural education, you need to properly prepare for crits and reviews. 

Nov 27, 14 11:46 am  · 

I'm afraid you misread my post, Stephanie. I am not claiming that plucking ideas out of thin air is good, or that process is bad. It was not a loaded question, as you seem to have interpreted it. Maybe my expression of frustration at being cross-examined made you see it that way?

I am more curious if anyone knew when or how the idea of "process", thrown around as a single word came about. No one questions it, and I am curious as to why, when architects tend to question everything else under the sun. 

The conflict you mentioned in your last point illustrates the kind of mindset I'm talking about. If you just threw down plans and sections in most architecture schools without bothering to explain the process behind it, no one would give your design any respect even if it was masterful.

Many of the old "masters" didn't really explain the logic behind their designs - but they were respected. Now, if you go on any respected architects website, 90% of the designs will have many diagrams explaining how they got to that point. A carefully documented process has become as important if not more important than the qualities of the resulting design. In my interpretation it is part of the reason why free-form architects like Gehry are not generally beloved by other architects, but process-oriented architects like Koolhaas are.

More than anything, I'm interested if anyone has an idea of a timeline of when this change from design as a product to design as a process took place. Or, perhaps key figures or "isms" which might have been responsible for generating this change in thinking about design. I think I might have buried this sentiment among some of my other thoughts.

Nov 28, 14 2:20 am  · 

You are reading way to deeply into the bullshit you're being fed at school. Pseudo-intellectual drivel at best, based on unsupported generalizations and uninformed opinions. 

Nov 28, 14 6:46 pm  · 

Dogma....started with Dogs when they got together with there Moma....Dogma......Now onto the next big issue in the world.  It better not be who came first the Chicken or the Egg.

Nov 28, 14 7:16 pm  · 

Oh ya by the way an art museum that is know for destroying ICONS of Architecture.  Sorta like the  those  Taliban  who love to blow up Shit!

Nov 28, 14 7:19 pm  · 

What, Miles? What bullshit or "kool-aid" exactly am I reading too much into? Can you address something specific instead of just spewing unhelpful negativity?

Nov 28, 14 9:24 pm  · 

Old masters, 90%, Gehry v Koolhaas ... is someone feeding you this crap or are you just making it up?

Nov 28, 14 11:21 pm  · 

I'm not allowed to speculate, and interpret patterns in how architecture has changed over the past century? I need permission from you, with your all-encompassing wisdom? I thought I could start a discussion about the historical trends in architecture, but apparently that's entirely beyond the scope of this forum.

"Old masters" is obviously not a real term, but I thought it would be fairly obvious that I was referring to the likes of FLW, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, etc. What is the problem here? I was referring to the fact that a documented design process was definitely not emphasized as much back then. Now, it is a huge emphasis by almost all of the respected international architecture firms.This is something I would consider to be fact. If you disagree, then feel free to prove me wrong.  Sure, there was a lot of theory written by the early modern architects, but I will be surprised if you can point out some diagrams explaining the generative reasoning behind Ronchamp or the National Assembly building in Bangladesh.

Admittedly, I did pull 90% out of my ass, but it is probably not far off. If you look at the websites of MVDRV, OMA, UNStudio, etc. almost all of their projects have clear, descriptive diagrams about how they generated their designs. This is a huge emphasis for them. I fail to see how this is crap. Also, are you disputing that the majority of the architecture community has a hard on for Koolhaas, and like to tar and feather Gehry and Zaha on a regular basis? If you read the comment sections whenever there is a news article on them around here, you will see what I'm talking about. And, beyond this site, many professors, visiting critics at my school love pointing to Koolhaas as the pinnacle of design. Gehry is usually only mentioned as kind of a joke, what not to do.

Anyways, I started this thread to try to have a level-headed discussion about a trend I have perceived in architecture. Not to defend myself from random, baseless attacks on my intelligence. I'm quickly losing respect for these forums. They really are a piece of work, aren't they?

Nov 29, 14 1:34 am  · 

thwoomp, I'll take a stab at it - off top of my head.

Obsession with Process is like your math professor asking you to write everything out.

2+2=4, no diagram's necessary.  The square root of 144 is 12, but some of your professors and fellow students need diagram's to understand this, or to understand you understand this.

Older masters than what you refer to, classical,  had certain guidelines like proportions and the Golden Mean, Fibonacci sequence, Virtruvian man, etc.... When drafting, this could inform their next design move in accordance with long understood 'harmonics' (if you want to call it that).  Greek order, etc...

The modern guys (old masters) tabula rasa'd the whole process and looked at Industry and then abstracted the best process to make architecture from Industry.  This method was so rational and honest with the times that it was revolutionary and worth making into what becomes 'dogma' - " belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted"

and for the most part the Modern guys were and are still correct, which is why blindly following Modernist dogma is still practical.

What happened of course is shortly thereafter, Modernism, many architects did not take the time to arrive at these solutions and merely copied the solutions.  Symmetry is lazy as I learned from Mitch McEwan's blog qouting Hernan Diaz.  For example take Mies van der Rohe's Seagrams Building - how much of what SOM did and many other firms thereafter could ultimately be considered copies?

This is when your math professor marks-up your test because they knew you were sitting next to the only person in class who can solve the square root of 144 in their head.

Until Rem Koolhaas book S, M, X, XL most the joking around and boredom with modernism was taking the form of Post-Modernism.  A really good book to read is For An Architecture of Reality  by Michael Benedikt to understand how much everyone was goofing around right before the computer revolution.  Even the radical Centre Pompidou is considered an act of sorts.  Think about the Centre in terms of mechanical design and energy savings, etc...

Rem's book SMXXL was a graphic representation of how complicated shit had become and why documenting process, although at first quite irrational and 'hip' in presentation, was necessary to understand anything at all.   Again reference S, M, X, XL for this, it sums up the next 20 years of representation methods in architecture.  My grandmother flipped through it and said "I have no idea"...I spent a complete blog on only a few pages of that book deciphering all the stuff...(Note: Bruce Mau was also involved in its creation).

Then the computer became useful about the same time Eisenman was injecting massive doses of French offspring of Husserl philosophy -(Derrida and Deleuze) into the theory of architecture.  Note: Tschumi had Eisenman and Derrida work together - see Chora L Works (useless book)  As Kipness notes in Log 32 - Tschumi is the best theoretical practicing architect ever - his theory actually is built.

Anyway, with the computer, and mainly through David Rutten making scripting free and accessible and ultimately Grasshopper via Rhino, while Bentley Systems in Microstation was doing Generative Components, Gehry Technologies developing digital project, and Maya having been fully incorporated into the design process (Columbia Univ, Hernan Diaz, Zaha, etc...)  a new revolution seemed possible.

Parametrics and 'Versioning', or one method of interpreting Deleuze & Guatarri's 1000 plateaus, advised much on by Sandford Kwinter, seemed like a match made in heaven.

Schumacher's  Autopoesis, can be viewed as an attempt to summarize this 'revolution' in a book...while paying respect to Eisenman.

Now - Process is important because between BIM, Grasshopper, the internet with massive component libraries, you can make a realistic rendering and plans in seconds.

So the only reason it's a dogma now, is because your teachers and people you work for have no other way of knowing whether or not you thought about what you did to a degree that is acceptable to be a designed.

of course the massive downside to this obsession with process is it probably turns a lot of talented and 'genius' type students off, annoyed by their slow processing professors and classmates, they probably go into fields that can handle people who can design entire buildings in seconds and spend the rest of the time explaining it to people who are not talented and quick thinkers visually. 

Supposedly, FLW designed Falling Water in 4 hours, the rest was just drawing it out and explaining it, and meandering through the process of getting it built.

It's frankly stupid to spend that much time in school on process.  If you've ever built anything you know the process of getting a design built allows plenty of opportunity to further develop the design, but then again most people who teach do not practice.

Your process is your process, there is no reason to adopt someone's else 'style' of thinking.  Borrow, test it, but by your 3rd or 4th studio, you should have this down and just ignore your professors, especially if they are one those architects who have free interns, a handful of projects that look more like interior design projects, etc...

and hence Miles Jaffe is correct -it's all bullshit.  Get your degree, get a job, get a license and one day with the opportunity arises - Design your way.

Nov 29, 14 9:03 am  · 

So, the answer is that nobody on the forum knows. And, for some reason, people get hostile when the question is asked. Why? Sounds like a valid question to me.

My guess- which is a total guess- is that it does go back to the Ecole de Beaux-Arts and the idea of the parti.

Nov 29, 14 9:24 am  · 

90% wasn't the only thing you "pulled out of your ass" and stated as fact.

Think of me as one of your professors, challenging you to rise above yourself, to see things in a different light - in this instance one that is based on reality.

No need to get snippy about it. Attitude is 1/4 of your final grade.

Nov 29, 14 10:09 am  · 

Anonitect, you should probably read the responses better, I count at least 2 tries at it and Miles, you could of presented it differently...

Another reason for discussing process is to fill up jury time.

Let's say your project sucks, then the jury will often want to find out where you went wrong in the process, so they cross exam...or it sucks so much they have really nothing else to talk about.

Most projects that are great pretty much do not get any discussion with regard to process, but rather praise for the results.

Nov 29, 14 7:40 pm  · 

Brevity is king, and beats the crap out of dissertation you wrote to get to exactly the same place I did in 18 words.

Nov 29, 14 7:55 pm  · 

I'm not that kind of sensai Miles, ha

Nov 29, 14 8:01 pm  · 

Thank you, Chris and anonitect for trying to actually trying to address my concerns and to flesh out what I do not understand. Your response Chris was more informative than I might have expected, definitely lots for me to think about for awhile.

Miles, I'm glad that you think you were being helpful, that makes one of us. All you did was tell me I was wrong without explaining why or offering an alternative view. To you the issues with my line of thinking might have seemed self-evident, but they were not. The only way I might think of you as a professor is one of those frustrating ones that takes pot-shots at students to make themselves feel smart, without offering anything of value.

Nov 29, 14 9:02 pm  · 

You ignored my first post and only reacted to my second, which spelled it out (with a link, no less). In response to my direct question (third post) you admitted that you pulled 90% out of your ass, effectively agreeing with my point. No wonder you're having trouble (frustrated with cross examination). 

Don't blame your professors for your inability to see whether they are feeding you bullshit or not. You need to put your ego aside, not just with your studies but especially in an anonymous forum. The only thing you have to prove here is nothing. 

Nov 29, 14 9:53 pm  · 

Considering what you linked I didn't take your first post to be serious, so I didn't take it seriously. Perhaps I misread your tone, my mistake.

I can't legitimately argue your point about my ego, though, it is definitely something I need to think about. It's challenging to detach myself from my ideas, even though I know it to be necessary.

Nov 29, 14 10:29 pm  · 

Inception, Design, Frank Gehry, Practice

thwoomp, based on the posts, comments, Miles Jabbing and your last post I would suggest the following:

Communicate.  If your idea was arrived at through artistic vision, then bullshit as Miles suggested.

I've seen too many talented kids quit this gig because of the considerably less talented hacks that require a justification for everything via Process.

Post-rationalize, if you ideate first and draw later...

In other words, Process for the most part is irrelevant if you are talented, so post-rationalize the process so those with less talent can understand.

it's Dogma, because the less talented rely on it.

Nov 29, 14 11:06 pm  · 

One of the purposes of design school is to expose you to multiple processes. This is to provide you with some basic approaches, help you see things from different perspectives and understand different points of view and ultimately help you develop your own approach, one that works for you. One size does not fit all, and to adopt a particular dogma is to follow a false prophet.

The problem now is that most schooling is based on pseudo-intellectual garbage rather than real world concerns or processes. No wonder you're confused.

Easy fix: go work in construction, where bullshit is painfully obvious (except maybe to those spewing it). Required reading: On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt.

Nov 30, 14 11:19 am  · 

The original poster was asking about pedagogy - why is architecture thought of and taught the way it is. Teeter's whatever-it-is (see H. Frankfurt) doesn't answer the question, and I don't understand why Jaffe is so antagonistic.

Again, it was a reasonable question, and something that I have wondered about as well. It seems like a real problem that I couldn't get an answer when I was in school, and that nobody on this site knows, either. We are a profession floundering in gibberish, without an anchor in any underlying tradition - which is what happens when being "innovative" (i.e. being an early adopter of the latest trend) is valued above knowledge and critical thought.

Nov 30, 14 1:47 pm  · 

Anonitect what are you saying? Miles just gave another valid response. I answered multiple ways through history, the dissertation above....and in conclusion with your last paragraph both Miles and I have noted its all bullshit anyway already, you are simply repeating what we have said..... Could you clarify why at least 5 valid responses did not answer the posters question?

Nov 30, 14 2:12 pm  · 

random guesses are not valid responses 

Nov 30, 14 2:20 pm  · 
Saint in the City

I like your last post, Miles.  I worked construction, and it is a great BS detector.  The down side is that many contractors think anything they haven't seen before is BS.

Nov 30, 14 2:21 pm  · 

Well then Anonitect in all your anonymity please enlighten us. Never mind some of us have actually taught....

In the mean time here is a short reading list, referenced somewhat in my dissertation:

Vitruvius, the Ten Books on Architecture

Frampton, Kenneth.Modern Architecture: a Critical History

David Rutten - Grasshopper

A Thousand Plateaus Capitalism and Schizophrenia

@ Anonitect the last book is basis for your last statement "We are a profession floundering in gibberish, without an anchor in any underlying tradition - which is what happens when being "innovative" (i.e. being an early adopter of the latest trend) is valued above knowledge and critical thought."

So again, you're only repeating what has been said here multiple times.  Are you reading anything posted or just posting random statements?





Nov 30, 14 2:37 pm  · 

The question:

Again, it was a reasonable question, and something that I have wondered about as well. It seems like a real problem that I couldn't get an answer when I was in school, and that nobody on this site knows, either.

The answer:

We are a profession floundering in gibberish, without an anchor in any underlying tradition - which is what happens when being "innovative" (i.e. being an early adopter of the latest trend) is valued above knowledge and critical thought.


Nov 30, 14 3:07 pm  · 


 My point was simply that when you don't know how your profession developed in its methods and biases, it's impossible to critique it intelligently. And, if you look at the writing produced by architects, its mostly unintelligible. Which brings me to ..

Chris Teeter - I tried to read your original post, but its gibberish. Other posters, Stephanie, for example, were coherent, but gave opinions, and not an answer to the original post. Your reading list seems completely random, and at best tangential to the subject. You can't just make shit up. That's fun if you're a stoned freshman, but unhelpful if you actually want to know what's going on. I don't know the answer - but wish I did - and your posts didn't help, that's for sure.

Nov 30, 14 3:30 pm  · 

Really? I thought Stephanie's made even less sense, she was actually attacking the poster and telling him to be thankful for the 'dogma of process'...

She even links wikipedia and not actual books, but since you understand her, I guess you need the cliff notes, I apologize for giving you actual reading material.

I hardly see any difference in format between my post and hers. 

I'll simplify - Miles I think you were correct, the dissertation was not productive, ha

1. Dogma - belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted - You agree?

2. Design Process - Innate talent, everything else is bullshit - I imagine you disagree?

3. Communication - Documenting  design moves towards a solution.  - You agree?

4. Post-Rationalizing - Documenting design moves after a solution was made to communicate a process. - You agree?

5. Dogma of Process - So that we can intelligently, or at least pretend to intelligently discuss a design we require everyone to provide a well documented process - You agree?

Is that less gibberish for ya?  You may also just be very uneducated Anonitect, let me know what you have read and are familiar with.  Like are you a stoned freshman?

Nov 30, 14 4:22 pm  · 

Intelligent critique only requires critical thought. How you got here (methods and biases) is just bullshit. This is not art, it's craft, and there is a huge difference.

Nov 30, 14 4:38 pm  · 
null pointer

my two cents: read The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


There is nothing more human that attempting to ascribe platonic narratives to natural processes. The biggest problem with how schools attempt to teach architectural design processes is that they assume that control is a fact, when it is not. Humans impose structure upon deterministic systems, no matter what; if you're good at the game, your stories will be really good. If you're bad, they're going to have a lot of gaps in them, and it will show in crits. Just as long as you know that everything rests on narrative, you'll be ok.

Nov 30, 14 5:01 pm  · 

Chris -

Click your links - one goes to Wikipedia. Ha. I didn't say that Stephanie answered the question, only that her post was coherent, which yours wasn't. This is not a function of my lack of education, it's just that you write like a mental patient.

Miles, it saddens me to hear you say that the history of our craft is inconsequential. I feel sorry for you, and your clients.

Nov 30, 14 5:01 pm  · 

Null, I'll look up The Black Swan. Thanks

Nov 30, 14 5:08 pm  · 

no Anonitect that's Olaf Design Ninja, get it straight.  I didn't say that either about Stephanie's post, it's funny how well you don't read?  See your comment on craft with regard to Miles, read miles post again.

So in short you're uneducated and have trouble reading. 

There's probably a book out there on Parametrics, oh wait there is - Patrick Schumacher, but that ain't on the web yet for free reading, so I went with the David Rutten Grasshopper link via wikipedia, did you read that?

You'll read Black Swan but not Vitruvius, Frampton, Deleuze, Schumacher?

well, no wonder you have no answer or clue, why are you on this thread again?

Nov 30, 14 5:24 pm  · 
null pointer

No offense, but The Black Swan gives you some really good tools to cut through Deleuze and Frampton's bullshit moments.


I'm waiting on Schumacher's book in the mail right now, and it is personally hard to read Vitruvius without feeling like I'm a the zoo looking at a caged animal (totally my fault though).

Nov 30, 14 5:32 pm  · 

Null no offense taken, not even sure how that would be offensive?

 but The Black Swan appears to be very specific and would love to hear how it cuts through Deleuze and Frampton's bullshit moments?  Not sure you can even put both those guys in the same sentence, unless you see their platonic narratives as bullshit in short, which is of course a complete denial of scientific positivism, correct?

But real, examples would be great, Null?

@Anonitect from Null "There is nothing more human that attempting to ascribe platonic narratives to natural processes" = "Older masters than what you refer to, classical,  had certain guidelines like proportions and the Golden Mean, Fibonacci sequence, Virtruvian man, etc.... When drafting, this could inform their next design move in accordance with long understood 'harmonics' (if you want to call it that).  Greek order, etc."

both those statements say the same thing.  The first by Null is formal and logical without reference or examples, the second gives examples and requires lots of googlng and reading. 

I'm helping you read here Anonitect and  you're welcome.


Nov 30, 14 5:42 pm  · 

anonitect, are you intentionally obtuse or is it just something that you can't help? You have completely missed the point: I'm not dismissing history, I'm dismissing the dogma of process that is the subject of this thread.

For discussion of craft please refer to the thread Art vs Architecture.

I can't imagine anyone wanting to read Schumacher. Garbage in, garbage out. Which is essentially the essence of this thread.

Nov 30, 14 6:56 pm  · 

Miles- reread your last post as a response to my previous, and tell me I'm obtuse. Good job not using the word bullshit in your last post, though. I wonder if, when I become a miserable, cranky old man, I'll be self aware enough to recognize how hateful I've become. I can only hope that the kids take the keyboard away when it happens.

Nov 30, 14 7:19 pm  · 

anonitech, first you insult me (feel sorry ...), then you get bent when I question your intelligence. Nice job pumping yourself up on an anonymous forum. Feel bigger now?

Nov 30, 14 7:34 pm  · 

Nope, this has been absolutely pointless. Didn't even get a halfway decent answer to the original question. 

How often do you not insult people? Or say that something's bullshit? Pot calling the kettle black, my friend.

Nov 30, 14 7:40 pm  · 

yeah anonitect, I too sense the obtuse responses as well...

are you going to respond to this?

1. Dogma - belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted - You agree?

2. Design Process - Innate talent, everything else is bullshit - You agree?

3. Communication - Documenting  design moves towards a solution.  - You agree?

4. Post-Rationalizing - Documenting design moves after a solution was made to communicate a process. - You agree?

5. Dogma of Process - So that we can intelligently, or at least pretend to intelligently discuss a design we require everyone to provide a well documented process - You agree?


Once we determine your interpretation of the OP's title then we can be more specific we can pinpoint the origination point you want to know about?

I get it, you're a one track focus kind of person, you need simple statements to comprehend first and then we can proceed to the next level.  All my examples with real references etc...I'm sure is too much.

So let's breakdown points 1-5 first and see what happens?

or you can remain obtuse.

Nov 30, 14 7:51 pm  · 

Obtuse is an understatement. He answered his own question quite elegantly, in the very same post, no less.

Nov 30, 14 8:21 pm  · 

well we tried...maybe thwoomp got something out of it?

Just hope thwoomp doesn't quit.  Nothing more annoying than a bunch of academics stroking their ego's in jury talking about PROCESS as they intentionally shoot down the kid with talent.  Seen it many times.

Talentless hacks that drop mouthfuls of witty meaningless dribble on PROCESS can spot a kid with talent a mile away, like vultures.  If the hack is lucky they might steal a couple ideas in the meantime.

In one of my Olaf blogs I reference a true second hand story (I think, might of edited it out), but in short a really famous guy from the 70's from say Yale or Princeton talked a smart kid out of a design for a project, entered the kids design into an international competition and won.  The kid walked out of studio and never came back when he heard about it after getting taken to town on the design he was talked into by this almighty professor.

Nov 30, 14 8:58 pm  · 

I did, Chris, mostly from your input. Also, thanks for the concern.

I enjoyed your blog post about Inception, it really helped flesh out the kinds of problems I've been having. Looking back, a lot of the work I had trouble with came about through what you call "design-by-vision." I am not the clearest or most sequential of thinkers, and design I guess somewhat more instinctively. 

The school I attended was dogmatic about the "design-by-design" approach - anything not explained in this way was generally torn to shreds. I'll definitely be looking into more open-minded schools for a MArch. I'll definitely also be hard at work refining my post-rationalization skills!

Anyways, thanks for the encouragement, and for that unreal story in your last post. I'll definitely be watching my back if I turn out a decent project!

Dec 1, 14 1:50 am  · 

^ David Childs / SOM got sued a few years ago for lifting a design concept from a student at Yale. It's not clear really what happened - but it's sounds like SOM settled. What actually got built doesn't look like the contested design anyway.

I don't have any insight on when process became a focus. I don't actually remember it coming up in my studies until near the end of my program. I suppose it's really a pedagogical tool instructors and critics use to help understand projects. At times in the past there were accepted clear aesthetic or ideological criteria that could be used to assess a project. That seems less so today, especially in the most elite programs. So in the absence of any accepted Manifesto, the process becomes key to evaluating the outcome.

Imagine you're a juror looking at 15-20 student projects, each totally different and somewhat incomplete. Having some explanation of the design process helps you to evaluate whether the design succeeds at whatever purpose it was aimed towards. Part of school is trying to exercise your approach to thinking and studying process is one way to do so.

Taken to an extreme though it becomes an unreasonable burden for students that could potentially undercut all design decisions. If you're still looking at this as a student try to step back and understand what the critics are trying to get out of your work.

Once you're working this whole notion of documenting process evaporates. I find it refreshing - maybe you will too.

Dec 1, 14 2:41 am  · 


Design isn't all logical that is systematic. Alot of "process" talk is about organizing and putting design through a procedure. It can be good and bad. However, design is a bit illogical and emotional so design is something that is in part a matter of feel.

Alot of design theory really boils down to being nothing more than just an analytically explanation of what the hell was going on in your mind. I'll tell you this much, its as much about how I feel about the design choices as the other concerns. It is a balance of the emotive of how I feel, expression, (the art) of the design and the mundane issues of spatial-function requirements, the relationship of space/function areas, structural issues and so forth.

The reason I chose to place a broccoli instead of a rose at the center of the medallion is purely personal. Sometimes we try to make a dissertation in some sort of pseudo-academic design philosophy about why a broccoli was chosen instead of a rose. It is just personal preference but just saying that isn't "academic" sounding. So, I choose to make a piece of cryptic poetry and leave it for generations of architecture school academics to make up some academic thesis and fabricate a "design philosophy". Maybe, I didn't choose a rose because I got a thorn in my thumb earlier in the day and the thorn in the thumb put me in a bad mood. 

Sometimes, it can be just that.

When one accepts that things don't have to be a robotic like system of process and every decision having to have some logical reason, then they'll understand the art of architecture better. Sometimes, it is just fun. It's expression. Maybe, it is comical and silly like the reason of not choosing a rose is because of a thorn and I chose the broccoli because I had broccoli while in front of the drafting table.

Dec 1, 14 3:53 am  · 

Part of design school is preparation of the ability to think about how the design decisons comes together, how to communicate the reasons. In academic setting, there is also the basic academic pedagogy of using various devices to be able to gauge the student's understanding of what is being taught and in design exercises, applying them solve a design problem. How does one apply design to answer. How to respond to the inevitable situation where a client may ask, "why did you use a broccoli instead of a rose?"

Is there a rationale? Since when you are designing someone else's and it is essentially someone else's money, you have to be accountable to your design decisions. You either can choose to be rationale and default and choose to go back and change it back to the rose or you can INSIST on the broccoli and choose there is a couple ways you can go about it. You can come up with a bodacious bullshit like some poetry around the broccoli and why the broccoli is better than the rose OR you can be the comedian and tell the true story of the thorn in a comedic way and how you came upon the idea of the broccoli.

Be careful with the latter because the client got to have a sense of humor. In class, you could very well go about it if the professor in fact has a sense of humor and you have a talent to frame the truth in a comedy fashion that is funny.

Dec 1, 14 4:17 am  · 

A valid question by the OP.

I was taught to do diagram quite a lot in arch school, as a post-rationalized visual tool and as an integral part of a design process which would normally end up informing the final outcome.

We have always been told and encouraged by studio leaders to trust the process.  Some people in the studio would stick to it religiously and are able to explore, develop and document their design propositions right from the start to the end ; whether the outcomes are good or not that's always debatable. Some decided to depart from their original processes/methodologies and took control of the aesthetic quality, form, programmatic arrangements etc. and that was also fine by most tutors, in most cases, as long as those people can justify their decisions.

One thing that I find ridiculous during my studies was that when people abuse and overdo their design process/diagram by making decision like,  for example, turning a demographic data of a city into a color pattern of the facade.  But, it was still far better compared to students who seemed to have had a solution; or those who fixated on a single idea of form/spatial quality/material etc... of the project from the first week of the semester.

But at the end of the day , it's about the outcome ( which is true ) as people here have suggested, but how do we get there ?

Life's a destination not a journey ....( mild sarcasm alert )


Dec 1, 14 7:20 am  · 

I think it all boils down to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Either I know where I am but can't tell you how I got here, or I can tell you how I got here but have no idea where I am. 

Dec 1, 14 9:59 am  · 

There are several arch school educators here that should join the discussion, but aren't. 

I don't teach architecture but I have experience teaching and went to arch school. I think the value is in the practice of doing. It takes practice in seeing, composing, drawing, revising, presenting, so studio is where you do these things with guided intention over and over again. It is how you develop abilities and interests and learn from your mistakes. Architecture takes hours and hours and hours of doing to be able to do, it is like playing an instrument. It takes a lot of coordination in many varied processes. The one-on-one feedback you can get from a studio instructor is not found in other programs, especially in undergraduate programs. So there's the positives. 

However, what I think you want to hear is that school de-emphasizes the basic skills and deep knowledge part of the education. Therefore, it is up to the student to supplement their education and put together the big picture through interning and perhaps working construction. It takes experiences outside of school to be good at architecture, and school doesn't consider that very well. These experiences that would create more well rounded, effective designers are shoved aside amid the "rigor" of the studio. And so we have rigor mortis instead. 

Dec 1, 14 11:08 am  · 

I once told a professor I wanted to design like I could in my dreams. Meaning, all at once. He thought I was crazy and wouldn't do desk crits with me after that, he would just say, "you, uh, know what you're doing, right?" I think we should teach more meditation in design. Sitting and staring out a window IS designing. Riding your bike is too. You don't always have to be producing to be working. Architecture students spend way too much time bent over a desk or computer. Something to think about. 

Dec 1, 14 11:12 am  · 

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