Architecture Short Course: How to Develop a Design Concept

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All architecture begins with a concept. If you’re struggling to find one, curious about what one is, or wondering how architects begin their projects; this short course will walk you through the process I use and some of the techniques I rely on to develop architectural concepts all illustrated with one of my residential projects.

Design is a dialogue, and the concept ensures you have something to talk about. In this video I discuss the precise steps I take when beginning each project and how those steps lead me to an architectural concept.

Before we can develop the concept, we have to first understand the practical constraints. My design process begins only after gathering and assessing all the given parameters for a project. Now, this primarily consists of three types of information. There’s information derived from the site – things like: local climate, the prevailing winds, the solar aspect, vegetation, neighboring structures, the site’s history, and any unique liabilities or opportunities. The site of course also comes along with legal frameworks for development, which describe where and what we can and can’t build.

The second type of information we’ll gather is from the client. Every client has a set of cultural beliefs and preconceptions, preferences and agendas. Of course, we’ll want to determine their budget, and understand the personality traits and organizational politics which might also shape the design. The client and the building type together determine what architects call, “the program” which is essentially a detailed accounting of all the spaces the building will contain.

And the third type of information I gather is related to the building typology – is it a museum, a home…or a school for example? To learn about a building typology we often conduct an analysis of notable or relevant historical precedents. We want to know the essential problems these types of structures grapple with. Understanding the history of the archetype allows us to approach a problem from a fresh perspective.

All of this is necessary information that we collect for every project. This inventory can also serve as the progenitor for the design concept – our seed idea. And, rather than shunting creativity, these constraints often incite the creative process.

Concept Inspirations Discussed:
– Site
– Client
– Narrative
– Materials
– Structural
– Mainifestos
– Formal

As with a good film, the setting, the characters, the cinematography, and the plot all conspire to make it what it is. It’s the experience you’ll recall rather than the concept per se. Sure, the concept sets the film in motion and it’s the starting point for all that follows. But this concept – the one or two-line description – can’t possible capture the richness and depth of the finished film…or in our case the architecture. Yet without it, the work is unfulfilling and so it should be clear that the concept is necessary for all our work as architects.

// GEAR I USE //

* Canon 70D:

* Canon 24mm f2.8 Lens:
* Canon 40mm f2.8 Lens:

* Rode VideoMic Pro (hotshoe mtd.):
* ATR-2100 USB (dynamic mic):

* Prismacolor Markers:
* Timelapse Camera:
* AutoCAD LT:
* SketchUp PRO:
* HP T120 Plotter:
* Adobe CC Photography (Photoshop/Lightroom) Plan:

* Architect + Entrepreneur Startup Toolkit:

Please watch: “A Gift in the Making (Why I Love Side Projects)”


30X40 Design Workshop says:

See these principles in practice on a REAL project:
and for part 2 of the Architecture Short Course:

Andy Rodríguez says:

Thanks for the vid! Better than my teachers at architecture school!

Feona Lee Jones says:

Is feng shui a consideration during the design process at all?

N says:

Wow. Finally! Thanks.

ThatGuy Man says:

Architecture is more art I thought it was more like structural engineering

Ghita MOUMEN says:

one of the most useful videos I stumbeled across as an architecture student. Thanks a lot

chlo6200 chlo6200 says:

I'm in grade 9, so I'm wondering what courses I should take to become a design architect? I have my heart set on this and know I have to for sure take art.

Kasleen Jaur says:

Can you explain the way you described the sun orientation on your site, what do the light yellow, chrome yellow and orange circles mean? and why were they placed as such?

lm Mintesnot Gako says:

waw it is nice vedio…. can you tell me about the types of concept

Keerthana Reddy says:

can u plzz suggest the best clges in india for architecture with placements nd with low fee

Bhagya Nuwanthi says:

Why didn't I find this when I do my final design project in my university. This is so understandable and regained the lost enthusiasm towards architecture. Thanks very much <3


Do you teach studios? You should.

Mohamed BOUEGUANAYA says:

pleez add frensh traduction

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