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Basics of Architecture



What are the basics of architecture? Architecture is the discipline governing the design and construction of buildings. As a science, architecture is a complex field requiring 3-dimensional thinking and an intense multi-disciplinary curriculum to ensure safety, practicality, and beauty. As an art, architecture encourages innovation, imagination, and emotional connections. Designing an Expressive Home incorporates the rigor of architectural training with the artistic flair of an architect’s creativity to build a home uniquely designed for the people who will live there—expressing their passions and interests as well as meeting their functional needs. The entire process can be summed up in three general stages which overlap each other in practice: Visualization, Specification, and Actualization.



Visualization is the process by which architects communicate ideas allowing clients to see and feel what the finished product may look like. An architect begins a project by getting to know the needs and wants of the client. This process sets the parameters an architect will use in the design process and includes factors such as budget, size, utility, style, and preferences. In architectural vernacular, this is known as the project brief. These are the primary pieces of the design puzzle an architect must clearly understand and operate within to put together a complete picture of the project. In doing so, an architect employs a thorough knowledge of construction techniques, architectural styles, engineering principles, spatial planning, and materials specifications.

Visualization starts with very basic schematics to help establish form and organize space given the initial parameters from the project brief. At this stage, the architect establishes relationships among the various spaces required in the design. Which rooms are adjacent to each other? How will people move throughout the home? What will be the footprint and orientation of the home on the site? From here a concept design emerges, which is the first attempt of an architect to translate the brief into a visual depiction of what the project will look like when finished.

These early schematics ultimately evolve into basic floor plans. Thanks to powerful computer models, clients at this point are able to conduct a virtual walk-through of the proposed design in 3D. As part of the visualization process, architects also provide views of the home’s exterior elevations, which shows how the house will appear from the outside. Physical models typically aren’t produced for residential clients; however, this is beginning to change with the advent of 3D printers.



In the Specification Phase, preliminary concepts are more fully developed with design details and project specifics. This phase also includes determining how a house will appear on the inside, and architects partner closely with professionals in the field of interior design throughout the process. The same elements and principles discussed in the article, Interior Design Basics, are also employed by architects as they design homes to create a sense of place. The idea is to create warm and comfortable spaces uniquely expressing who you are and the way you live.

As an architect moves into the final stages of specification and design, an iterative process runs through several cycles. Architects continue to refine the working set of drawings to solve problems as they arise (coordinating closely with specialists like engineers and building officials), and to evaluate options based on client input. Cost considerations dictate many of these decisions and architects must constantly balance cost effectiveness, function, and aesthetics to meet the objectives of the project brief.



The Actualization phase encompasses the final deliverables provided by an architect, and includes everything a builder will need to know to construct the house as designed. With the Specification phase nearing an end, the architect will begin finalizing all remaining details needed for construction. A comprehensive set of blueprints and construction documents will also include detailed construction notes to highlight specific techniques or features unique to the project.

In addition to specifying methods, the Actualization phase includes details related to the logistics of the construction process. Determining which sequence and order should be implemented helps to establish the most efficient construction schedule. Final details such as the type and quantity of materials required are also provided in this phase. Materials Specification Sheets help garner comparable bids when evaluating and selecting contractors. In turn, this facilitates budget adherence and mitigates unpleasant cost overruns.

When planned properly, a carefully designed home has the properties of being both reproducible and repeatable. This means that all other things being equal (such as properties of the site, environmental factors, availability of specified materials, and regional nuances) two different construction crews should be able to build identical structures. Identical means identical—leaving no ambiguity or latitude for contractors to make judgment calls in the field, or otherwise interpret the vision expressed in the designs.

With a working knowledge of the basics of architecture, the home design process becomes more understandable. You’ll know what to expect throughout the process and you will have a better appreciation of the approach, creative process, and constraints within which an architect works. Most importantly, you will have the confidence and desire to pursue an Expressive Home which will perfectly suit you.