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.

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