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What exactly is "good" or "bad" building design / architecture.... what do clients want?

rcz1001

There's discussions and comments on or about "good" vs. "bad" designs and what clients want.

The following is my cursory take. In my opinion, I don't think clients are seeking "good" design or by such terms even if they don't know what term to use to describe what they want. I think MOST clients are pragmatic minded but that isn't always the case and we can find examples that differs. I think clients do seek better solutions to their needs and ideally looking for the best solution but are often pragmatic to the extent that they have finite resources they have set aside for the project. In general, clients will seek the best solutions to their needs within the budget they have set aside. 

What clients want is solutions. They are still design follows function minded and function. A little of the legacy of the core cultural value system of the past 100 years going back to cognitive reference points such as the "1920s" when things were great and peaceful and before the Depression, then WW II coming along. So we actually have two cognitive reference points, idealism of the 1920s and 50s but the technological lifestyle of today.... this is the "dream" of some.

As professionals, we aren't working on designing projects for clients so we can get fancy awards in a glossy magazine. Most of us, aren't. There's not enough clients around with the finances and desires to underwrite that kind of design freedom. What we have is regular folks on regular income that is regularly suppressed for 5 decades. 

The proverbial..... "good" versus "bad" design. That has often come up. Our value to client isn't going to be seen by clients as "good" design UNLESS "good" means that we are addressing their needs and desires efficiently and ideally within their budget. If we exceed, they get twitchy about those costly ideas unless you can compel them on the value it brings with legit numbers not b.s. but sometimes even b.s. sells but will they value the design as "good" in 5+ years or will they sue you. 

As a designer, it is paramount that we aren't b.s.ing the client even if the client is b.s.ing us. As professionals, we must be attentive to developing solutions. In my opinion, the best and ideal solution is not merely addressing the problem like a math problem with an engineering precision but one that imbues also an artistic quality of form and space, an experiential quality that isn't purely scientific or mathematical. It's a solution that brings efficiency to function. It's a solution that captures the experiential function.... the experience of the place not just the mere function. How do we make it work for the client's 'lifestyle' with quality and character. I can make an efficient box that is functionally efficient but ugly as f--- but therefore less expensive or go the extra expense that brings beauty of character and charm and those qualities that may not have a clear and immediately perceivable mathematical gain. We can have an ugly yet efficient restaurant and kitchen or we can have the same functional design but with beauty. It's not mutually exclusive. We can have the efficiency but with a little more money, we can have a charm and beauty that attracts so that would potentially bring more customers to the place than one that is ugly yet functionally efficient but it's cheap in appearance. But then the rest of the equation for a restaurant is on the restaurant to produce good food that people like but food taste is also not easily quantifiable but what you can quantify is sales and customers coming to your place over time. 

I believe if we done our job right, we done our clients a service that helps them. We have a role to help in facilitating and enabling them. This is a value as designers. 

This is just some thoughts. What thoughts do others have on the subject as designers/architects/etc.  

 
Sep 7, 21 8:22 pm
rcz1001

The above is some of my rambling thoughts on the subject matter. What are yours.... aside from snark and personal attack type criticism that some do like to do.

Sep 7, 21 8:24 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

.

Sep 7, 21 8:52 pm  · 
3  · 
Wood Guy

Rick, I believe this is at least in part to my response on another thread where I said that licensure doesn't prove that you're a good designer. In that context, by "good" I meant competent, skilled, talented.

As for judging design itself as good or bad, I agree that it's usually annoying--someone using their personal preference to declare something worthy or unworthy. I may not like a certain design but if it meets the program then who am I to say that it's objectively good or bad. There are exceptions, perhaps gauged by whether a large majority of the population finds it unwelcome or dangerous. 

Sep 8, 21 5:59 am  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

While in response in general to various comments from multiple posters where the words "good" and "bad" are used , the intent, here, is ultimately a broader discussion and not a specific post or comment on a specific thread, where the context is more narrow.


Sep 8, 21 6:33 am  · 
1  · 
midlander

i hate it and find it fascinating. it's the good kind of bad.

Sep 9, 21 9:43 am  · 
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tduds

When you're modeling wind forces and the principal walks by and says "Yes! I love that facade!"

Sep 9, 21 11:03 am  · 
2  · 
midlander

i was thinking dirty fingerprints on the model ;)

Sep 10, 21 10:19 am  · 
1  · 
natematt

It would be a lot better without the casino podium

Sep 11, 21 2:14 am  · 
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midlander

agree, the frivolity of the white strips laid over a basic black box is actually refreshingly easy. compared to that the podium is a belabored turd.

Sep 11, 21 3:19 am  · 
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square.

i like to think those trained in architecture have deeper critical thinking skills and are capable of using better words than "good" and "bad" to describe their work, both for themselves and their clients.

Sep 9, 21 11:11 am  · 
5  · 
monosierra

There's technical bad, which is fairly objective and often quantifiable (Moisture control, lighting, thermal comfort, energy usage, material longetivity, system coordination etc). The aesthetic side of things is harder to quantify - that's when personal stylistic preference comes in. And then there's the stuff between, such as space efficiency, which depends on the objectives of the brief.

Sep 9, 21 12:24 pm  · 
3  · 
midlander

sometimes what the client wants is objectively bad too for some users. that's the catch...

Sep 10, 21 10:21 am  · 
1  · 
monosierra

Agreed, that's where the client management skills come in. There's some nuance in the eternal debate over the client's good versus the greater good too. If what the client wants is objectively bad for his/her interests down the line, then surely the architect must inform the client of such dangers. If the project's flaws will be borne by some other end user, then the situation gets tricky. Even trickier is when the project has some long term, far flung impact that may or may not have anything to do with the client - Say, energy use or ethical dilemmas. What to do then, especially if the client is wilfully blind?

Sep 10, 21 3:28 pm  · 
1  · 
midlander

the very worst clients are the ones who can't recognize their own long term interests, and will fight bitterly defending their interest in doing something they will regret badly in a few years, and blame everyone else for. they are stupid in a profound way, incurable.

Sep 11, 21 3:18 am  · 
1  · 

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