Elements > Scheme > Concept > Reality

“A concept has no form”. Kevin Mark Low has quoted this.

Concept has no form because concept is not about form. Concept is about how finalised and resolved the scheme solves the problem. Concept’s other word is inception and conception. We start with the former. We know the movie but the definition of inception is:

The establishment or starting point of something; the beginning.

When we start something, we may propose a concept and set about completing the scheme based on the concept. Often for students of architecture, the concept proposed in the beginning may not be able to answer the problem statement. As the case with the design thesis proposal stage where my students are at the beginning. They merely suggest a site, a topic and a problem statement, and even the program. There could be an implied start with referring to a precedent study.

When Kevin gave that relationship diagram: (in that order)

Elements > Scheme > Concept > Reality

Notice that Concept can only happen after Scheme. That really tells me something.

So inception occurs in the beginning ie the start of the conceptualising business of design. Later the concept emerges (after the elements are established and the scheme worked on…)

Why this is a problem for students of architecture to understand (especially in the second year) is because in the first year, the project is smaller so more manageable to visualize. But as the project becomes complex, the concept emerges later. Thus we have people like Kevin saying concept does not matter, so that students don’t get stumped in the beginning with preconceived forms which usually will impede their design development to go forward. (Do not be surprise that this happens to students in the higher years and even in the design thesis final year).

A concept is what the product is about. Architecture is a product but like a car, what version is it? Mercedes or proton? Same as architecture. What is the concept of your school library for example?

As I have always known, a designer can interpret a concept of any type of building. A school library that has a different concept to what we usually experience for example. This school library have many ideas of “flexibility”. The bookshelves can be flexibly design to cope with the different users, by designing a seating into it or designing a way to get the books out and sit up there next to that particular high shelf.

A concept is the designer’s version of the project brief of a school library.

It can be shown in drawings and models.

Some concepts are weak and some concepts are strong.

For example, in the design thesis, I discussed with the student under my supervision to go for a strong concept where she will have a more satisfying design experience though with a lot of hard word to get that strong concept.

A concept happens only after a scheme is established, and for some design thesis students, that is at the end of the first semester. Why is it so slow? Because a design thesis is not just like any other project. There will be lots of dialogue and debate with people entrusted to be ‘collaborators’ of the design thesis, namely the studio masters.

Do not be surprise if at the end of the first semester you will only managed to have a scheme, so dry and boring that you cannot even feel anything. It is part of the process. Meaning if its dry and unresolved, you haven’t got a concept yet, but just submit it so that in the second semester you will finally get the concept. Many ‘A’ students got the concept late. In the end, what you started with and how you end it with, is all that matters.

For now at the end of the special semester, all you are concerned with is to get your studies done.

As mentioned, you are putting down the ELEMENTS for your design thesis proposal and hope that you won’t have to redo much and can use what you have studied for semester one.

Elements include your site, your program, your problem statement and studies. The rudimentary elements to get you on your way.


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