Architecture 101

Architecture 101 – An inside scoop on the making of great architecture.

Architecture is largely misunderstood, as being solely about aesthetics and function.

But it is more fundamental than that, so let’s strip it back to the basics—architecture is about people,

places, and things, and the interaction between them all. It is how we fit into our world, and make it our own space to live in. Architecture is all about tying it all together with an idea that addresses those interactions and relationships.

Simply put - the idea develops into the concept whose form requires a particular material; and then spaces are given shape. And voila - architecture is created. Of course it is creatively and technically more complex than that. At the heart of it, architecture is more craft than science, and is an evolving discipline used to create meaningful buildings that reflect people’s lives.

Here is a brief overview of a few fundamental principles: Space – the stuff that surrounds us – the awareness we have between our body and the physical world, walls, and structures around us. The manipulation of space is largely what architecture is about, and determines how we feel when we approach, linger or leave a building.

Context – this is referred to as reflecting a sense of place or location. It is not just your building or site, it is your street, your neighbourhood, the cultural environment that surrounds you and the history of our built environment as New Zealanders.

How the idea fits into the bigger historical context of your site may come through in your design – a historic orchard may suggest a building design that references the spacing of the previous trees. Well addressed context creates longevity in design, as it will always feel as if it belongs.

Light – the quality of light that comes into a space. It’s not just about creating as much window as possible., moreover how differing shadows are cast, the depth the light can reach into a space, and how materials, textures, colours and reflections can be affected by it.

Proportion and scale – Importantly it is about how the building relates to our own human scale. Different door heights, window sizes, widths and volumes of spaces all impact on how we feel in an environment and our own sense of personal space.

Organisation (relationships) of spaces – how spaces are arranged and organised impact on how we connect, or not, to activities and each other. Treating spaces as ‘rooms’ limits our opportunities, it is just as important designing the experience of moving to, from and between spaces.

Materiality – the type of materials used influence responses from us. We all have a library of past experiences of different materials, their touch, smell, texture, memories etc… and we often unknowingly attach these to our overall experience of a building.

Sensory/emotional experience – architecture has the ability to control our sensory experiences, manipulating and controlling how we respond to the spaces in an emotional way. For a long time, we have limited our thinking to just 5 senses but there are many others that the true architect works with to heighten our environments when inhabiting or experiencing a building or home.

Architecture requires more than knowing 'what' to do with the tools, architecture is about knowing 'why' we are using that particular set. In all instances, architecture is about designing with 'reason or purpose' beyond habitation, everything should be considered. Examine the needs, imagine what will actually happen in those spaces, and then design around those needs and experiences. The design must be able to be to make sense in multiple ways. For example choosing vertical claddings to accentuate height and reflect the texture and colour of adjoining tree lines.

A designer providing you with just design, reflecting trends, fashion or perceived ‘resale value’ without sound reasoning and conceptual ideas, is not delivering quality architecture. What you will end up with is a just another building. Architecture is a serious business with no room whims or fancy.

In future columns we will explore these ideas, and more, in detail and reveal how good design can transport you from just building a house, to creating an environment that truly reflects you, warms your soul and captures your lifestyle in a most individually unique space.