Design Thinking, A Case Study:

Design Thinking A Case Study:

This article will focus upon an unusual design of an ancient ‘city gate’. It represents a story that came to light, as part of an archeological dig that occurred in Israel. It represents a fascinating design that was unlike any city gate of its day. It also provides some interesting parallels about how design was and continues to be used today. And it also provides an historical perspective on how design thinking was used in this ancient city.    

In the 9th century B.C, the city gate had become such an important feature in the ancient world, that it became a necessary part of building a city. However, over time, the city gate  soon became the weak link and no longer served to protect. However this story shows how design thinking was utilized to change all that. 

The Megiddo Gates, A Case Study:

The ancient city I am referring to, is the discovery of the City Gates of ‘Megiddo’. Through detailed records of the archeological dig, a plan was revealed in which the design of the gate system entailed an enclosed passageway that included internal chambers. Special chambers that served to provide added protection.  

The design of the ‘Megiddo Gate’ (sketch depicted above) reveals the actual floor plan of the ancient ruins. As the details emerged this gate system included  much more than a single gate, but also became a place of civic governance and commerce that occurred at the gate itself. In addition, the structure was built with a substantial foundation and long lasting materials. In addition, the wall structure was built to include an internal passage way with chambers, designed to be within the thick walled structure. In turn the walled gate became a fortified building structure that also housed diverse functions while also protecting the city gate. The design fundamentally changed the typical operation of the city entrance gate and influenced the way the city gate functioned. It was as though the city gate itself had become a symbol of royal governance. 

This ancient city gate revealed a design mindset, that incorporated an understanding of the various challenges of its day, and also how it was transformed the city.  The new Megiddo gates provided a novel and life saving approach for its time. It represent a solution that created several large multi layered walled systems of  large blocks that made it difficult to enter or traverse the passage for nefarious reasons. An apposing army that did dare to attempt to break through the first gate, was soon overwhelmed by the multi-gate system and battle ready stations on either side of the passage way. In addition, it was a very tight corridor of articulated rock walls and internal chambers which were easily supplied by a network of internal passage ways behind solid masonry walls. In addition, the slope of the passage way was also inclined. In time of peace, various systems were provided to allow for passage of goods and materials to traverse the passage. 

The Essence of Design Thinking:

In consideration of the above noted case study of the ‘Megiddo city gate’. We see a solution that moves well beyond the typical inherent weakness of the known city gates of its day and provided advanced functions and operations that dramatically improved the city on many levels. The design solution clearly represented advancements over the status quo, and boldly moved beyond the status quo; providing an extensive array of enhanced functionality and value to its citizenry. The new gate system also advanced an innovative approach in how it solidified the city as a royal seat of governance. No longer would the fortified gate here be taken for granted. Interestingly, the Megiddo city gate advancements did not use new material, or technology, but rather demonstrated its innovation with a design mindset. It used existing materials in new ways. And it utilized wisdom over a reliance upon brute force, or other such physical advancements of the day. 

Great challenges can inspire Good Design:

The genius of the Megiddo city gate plan, is found in its ability to completely transform the single gate system of its day into a multifaceted solution. They discovered ways to enhance and improve upon the design, which also represent a critical aspect of design thinking. A prototype was created, and it allowed for further refinement and testing of the final structure. In addition, the new gate became an identifying feature of this city. It worked in concert with other vital civic functions of the city. All in all, it represented both a practical and judicious use of space, and how it embodied an ordered path that protected its people.. 

From a modern perspective, the design of the Megiddo city gate, depicts a fascinating account of what design thinking looks like even in this ancient city.  Solving major challenge’s of its day by thinking far along a path and looking to provide valuable and effective solutions. The case study delineates a way of how advancing viable solutions, can add substantial value, benefits and vital functions for human beings. It’s much more than a fancy facade or skin deep solutions. 

Modern Day Applications:

Today this design methodology can be applied to how we design our homes and places of work. Not as city gate mind you – however, we can utilize the principles of design thinking to realize solutions and seek to transcend the problems of our day. With a design mindset, much can be accomplished. The City gates of the ancient city of Megiddo depicts a real-life example of a city that used design and thinking. And it is an example that occurred almost 3000 years ago.    


Design Thinking, A Case Study: Read More »

Simple, But Needed Planning Process

A Simple But Needed Planning Process:

Developing the architectural design for a home or most any project, requires a process that helps you navigate through a diverse array of decisions. This is especially true when having to coordinate among various stakeholders. This post will focus on a brief overview, to help navigate your project to completion. And establish a simple but needed process.

Design Work Requires A Plan:

Often, our initial ideas fall short, and it is not until they are refined and expanded upon that they become worth perusing. Learning to plan provides a way to work through many ideas and begin the process of setting the course of the project. It also will help to refine ideas over time and perhaps reveal challenges that need resolution. Discovering challenges early on can be a way to save time and money. A great way to begin this planning process is to develop the building program and functional requirements of your project. Working through your program, will establish the preliminaries of your vision. Unfortunately, many homes by-pass this planning stage and are mass produced, with a one size fits all philosophy. This does nothing to improve upon our building infrastructure.  

Only after a good understanding of the building program and client expectations, can the design professional begin the next process of exploring ideas, and solutions. But it’s all contingent upon a specific program, which BTW should include the site, and budget requirements. The process leads to clarity and adds value to the project by way of thoughtful development. This planning process provides the initial steps of developing and organizing your building objectives and goals.  Through this planning process, the project can begin to start a dialogue of whats important, and were do we want to take this project? This initial process alone, can far and above exceed a design professionals fee! (even before the designing begins)

Although hiring an architect for your residential project may not be for everyone. It can be quite beneficial on many levels , both from the perspective of how to align your budget with the overall aesthetics. They can also prove to be a valuable part of the team during the construction phase. The architect’s experience with working through various solutions beyond just the standard building approach, lends itself to help clients achieve greater efficiencies through design that might not otherwise be possible. This provides the client with a site specific solutions that are infinity more valuable than an arbitrary process of building from a stock plan. 

A Case Study Example:

By way of a simple example, If the architect can design a residential plan operate more efficiently, even by 100sf, that can represent a major cost savings, In the case were a  building cost is $250/sf, that can be a $25,000 savings! (using a very conservative building cost value.) This is a tiny example, however it provides a clear advantage in designing a home. In addition, aligning the extensive array of various functions with the design, provides solutions that are harmonious and well thought out.  It is not unusual  for those projects that have had an architect involved in the design process; typically can add approximately 10-15% or greater value over comparable homes utilizing an off the shelf variety.  The potential to serve a homeowner through a formal design process provides many advantages. Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us.”  

When a schematic plan is developed, it establishes a process in which you are able to order your goals and objective. As ideas are developed, and greater levels of information can be established this can serve as a preliminary cost estimation tool. A building contractor can review these documents and provide preliminary cost estimates, based on specific square footage and design parameters. It’s a great way to gauge your budget and the cost implications at an early stage. This can also facilitate effective revisions long before the project is built.  

Another aspect or benefit of using a design process, establishes a framework to evaluate all the applicable building codes. This is about mitigating risk, and establishing a clear path before the construction process starts. In short, this is not only about the design, it is about creating value through planning, mitigating risk, and seeking to improve upon how you live.

Utilizing an Architect to Include the Art With the Science:

Like soo many things in life, it helps to have a plan. Having a design process can greatly help in clarifying and attaining your goals. It is also interesting how setting out on a journey to create something, can lead to discovery and improvement. There is something quite unique about the process of planning, establishing goals, creating a vision can provide added meaning to life, and in turn help to create substantial value. As an architect, I have discovered that having a design process in place helps to organize lots of information so as to prioritize the effort. In short, with no guide, chaos can quickly ensue and undermine any building project. The process that leads to bringing ideas and concepts together in a meaningful way, can also help make the dreams a reality. It’s vital that the client has an advocate and guide to balance the art with the science of building. 

Simple, But Needed Planning Process Read More »

Design Thinking In Architecture?

Design Thinking In Architecture:

A vital aspect of the architect’s service is the ability to design in a way that serves others above self. This kind of design work leads to more than just a pretty picture. As one might imagine, solving infrastructure problem(s) requires a well thought out process (long before the project begins) that helps to organize, create and move a project forward in a meaningful way. The process I am referring to is called Design Thinking. In this blog, I take a brief look at how design thinking can be used in architecture.

History is an excellent teacher. In the Renaissance period for example, architects, artist’s and sculptor’s alike, created their designs with a human centric focus. They studied the works of those who preceded them. Even the ‘masters’ like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, experienced an apprenticeship program to develop the disciplined to practice design. They learned how ‘things’ worked, and built upon their understanding. It was hard work, but that’s the point. They developed their approach individually. Unfortunately, it seems this approach toward design in the modern era has become something of a mechanized process. More akin to developing a factory-like process. One might argue that the engineering associated with creating the machines to do its work is more akin to design thinking. But, I digress. Design thinking must be directed by human beings; with their developed and trained ability to think and reason. It is something that engages the heart and mind in a profound way. Design thinking requires a rational and intuitive process of seeking to understand and aiming to reach for solutions that better the quality of life and do it creatively. Gathering information and learning how to meaningfully make improvements based on experimentation. 

Why Design Thinking?:

It’s important to see that design thinking can be utilized in a great many ways. In and outside the strict boundaries of architecture. And it develops a foundation, by which reason and order can flourish. What has become apparent in my experience is that virtually any project that needs problem solving, can benefit from a design thinking approach. The process itself can add substantial value to the end result, and the inherent emphasis upon the individual parts combine with the entire work to function as one. It is through this work of the creative and rational mindset that solutions develop. 

Design Thinking is not just about improving the aesthetics or even the function. There are in fact, many facets that work with the art and the science of life. It can build upon and align a project with personal values and clarify objectives; so that the end result is better than its start. Over time an intuitive understanding develops between what works, and what simply falls short. This process develops an understanding with, creativity, strategic thinking, and a cognitive approach working together. Although each project is different, we can learn a lot about how to improve by doing. The overall approach serves as a way to connect the dots to other ideas and it adds solutions that otherwise would not be possible. Interestingly, it is said that this work is an iterative process, rather than a sequential or linear one.  

How Design Thinking Can Be Used in Architecture:

Developing an architecture requires an understanding of how human beings live and what they need emotionally, physically and mentally. The process carries a responsibility to ask many questions of ourselves and the client. In addition, the lessons of the past, can and should be applied to refine solution(s) of the present.  

A Human Centric Approach:

When I speak of using design thinking in architecture, it is NOT a formula, or a mathematical equation that can be applied to solve for an unknown. It’s not divisive, or combative, and has more to do with developing a harmony among human beings.  Our process at Arc Castle Studio, utilizes an approach of generating, synthesizing and evaluating through a collaboration process with the client and consultants. We use critical thinking and simple tools like sketches, drawings, diagrams and model making to maximize the effectiveness of this design process. We explore, learn, discover, and connect the dots of our journey to paint a picture. But most important it is a work by human beings, for human beings.

Design thinking can minimize risk in the way it considers many options or solutions. As human beings we need to think through the goals and objectives before we can advance and build. When we rush to build, there can be long term consequences that cannot be easily reclaimed. When there is no building program, the process is usually being driven by a one size fits all approach. However, Design thinking represents a labor of love, where the effort seeks to create a work that balances the art with the science. Also, the financial benefits and value is enhanced. The investment in our infrastructure has long term ramifications and benefits; not only in the current culture, but upon future generations. 


When Design Thinking is thoughtfully applied, it serves to solve problems creatively, and produce lasting value. through an authentic approach. This represents a process of thinking holistically. It’s not skin deep beauty, but rather has an authentic meaning, purpose and applications in the way it interacts with human beings. A good work can often judged on how well it functions, and how in alignment it is with the program, aesthetics, and budget. There is an inherent harmony present. If you want to maximize your project, plan, and design with a design thinking mindset. Never settle for mediocrity.

Design Thinking In Architecture? Read More »