The Block Diagram as a Design Tool 

The Ely project, is a single family custom residence. The drawing depicts a diagram sketch that is used after the project brief was developed with the owner. This simple scaled rendition delineates all the preliminary known requirements. The block diagram also serves to order this process of design and start to create a process by which to judge various ideas that work with the program. 

This early phase represents a cost-effective way to develop the design narrative. Especially when the design is still flexible, and can be adjusted. The sketch also facilitates the process of inevitable adjustments and how it leads to additional ideas .  

Fundamentally, this is about establishing a meaningful order, based on the client’s objectives. It also start to account for functional requirements, room relationships., and the site. Soon the sketch serves as a basis of making other decisions that help move the project forward in a harmonious way.

The schematic block diagram planning phase is also important in terms of building upon know information that can be used to set your design on solid footing. This is a vital step that documents the criteria before any major design can even occur. This serves to help move the project along a path of research and fact-finding. A vital aspect of this process is about minimizing risk, and, maximize on meaningful solutions. The ability to discern and address program criteria early and align it with a meaningful design saves time, and money. And this must occur before the construction shovel hits the dirt.

The Ely residence block diagram delineates a simple process that seeks to order and develop a meaningful end result that simply cannot be achieved in one fell swoop. This is a good example of how a simple block diagram can be used to create long term value.

The Cookie Cutter Design Problem:

The project began with a call from a local builder / developer who requested design services for a new town home project that bordered a Golf club. The builder was looking for ways to improve his cookie cutter design. He explained that if I could improve his box it could be a substantial design challenge of the worst kind, for a design conscious architect. I explained, it was not  the fact that it was a box, but rather it was the lack of thoughtful planning that when into the “box” for that site specific project..

In an effort to pursue meaningful solutions, I accepting the commission to apply design thinking to an existing project. I proposed creating a small scale study model — that would show first hand, how I would approach and improve his kit of parts and cookie cutter design. I proposed  design improvements in a manor that enhanced the function + aesthetics. I proposed to do this by narrowing my focus down to (3) three main areas of the building and site.

I began my work in earnest and changed the rear of the town home with a dual view design approach to maximize the views to the existing golf coarse. I also simplified the roof structure, proposing a more streamlined and simple approach.

The next change concerned reorienting the garage so that it created more natural light to enter at the main entry and also provide greater visibility from the home. Unfortunately most of traditional suburban developments puts the garage out front and center! To be fair its often driven by an outdated zoning code, but there are solutions to this.    

Using a scaled massing model, it serves as a tool to convey design concepts that can be quickly interpreted. in fact, even a mundane cookie cutter design can be substantially improved with planning and a design thinking mindset. 

Information Kiosk @ Normandale Community College

Project design challenge began with a request to design a new information Kiosk at Normandale Community College. However the real challenge was to develop a solution with a limited number of available materials. The information Kiosk was required to utilize only the ‘spare parts’ that existed on the college campus storage facilities. And the proposed kiosk was required to be a minimum of 90% sustainable.

The Kiosk houses a computer terminal and allows for user interaction and interface with the campus network system. The elevation side view  (drawing) on left depicts various ellements that were included in the project.

The project was designed as an independent system and crafted as a piece of furniture. With the exception of a new computer system, and applicable fasteners. Most all of the materials were harvested and reutilized from on site storage.  The project became a one of a kind sustainable piece of equipment.