Architecture Theory

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  • Topic: Design, Designer, Design management
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The first piece of writing for Assessment 1b will draw upon the Harfield paper, and asks you to concentrate your attention on the author’s views/claims about the role played in design decision-making by the beliefs/preferences/assumptions of the individual designer(s). To what extent and how is this argument sustainable? To what extent is it persuasive, and why? If you are not persuaded, then how and on what basis would you argue against the claims.

The general point of dispute brought up within Harfield’s article concerns itself with the design problem issue that is found within architecture. Harfield suggests that there is no common design problem within architecture as it’s the architect’s inherent and individual beliefs, preferences and assumptions which will ultimately dictate their individual design problem. Indeed Harfield suggests that whilst architects might have the same brief, they are not engaged in solving the same design problem (Harfield, 2007, p 160). However Harfield retracts his playful usage of the term ‘design problem’ when he asserts that “while it may be convenient to discuss design in terms of problem-solving, design is not simply problem-solving. A range of qualitative issues - intellectual and emotional, formal, spatial and aesthetic are not articulated in the brief” but are crucial to the success of the solution (Harfield, 2007, p165). This introduces the idea that designers are more so inclined to create their own design problem as a result of their own personal experiences.

This view is supported by by Solovyova, who suggests that the “design process can be seen as a symbolic transformation and translation of an architects experience into new meaningful content” (Solovyova, 2005, p1). Indeed as Downing stated, “designers utilize the knowledge and emotional impact contained in their memorable experiences in order to assist them in the creative design process” (Downing, 2000). But what of its relation to Harfield’s mention of the design problem itself. As Dorst and Cross suggested, ‘.creative design is not a matter of first fixing the problem and then searching for a satisfactory solution concept. Creative design seems more to be a matter of developing and refining together both the formulation of a problem and ideas for a solution’ (Dorst & Cross, 2001). This co-evaluation of problem/solution demands far more individual thought than would be required if it were as simple as solving the problem put forth by the client, and therefore requires much deeper involvement and calls upon the individual designers beliefs and assumptions.

Concurrent with this idea is Cross’s assertion that creative design “involves a period of exploration in which problem and solution spaces are evolving and unstable until (temporarily) fixed by an emergent bridge which identifies a problem-solution pairing” (Cross, 1997). The creative insight in design is therefore seen to take a perceptual bridge building between a problem and a solution rather than a ‘creative leap’. This bridge building involves designers using what Holm calls designers’ “distinctive individual” design values, which are categorized into; aesthetic values, social values, environmental, traditional values and gender values (Holm, 2006 p2). These can be further minimized into three main domains, external conditions, self imposed conditions and a knowledge perspective.

Indeed it’s the lack of similar factual results (from common design problems) within architecture that makes designers more dependent on these values than other professions. Indeed as Holm states, “the main feedback that designers are receiving is how well a design adheres to their own evaluation criteria, which is mainly based on their own design values as well as design values founded within the profession” (Holm, 2006, p281). This demonstrates the way in which architects are forced to allow their own personal opinions and judgments to dictate their future projects time and...
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