Do buildings have to be complex in form in order to designate it as a good design?


This argument made me hesitant to present my proposals. I am afraid that the design might look too complex and also too simple.

Sep 21, 21 12:39 pm


Sep 21, 21 12:41 pm  · 
6  · 


Sep 27, 21 2:25 pm  · 
Non Sequitur
  1. define good design.
  2. define who defines good, design, complex, form
  3. go to the pub and have a pint, the answer is an overwhelming no

Sep 21, 21 12:48 pm  · 
2  · 

Complexity without purpose is a waste of resources.

Sep 21, 21 12:58 pm  · 
5  · 
Non Sequitur

what if your purpose IS to waste resources?

Sep 21, 21 4:48 pm  · 

some would argue looking cool and complex is a purpose.

Sep 21, 21 4:50 pm  · 

Those people would be fools.

Sep 23, 21 10:02 am  · 

There is also deciptive simplicity.

Sep 21, 21 1:05 pm  · 

I swear I spend more time trying to make complicated things look simple...

Sep 21, 21 1:38 pm  · 
1  · 

It is an art form in itself.

Sep 21, 21 1:50 pm  · 

sci-arc student?

Sep 21, 21 1:33 pm  · 
1  · 


Sep 21, 21 1:58 pm  · 

If it pleases the court, I'd like to submit into evidence two exhibits: 1) The Barcelona Pavilion, and 2) The Kimbell Art Museum. 

Sep 21, 21 2:04 pm  · 
2  · 

I don't know if that is the best example of a simple form since the vault is a cycloid.

Sep 21, 21 2:43 pm  · 

A cycloid would be pretty simple to draw with drafting equipment on hand, even if building it might not be. It also looks simple, even if it is more complex.

Sep 21, 21 2:57 pm  · 
1  · 

First of all, what is a good design? I actually want to know.

Complexity in form has its own benefits. But often times come with extra costs. I would rather have a high R value walls, Triple glazed windows, skylights, good interior finishes, etc before I get into those curved, zig zag shapes, cantilevers or whatever crazy forms. Of course, If money is no issue, then I will have both. But if I have that much money, I probably will just use the extra money to build a second building instead of dumping it on crazy forms.

Sep 21, 21 4:46 pm  · 

What do you view as the benefits of complex forms? 

 I think they can have many positive functional aspects - sitting gently on the site, solar response, shedding wind, ect. That's without getting into the subjective aesthetic benefits.

Sep 23, 21 10:49 am  · 

don’t mistake the complicated for the complex.   

Sep 21, 21 5:10 pm  · 

An elementary particle like a quark or electron is very very complex, but about as basic as it gets as far as current physics can tell. So, my complexity test is, how much can you say about something, and how much can it do. Think more about its interpretation and effect, and less about its form and tectonics.

Sep 22, 21 2:32 pm  · 
1  · 

I had a professor in college that used to say "Architecture should strive to be complex, but not complicated." I always like to look at good design as being a multi-layered cake, where each layer can be pulled apart as a distinct component, but they form something beautiful when put together.

Sep 23, 21 11:42 am  · 

good design is always complex. sometimes its packaged in very simple forms. the examples are numerous - start with some contemporary minimalists and work back for examples.

Sep 22, 21 1:03 am  · 
1  · 

It all depends on your post-rationalisation!

Sep 22, 21 2:16 am  · 
Wood Guy

I compare it to writing. I'm a part-time professional writer and my goal is always to edit down until left with no more words than necessary. (I'm heavy editor; it's not unusual for me to write 10K words or more for what will eventually be a 2K-word article.) I feel the same about architecture; I appreciate design that is pared down to the essentials and nothing more. That doesn't necessarily mean a stark-white smooth box; trim elements and articulated facades serve purposes such as saving money, eliciting an emotional response or taking advantage of a specific view.

On the other hand, writing can be flowery prose or confounding poetry, and architecture can be like that as well. 

(This comment needs editing...) 

Sep 22, 21 7:59 am  · 
3  · 

Problem is many people suck at both and we get the worst of both when they try to "master" both haphazardly during their creative mid-life crisis . Not simple enough to get into the level of detail finesse; not ambitious or talented enough to elevate to art level.

Sep 22, 21 2:48 pm  · 
Wood Guy

Do we all need to be masters? I consider myself more of a perpetual student.

Sep 22, 21 5:23 pm  · 
1  · 

@WG - Achieved true mastery, you have.

Sep 23, 21 10:28 am  · 
1  · 

There is no right solution to architectural problems, only better and worse answers to the problem. Both simple and complex solutions to form can be successful and I'd often argue that simpler is better. 

Be passionate in your argument and you'll be fine.

Sep 23, 21 11:14 am  · 

Agree with the sentiment, disagree on the language in your last statement.

Passion doesn't need to be a part of it and likely indicates you don't know how to defend your design. *Articulate* your *considered* argument and you'll be fine. They may not agree with you ... that's fine too.

Two things that made me cringe the most during reviews were 1) when the reviewer would set the student up by asking a leading question, and the student would fall for it, and 2) when the student would simply double down on their argument when it was clear the reviewer wasn't buying it. For #1 we used to talk about how they gave you enough rope to hang yourself and then you did. For #2 we used to wonder why someone simply couldn't say "Thank you. That gives me something to think about," or something like that. They don't have to agree with you, and you don't have to agree with them. In both cases though, I think the designer being too passionate about (or emotionally invested in) the design led to the results.

Sep 23, 21 1:55 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

A rant I often go on when discussing "good" and "bad" architecture with the uninitiated (but can't remember if I have or not on Archinect - I may have just assumed people here would already know) goes back to good ol' Vitruvius: Utility, Firmness, and Beauty.

Utility and firmness can be defined and judged more-or-less objectively, so a building can be called either "good" or "bad" based on these criteria. Beauty, on the other hand, is subjective, so the only real criteria that can be applied there are whether the architect feels good about it, the client likes it (and pays), and maybe it doesn't offend too many of the neighbors.

Applying this to the subject of complexity, I would ask if the complexity results in a floor plan like a carnival funhouse (failing Utility) or if it requires really screwy structural solutions (maybe not strictly failing Firmness, but making it absurdly expensive) - if a building passes both the Firmness and Utility tests, and the complexity is really just about creating visual interest in the elevations, then I'd say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Sep 23, 21 2:51 pm  · 

I can largely agree with that Everyday Architect. Maybe passionate isn't the right word, but passion always sold the idea to clients better than logic by itself in my experience. Dealing with other designers, the inverse is largely true.

I think all architects operate best with some level of detachment from their designs though. Sometimes you're heading down the wrong path and you are better off abandoning it before sinking more time and energy into it. A lot of projects end up in the trash, too. It's better to relax, laugh about it, and move on with life.

Sep 23, 21 3:15 pm  · 
Good design from my college experience as taught by my professors is as follows:

If you cant take the model and turn it upside down and shake it and it doesnt fall apart - it is good design.

If you could describe it as “sexy” - it is good design.

If it looks unbuildable - it is good design.

If it is described with lots of words ending in “-tions” & “-ology” or other words that you probably never use in your everyday conversations - it is good design.

Now how my clients view good design:

If the cost of construction is lower than estimated - it is good design

The building operates as it should for their staff - it is good design

Point is it is all subjective my dude and dependant on whomever you are designing it for!
Sep 25, 21 1:19 pm  · 
1  · 

I don't think any of my favorite buildings have very complicated forms (I think complicated is what you really mean). A professor of mine said that there is a difference between complexity and complicated. A rectilinear building can be complex, but not complicated whereas some of the latest buildings utilizing Grasshopper for facades (for example) can be complicated but not complex.

Sep 27, 21 6:27 pm  · 
1  · 

"simplistic complication" could be a good term for some recent design trends

Sep 28, 21 12:01 am  · 

as well as the thought processes most people seem to engage in

Sep 28, 21 12:02 am  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: