Techniques of Design


1. "Concept" (also called "partee" or "idea") the essence of the design, the simply expressed main idea.

I.M. Pei Concept Sketch for the National Gallery, 1975


Church Schematic Plan - Richard Meyer, 2003

2. Combining elements

a. Grouping

b. Touching

Touching corner to corner


Touching corner to side


Touching side to side

c. Overlapping

Complete overlap


Partial overlap


d. Interpenetrating


e. Interlocking

f. Interlacing

3. Rearranging Elements

a. Slipping

b. Matching

c. Lining up

d. Rotating

e. Pushing and Pulling

f. Pin Wheeling

g. Telescoping

4. Superimposing a geometry

5. Working from simple to complex

6. Working from complex to simple

7. Additive Form (adding on)

8. Subtractive Form (scooping out)

9. Modular Organization

Chambered Nautilus Shell


A Sunflower Seed


Islamic Vaulting (looking up)


Chinese characters


Tobacco virus atoms seen through an electron microscope


Armadillo shell


Drawing by M. C. Escher


Example of Using a Module to Design




Exterior Precast Concrete,
Torrington Manufacturing Plant, Belgium 1963-64,
Marcel Breuer, Architect


Modular Design


Central Beheer Office Complex, Apeldoorn, Holland, 1972,
Herman Hertzberger, architect



Floor Plan


Workstation arrangement

Habitat 67, Montreal, Moshe Safdie, 1967



10. Using a predetermined building plan "type"

a. Double loaded corridor


b. Single loaded corridor


c. Central hall


d. "H" plan


e. "C" plan


f. Atrium


g. Courtyard

11. Using a predetermined structural system

Example of an exposed vertical truss system
Crystal House, "A Century of Progress Exposition," Chicago,
George Fred Keck, 1934

Cable Net Structure
German Pavilion, Montreal World's Fair, Frei Otto, 1967

Space Frame
McCormick Place on the Lake, Chicago, C. F. Murphey, 1968

Exterior Braced Frame
John Hancock Building, Chicago, SOM, 1970


Bundled Tube
Sears Tower, Chicago, SOM, 1972



12. Design from the "Outside In"
(select a predetermined form and fill it up)

Reliastar Building, Formerly Northwestern National Life Insurance Building,
Minneapolis, Minori Yamasaki, 1964


13. Design from the "Inside Out"
(exterior form of the building results from the spaces needed on the inside, or from the functional program)

Boston City Hall, Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles, 1968


Baker House Dormitories, MIT, Alvar Aalto, 1948


14. Design around a specific material

Design around glass block
Frank Fisher Apartments, Chicago, Andrew Rebori, 1939

Design around stainless steel
Pritzker Music Pavilion, Chicago, Frank Ghery, 2004


15. Optimize solar exposure

Tuburculosis Sanitorium, Paimio, Finland, Alvar Aalto, 1933


16. Design from energy conservation standpoint

a. Passive solar energy

Basic passive solar strategy

Passive solar house, Albuquerque, Studio E Architects, 2000


b. Active solar energy

Solar collector strategy

Solar solar hot water panels on house roof

Apartments with active solar hot water panels


c. Photovoltaics (PV)

Farm building

Photovoltaic solar panels
Gas Station, San Francisco, 2004, estimated 8 year payback period


d. Combination of passive and active solar energy

Solar assisted heating in Hayward, California


e. "Super insulated"


f. Double Skin

Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, Urbana, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, 2005


g. Active skin


h. Earth Sheltered


Earth sheltered house, Malcolm Wells



i. Wind Turbines

Turbine farm in Bakersfield, California

Freedom Tower Design with wind turbines, Daniel Liebeskind, 2005


j. Natural lighting


United Gulf Bank, Bahrain, SOM, 1987

United Gulf Bank Section thru exterior wall to study lighting

Lighting model

Lighting model

Lighting Model


j. Building envelope optimization
(the least area of enclosure to surround the maximum volume of building)

16. Focal point

Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome, 1626

Piazza della Signoria, Florence


17. Design around the topography of the site

18. Design around vehicular traffic and parking

Aeon Mall, Japan, 2005

19. Separation of public and private spaces

20. Organize the building around pleasant or spectacular views

Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, Loius Kahn, 1965

21. Imitate historic styles of architecture

Harold Washington Central Library, Chicago, Tom Beebe, 1989


County Federal Savings, Fairfield, Connecticut, Robert Venturi, 1977

Weekend house designs, Robert Venturi, 1978

Flint House, Deleware, Robert Venturi, 1978

22. Reproduce an "image" of an object which is familiar


New York Transit Station at Ground Zero, Santiago Calatrava, 2005

Milwaukee Art Museum, Santiago Calatrava, 2003