Sources of Form:


An essential component in any designer's professional skill set concerns the development of a design process that results in predictably delightful, innovative and relevant design ideas and formal concepts. Individuals who are able to aggressively engage a project with an array of form generating tools at their disposal is a wonderful site to behold. The ability to generate superior design products in a predictable fashion is a very endearing quality for a designer to possess. Over the past twenty years we have pursued this goal for our designers in an insistent manner. Even during data collection and site analysis activities we encourage idea formation. We are continually looking for anything that will give us meaningful lines on paper or monitor, and we have come to rely on several analytical sources that seem to inevitably generate form:

  • Circulation: existing and proposed vehicular and pedestrian circulation patterns on, through and around the site and its surrounding context offer themselves as primary form givers. When these various circulatory vectors are studied and diagrammed form readily suggests itself. Intersections can suggest the potential for conflict, and at other times recommend nodes of coalescence.

  •  Views: viewshed analysis through the site, to the site and from the site often generates form. We seek to block "bad" views and celebrate "good" views. We can at times also create views that enhance otherwise mundane space.

  • Climate: climatic analysis will inevitably generate form. During the overheated portions of the year/day we seek shade. During  heavy rainfall we seek shelter and also in arid regions we seek ways to harvest this precious resource. In hot humid situations we seek access to breeze, and in hot arid situations we often respond in opposing manner.

  • Topography / hydrology: analogy with existing surrounding land form is an obvious source of design ideas. Yet with flat and predictable sites we may choose to insert undulations and level change as a means of adding visual interest and complexity. We may also choose to implement forms in the ground plane that control, direct and possibly harvest runoff from the site and it's adjacent context.

  • Existing built form: an analysis of existing form in and around the site also can suggest form; scale, height, profiles, built and implied geometries, density, materials, light patterns, etc. Adjacent forms can radiate into a site a develop formal symbiosis, or they can conversely suggest a need for contrasting strategies.

  • Ecology: existing ecologies on and surrounding the site can suggest preservation/conservation strategies as well as the need to connect adjacent ecological patches with biodiversity issues in mind. Ecological analysis can also offer ideas regarding potential wildlife habitat and corridors as well as planting palettes and hardscape strategies as well.

  •  Sensory:  effective analysis of acoustical, olfactory, visual, tactile, and even gustation predictably generates form.  Noise is blocked whereas sound can be coveted and celebrated.  Visual, olfactory and tactile cues can conceptually coalesce to facilitate wayfinding, and the creation of coherence in a space or series of interconnected spaces.

  • Time and distance: these ratios suggest form in the design of both pedestrian and vehicular linkage. Analysis  of human comfort and behavior can suggest either direct  or circuitous routing. It can also suggest placement and the design of nodes of respite and the design configuration of connecting corridors.

  • Cultural precedent and predisposition: analysis of historical precedent ranging from vernacular settlement patterns to urban morphologies can suggest design responses appropriate for various user groups. A hardscape plaza surrounded by mixed use might be introduced into a new community development in Latin America; whereas introverted street elevations and interior courtyards might become useful infill development strategies within a Palestinian neighborhood.

These sources of form are second echelon considerations within our design process and are not to be confused with the previously mentioned ordering systems. They generate planning early precepts and 3-D form which is eventually synthesized into layered comprehensive concepts that are in turn evaluated and enhanced as their relevance is tested through all design ordering systems. Is the concept economically....socially....environmentally....functionally.... aesthetically.....?