'Concept' in Architecture

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'Concept' in Architecture

Postby JingYao » Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:45 pm

Hi Everyone!!

I am doing a research about how the term 'concept' is used in architecture, would be glad if anyone could drop a few lines to express themself.

Thank you in advance.

JingYao.
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Postby JingYao » Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:31 am

Ok, let me put down a little more context.

When we say, the 'concept' for my project is such and such....
What do we really mean by that? What are we trying to convey?
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Postby csintexas » Sun Aug 19, 2007 9:45 am

I think we are talking about the ideas that will guide our design. They can be practical or abstract.
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Postby JingYao » Sun Aug 19, 2007 4:21 pm

I suppose having a guide to something could mean that having someone or something who has experienced it before and will lead the way, having some kind of assurance to where the road ahead is pointing.

What is that something that pointing a way of design? Is it scalar as in that the experience have been there before or is it vector that is formulated by an algorithm which suite many conditions?

I suppose a guide in this sense meaning both envisaging the beginning and an end. How then is this sort of guide formulate?
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Postby csintexas » Sun Aug 19, 2007 5:05 pm

Yes we can think of it as something or someone who has come before but it isn't limited to those two things. It can be any idea you can imagine.

On this project that am currently working on I tried to use the things that Frank Lloyd Wright taught us but without copying him, as part of my concept.

http://www.designcommunity.com/forums/v ... sc&start=0

http://www.inspiredhabitat.com/communit ... d.php?t=54
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Postby JingYao » Sun Aug 19, 2007 5:58 pm

Great project, I like it very much!!

OK, If i may analyse your sentense "I tried to use the things that Frank Lloyd Wright taught us but without copying him, as part of my concept."

Now it could mean that you have abstracted concept from his project and applied into a new project, or it could mean that you have understood his concept and applied it to your project. I guess, it could also mean that you have abstracted his ideas and integrated with your own and formed a concept, once formed it serves as a guide to your design.

In a sense your building is an extension of his concept, a metonym.
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Postby csintexas » Sun Aug 19, 2007 6:30 pm

you have abstracted his ideas and integrated with your own and formed a concept, once formed it serves as a guide to your design.

In a sense your building is an extension of his concept, a metonym.

This is correct.
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The Universal Implications of the term "Concept"

Postby usarender » Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:24 pm

It is apparent, from these discussions, that each individual seems to have his own view or interpretation of what is a "concept". This is typical in the architectural practice.

A concept is an inspiration, an idea, a vision. It can and should come from within, based on one's experiences, exposure to the architectural world, other styles, one's own ideas and, so to speak, "it is the inspiration that suddenly comes to mind, or light of inspiration" one receives after working arduously on a project seeking for a solution. So it must not be a mere copy of someone's architectural style, nor must it be a mere incorporation of architectural elements from someone else's design. To often designers do this, and think they are incorporating the "concept" of the source architect. Frank Ching in his book illustrates the basic order of architecture, and this can be used to help one structure one's concept according to orderly principles. But, it is still not in essence the concept, although many use it as the "concept", the ordering principle. To me, "concept" encompasses Ching's orders and may incorporate architectural styles of other architects but goes much beyond this. It is the underlying principle, the underlying inspiration that enables an architect to have a vision that will unite the form, function and program requirements into one integral design or guiding idea. It can be in the form of a sketch, a mental image that leads to various sketches and organizational patterns, or it can be a concrete expression of a basic idea one is trying to achieve in order to resolve the architectural problem at hand. The word "concept" is thus the probably most widely mis-understood terms for students of architectural design, since many simply copy a style of another architect and call it a "concept". This is truly not a concept, but a decision to use the style or elements from another architect to help you form your own concept. Some have no concept in mind and simply imitate the style of another architect and may use orderly principles. In other cases, the concept is inherent and can be easily viewed and understood by the observer. If a building follows the order as established by Ching, it will be following the orderly principles that guide the formation of a concept, so the result will be your own application, or "concept" of the orderly principles as they apply to the design at hand, and as they apply to your own ideas, style, and way of applying the orderly principles in an aesthetic, artistic, functional organization of the program of spaces, in a way to create an inspired vision for the client.

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Postby JingYao » Mon Aug 20, 2007 4:33 pm

Hi UsaRender, thx for your post.

I agree ‘concept’ is possibly is the most mis-understood term for student in architecture design, the notion of concept is generally understood as form or aesthetical idea. In a sense ‘concept’ has a certain level of physicality, an image, a certain idea that used as a guide to put things together.

However, I think the notion of concept is that it should lie in the abstract, its formulation should perhaps in a mental space, not in the physical. Most of the time learning from the site, client, programme and putting together ideas together does not necessarily qualify it as concept, but an idea, perhaps an idea that could encompasses all the parameter that makes a building work, you could call it inspiration, but I think there is something missing in there. I think a concept should communicate something greater than the building, an expression, a gesture, a mental meaning, something in the spirit of. If it is inspiration, what do we do to invent it, or do we sit around and wait for it to appear?

Like Steven Holl’s Martha’s Vineyard house (just a random example), taking the skeleton of a whale, extract the poetics of light and shadow, what is the significance of this in architecture?

Definitely, adapting a style or an orderly principle makes the design process much easier, just like adopting a form and filling the programme.
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Further considerations in defining an architectural concept

Postby usarender » Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:00 pm

Hello,

It seems you are in the quest of something you still have not quite defined, that lacks some conviction, some form, some overall guiding principle.

The definition of the term concept may have a multitude of interpretations.

Take is as an idea, an inspiration, a beam of light, a guiding thought, a vision, an abstract thought, an act of creation, a hard desperate attempt to mentally resolve a problem, a search or quest for a perfect solution that leads to a resulting mental image, or, in a reductionist view -->>

"I basically wanted to express the concept that"...

"I took a whale as my concept" and extracted its play of light and darkness and effect on architecture.

Or "My concept is to explore the proportion of human form and it's implication on the design of a building"

All these are subjective, personal somewhat deviating forms of the word concept that result in what we see as the architecture of the world today.

If concept must truly have some deeper "abstract" quality, meaning, or form of expression, then what do you feel that to be ?

Can you keep trying ? Maybe in your next post you can define it better.

I can only give suggestions. There does seem to be, however, general architectural agreement that the definitions as expressed best define the word "concept" in architecture.

Others are invited to post their contributions as well.
Last edited by usarender on Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby csintexas » Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:11 pm

personally I don't think metaphysics is a requirement for concept.
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Postby JingYao » Mon Aug 20, 2007 7:46 pm

Hi UsaRender,
You are perfectly right, I am trying to bait for an understanding the meaing of concept. I truly do not wish for a bookish definition for the term 'concept' in architecture, but more wish to hear what people think it is in practice.

I am comparing the use of the word 'concept' in lauguage with 'concept' in architecture. I am trying to see if there are any connections.

In my heuristic opinion, i think it is largely connect, however the common use of the term 'concept' in architecture tend toward an idea, something more specific, something you carry out, something that serves as a guideline. As a preconcieved idea in the mind of the architecture who intend to build his building as it appears to the mind.

In basic langauge sense seeing a concept as a category that we form from abstracting from different ideas and use it in judgement to see certain ideas are in line with the project or not, then itself acts like a guideline. Now the questiosn lies whether the abstraction occurs from ideas that came from the related context or alien personal introduction as a means to give meaning.

In searching for concept for a project what are we searching for? A form what will fit all our programmes, structure, services nicely. An integrated ideas which are made from different small ideas, an pixelated image conceived as sort of vision depending on the design process to sharpen, a method which we can employ that makes parameter works beautifully in every sense and so on..

Are search for a way to start or an overall view of the project, a solution? In thinking a concept as a guideline, does it mean we are adopting a top-down approach?
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Postby mx2 » Mon Aug 20, 2007 8:45 pm

I find that the problem with students (and some architects) misunderstanding "concept" is the fact that it is difficult to grasp if it has never been experienced. It's akin to explaining what sex is like to a virgin. Hence, why many schools spend vast amounts of energy to teach methodology, rather than simply allowing the young designers to begin with random shapes, spaces, etc...

Even to choose a concept has been the most elusive idea to many who try to grasp it. They find comfort in laying out walls and openings and basing it on human functions. This is of course, engineering, as one famous architect expressed. So, my advice to many has been to keep trying and keep seeking to work with a concept by doing your research about the nature of the project, while still formulating the concept. And then it is critical to understand that concepts evolve as the information starts to narrow in on what begins to "feel" to be the best ideas. Essentially as one professor a long time ago once told (don't remember who either unfortunately)...it is the information that drives the design; you must design the concept which then informs your formal decisions.

And this is a continuous process that lasts the lifetime of any project.

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Postby csintexas » Mon Aug 20, 2007 10:38 pm

JingYao,
I think you will find that once you get away from the dictionary definition of concept that it specifically means different things to different people even within a fairly homogeneous group like architects. But you can see the commonality just in these few responses so it is still based on the definition.

however the common use of the term 'concept' in architecture tends toward an idea, something more specific, something you carry out, something that serves as a guideline. As a preconceived idea in the mind of the architecture who intend to build his building as it appears to the mind.


This is a broad statement so it is mostly true, and it could be more true for more notable building verses all the buildings ever created. I assume you are talking more about the preconceived idea part than the serves as a guide part (because serves as a guide in my mind is not a preconcieved idea).

Also a new concept may be developed well into the design of a project. I don't know Steven Holl’s Martha’s Vineyard house but can we say wether it was started with that concept or just ended with it.

Personally I don't think it is appropriate to always have "A" concept some projects may lend themselves to that but most don't. I think I start a project with several concepts and as I work through the problem at some point a solution develops that I am happy with. For example the project I showed you. The first image I posted occurred two months after the project started. Everything before that was doodling and my drawing abilities are so poor I usually don't show it.

So I guess what I'm saying is that even though ideas seem to come to life in full on some of these building you may read about I think they are actually a product of evolution.
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Postby JingYao » Tue Aug 21, 2007 5:45 pm

I agree with mx2 approach, i think experience is very important part of design process, in a way the process you had describe is a synergy of bottom-up and top-down systems approach. Working with a medium and exploring its possibility is a bottom-up approach. By refleting on the totalily of information reducing it to a single idea is a top-down approach.
Perhaps, this tendacy in a way is the natural process of our mind extended to do more complex work than for exmaple construction of a sentence. The words choose and intension of the meaning conveyed happens at the same time. In a way we contemplate the frame and the content together, having the frame without content is not expressable, having content without frame is meaningless.

However, i feel there is a little short comming in this process, especially in the context of creativity. If we view ideas as a bundle or group of information, then in itself has a certain frame which holds certain amount of informaiton together to form an idea. Secondly, idea can be viewed as a natural or familiar bundle of information held together for easy access from our memory and in our way of thinking, metaphorically speaking if it can have size, is relative to a typology in architecture. In a sense we will possibly be confined in a typology, the most we can do is to alter it in this typing of thinking.

The natural tendacy of the mind, especially if we view the mind as a self-organising system(otherwise there will be chaos of framentation of infomraiton that does not make sense) is to group data, so as the body experience the site, context, the programme, it starts to form ideas, naturally to understand what he is perceiving and to store in memory as a bundle or information, the other way of looking at it is making reference to the experience he already know. The shortcoming of this process is that once the mind forms an idea, it is very hard to disassociate. Then ideas are formulated depending on the sequence of arrival of information.
In this sense, what do we look at first in design matters. Is it the structure, the programme, the aethetics, the form, etc...?

Is there other way forming concepts or ideas? Especially, in the conceptual sense, when do we do the conceptual engineering in a process? How do we do it? What do we abstract and analyse?


As UsaRender pointed out i have not really defined my intension yet, I don't really know what i am searching for. One thing i am sure is that i am not looking for a definition non i think it is possible to define, since concept is in essence abstract and formless, to define is to conform into a form.


Reflecting on what Csintexas was talking about, i think i might be questioning the notion of inventiviness, as how a preconceived ideas is formed in the mind. Is it creation, is it referential to somehting in context of the project or outside that is personal? How is such thing conceived?
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