the problem of "design"

"Design" is one of those funny words which means different things to almost everyone. It is a word which the great Chicago architect Mies van der Rohe always refused to use in reference to his buildings because it conveyed a sense of arbitrariness which he did not think was the basis of architecture. However, we cannot avoid the fact that everything that exists in our world which is man made (90% of our environment) is "designed" by someone. When one creates something "by design" it means that he has thought about what the requirements of that thing and purposely and methodically set out to make an object which meets those requirements. One could pile objects up without thinking about the outcome and create a work of are, but this is not done "by design" and is therefore not what we would call a design. One could wander aimlessly through the desert for weeks (if one lives long enough) and finally discover an oasis, but this could not be called discovery by design. The intention of this course in design is to eliminate the aimless wandering in the desert and to help you, the student, discover those oases of beauty "by design". This will shorten the distance between beginning and goal, and enable you to establish a life long ability to proceed methodically from problem to solution along the most direct path. The creation of architecture is a process which involves using the proper tools and techniques. It is, to paraphrase Thomas Edison, 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. You do not have to wait for the great god of creativity to descend upon you to be able to produce great architecture. Once this is realized, the initial frustrating which most students face in trying to be creative will be eliminated and a whole new world of design will be opened up.

The creation of any object, whether it be a chair or a building is not a matter of personal preference. It is a solution to a problem. Your personal preference, likes or dislikes, which are sometimes an outgrowth of your past pleasant or unpleasant experiences, have little or no place in making design decisions. No artist or architect does anything only because "they like it." That is not "by design". In learning the methods of architectural design, your personal preferences are irrelevant.

Relating to this idea is a similar concept of cultural preferences. An example might be America's preference for watching football games vs. Italy's love of soccer. This is created over a long period of time through habit, repetition, and familiarity. Architects, as a group, suffer from similar culturally-created prejudices. This is because most architects go through the same training process and socialize with other architects who have similar goals. Since you will be working among architects, and will be looking for approval from this group so you will be able to work, you too will have to subscribe to what you might call "archi-cultural thinking." What architects like and what the "normal public" likes may not necessarily be the same (although experience has shown that public taste eventually changes to match archi-cultural taste). Examples of architect's preferences in the recent past are the use of white walls throughout the interior of a building, the preference for glass and chrome tables, Barcelona chairs, Eames chairs, white shag rugs, oriental rugs on strip oak floors, all glass walls, Helvetica Medium lettering style, crossed lines in drawing at corners where lines meet, red convertible foreign sport cars, Burberry trench coats, "muted" colors, exposed steel or wood trusses, rough finished exposed concrete, flat roofs, stucco exterior walls, and open loft living spaces. Some of these preferences are in the process of changing and will be as different in 50 years as they were 50 years ago. You as a student should be aware of this fact, and know when making your decisions whether or not those decisions would be acceptable or approved in the architectural community. You certainly should not let this fact guide your designs alone, but if you do venture out beyond the norms of culture, you should do so fully understanding the risks and consequences.