1. Read books
They say there is no friend as loyal as a book. Books act as gateways to the vast world around us. Even in the field of architecture, there is no dearth of books on every topic imaginable. If you are on the lookout for a concept, books are an excellent starting point. Looking into the variety of ways that ideas can be formed and executed is always a good start.
Books like ‘Conditional Design – An Introduction to Elemental Architecture’ and ‘Operative design – A Catalogue of Spatial Verbs’ by Anthony Di Mari—focus on ideating and forming concepts. Books like these give you the basics of the design and the formation of spaces.
On top of that books can give you context through examples and studies. Who knows? Maybe a particular image you find in a book might just reignite your brain and lead you to your next great concept!
2. Sketch out your ideas
An architect is inseparable from his or her sketches. It is an integral part of an architect’s identity with many famous architects being recognized by their sketches alone. For example, Frank Gehry is famous for his quick and rough sketches. But though very basic, his sketches convey the concept of his design almost immediately.
Sketching can really help with designing concepts. When you sketch, your brain thinks and that thought is almost instantly drawn on paper by your hands. This allows you to express ideas that you might have had in your mind but couldn’t quite understand. Sketching those ideas out on paper can lend clarity to them and simplify your design process.
Even when you are not on the lookout for a concept, it is a good habit to keep a sketchbook with you and sketch whenever possible. This way, you can look back on your sketches and find possible ideas from them.
3. Look into case studies
Studying from the works of those before we are one of the best ways to understand what works, when, and where. You can look up case studies of the type of concept you are searching for. Case studies can help us understand how different architects have designed according to the various constraints that they have been presented with.
If you are unsure of how to approach a particular site or context, looking up case studies with similar constraints can give you an idea of what to expect and an understanding of how to tackle it. You can even visit the sites directly if possible. Incorporating aspects from your case studies into your design will enhance your concepts and make them even more interesting.
4. Approach your idea from different angles
A design concept doesn’t need to be just about form or aesthetics. Sometimes, the concept for a structure might be based on other factors like context, climate, culture, function, etc. For example, the functions of a school might require a design that has a lot of open gathering spaces for various student activities. A house for a large joint family might need a lot of rooms.
A particular material might need to be used extensively because of its cost and availability in a region. Aspects like these need not just be considered as factors but can also be actively involved in forming the concept of your design.
5. Take a break, do something else
Sitting for hours and hours at your desk, brainstorming for a design concept in architecture need not always lead to success. Sometimes your brain just needs a break. At this point, you should stop working and do something else. Read a novel. Go for a walk. Call and talk to a friend. If such short breaks are not cutting it for you and you still feel tired and uninspired, perhaps it is time for a longer one!
Yes, even in the field of architecture (one of the most hectic careers in the world), sometimes you just have to stop working and let your mind and body rest. You could do a workout, watch a movie, help in the kitchen, or cook something yourself. When you set your work aside and do something else, it rejuvenates your brain and before you know it—that elusive concept is now right within your eyesight.
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