Architectural design is a highly subjective art. While there are works of architecture that are considered by many to be “good” architecture they will not appeal to everyone. So how do you know if your architectural creation is “good” architecture? Is it an aesthetic opinion? Is budget the primary concern? Is function the driving factor? All of these should be considered when creating a structure that will last for many years, impact user experience, and shape a community.
Here are 5 keys that I use to measure “good” architectural design:
1. What is the environmental impact of the building? It is easy to design a building that focuses on energy-efficiency, indoor-air-quality, water conservation, resource depletion, and resilience, but you must have an architect that understands it. Don’t settle for “because that is the way we always do it” old school design solution. Ask your architect if they will incorporate building science into the solution for your dream home.
2. Does design provide more than the client asked for from the architect? As an architect, we spend years understanding space planning, function, performance, quality, and how to translate future needs of clients. We try to incorporate things into the design that the client does not know to ask for when they describe their dream home. A highly functional kitchen, space for the right furniture, the perfect views framed from the perfect place to sit inside the home are all things you should get in the design of your dream home to be “good” architecture.
3. Is it timeless? Designing a home that is timeless takes careful attention to style, but also durability of materials and flexibility of spaces. Design for a lifetime means that the home can adapt not only in style but also as the homeowners needs change, kids move out (or back in), and as technology changes over time. Remember those orange kitchen counters and pink tiles in bathrooms that were popular years ago – fads look very dated when they are used in architecture.
4. Does it provide delight and pleasure to the users of the space? Aesthetics, of course, are important and that has a lot to do with bringing delight and pleasure to the users. However, the quality of the space is also important. Does the space have appropriate natural light, is it comfortable, are the materials pleasing? These all impact the user experience and should be considered by your architect when creating “good” architecture.
5. Does it provide value? Every home owner has a budget. Sometimes they share the real budget, sometimes they share a wishful budget, and sometimes they don’t share any budget with their architect at all. In any one of these approaches by the client it is the architect’s ethical duty to offer the design solutions that gives the best value (this does not mean the lowest price) for the client. Offering solutions that are durable, energy-efficient, and healthy are obvious approaches to value design. The architect should also understand the materials being used. They should know how to design using the right lengths, widths, and spans that offer high performance for the best price. The architect should find solutions that are not required to be special order items, solutions that local builders know how to assemble, and solutions that do not require too high of a level of precision to achieve the desired solution.
Telling your architect these ideas are important to you will give them direction as to what you want in your dream home. Picking an architect that offers these solutions without you asking is a good first step to a successful design process and “good” architecture.