PLACE Designers | Constrained Success

One of the ironies of being a designer is that there is nothing more challenging (or unlikely) than true design freedom.  In fact the counter-intuitive truth is that great constraint leads to great design.

A good designer thrives on meeting the challenges presented by owners requirements matched to a site encumbered by zoning, topography, trees, existing improvements, easements, property boundaries, restrictions, parking, and so many other constraints.  The difficulty in meeting all these needs is what prompts creative solutions.  Give the others 1-acre home-sites any day!  I want a dense urban site, a puzzle to solve.

One client likes to say “we are trying to put 10 lbs. of potatoes into a 5 lb. bag.”  And we do it, over and over again.  A designer does not see impossibilities, only opportunities.

Another way to illustrate this– some have asked me as an architect what style house I would design for myself.  While I appreciate many styles of homes and revel at great examples of each, I could never pick between them.  Much better for me is to start with a promising existing structure and ask it “what does it want to be?”  Having the context of what came before and sifting out what is worth keeping and what needs to be improved in the next iteration is the worthy challenge that leads to satisfaction.  And I need a client other than myself, so in this case the house becomes the client.

The structure of the constraints matched to economic or functional goals is the framework that allows you to realize success when you have achieved it.  Would it truly be a satisfying feat to design an amazing freeform building in a virtual reality space with no limitations of size or physics?  It may be beautiful, it may be innovative, but for me it is much more fulfilling to solve problems the more difficult they get.

More to come soon.  If you want to get in touch please let me know!  Thanks for reading!

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