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Strategies to design architecture


Design for people. What are their needs? Understand the project brief before starting the design process.


Consider the place of the project. Will your design compliment its environment? Do a site analysis before design.   

Design spaces that improve people's life experiences. 


Architecture is a creative profession. Architects use their creative skills to design solutions from all things building to sculpture to furniture to jewelry and much more. Develop your creativity by practicing being creative.

An example of being creative is learning how to draw your ideas. Describe your ideas and drawings to other people, get their feedback and then modifying your design based on their comments, this is the iterative design process. 

All architecture drawings are combinations of lines, circles, squares, rectangles and other geometric shapes.

Be confident drawing basic geometric shapes. The more confident you are drawing, the easier it is to draw your ideasPractice your drawing skills with this line drawing activity.

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Most architects draw their ideas quickly and write their design thoughts in their architects sketch book.

You can also draw your ideas on a tablet or phone using Procreate, Concepts or Morpholio which are the 3 main digital drawing apps architects use. 

There are many other digital drawing applications to visualise your ideas on the page.

Use this quick drawing technique. 

  • Divide a sheet of paper into 4.

  • Do 2 minute drawing of your ideas.

  • Do 2 minute drawings of plans, elevations, sections & perspectives to formalise your design ideas.

This '2 minute quick draw your ideas' video shows my quick drawings for the 1 hour Pod Design Project

This is a 2 minute drawing of the Box House design, the lines are not perfectly straight but it conveys the design concept. Don't get too hung up about the straightness of your lines when drawing your ideas. The busa wood model I made of the drawing took 4 hours to make. 


Sir Norman Foster is the founder of Foster + Partners, his right-hand-man is Ken Shuttleworth, also known as Ken the Pen, is a "quickest-thinking designer", rumour has it that he sketched out the unprecedented form of London's City Hall in about 10 seconds. "I find sketching and designing quite easy, It's something that comes quite naturally, at college they called me Ken the Pen because I drew twice as fast as anyone else."


A project brief is a list of things that a client wants to include in their project.

It may be a simple bullet point list and mood board or a comprehensive document brief that defines clear project expectations including opportunity + risk considerations, timelines, key milestones and a provisional project budget.


Consider who are you designing for, what are their needs? What is the goal of the project?

Before starting any design work you should sign a contract with the client to agree on your scope of services.


What are the main keywords of the project?
Project keywords can inspire creative thinking to explore design ideas. Visualise keywords with drawings to start the process of designing the project. For example, if the project brief asks for a 'deconstructive' design then research this keyword and start drawing ideas based on this word. 


How to think like an Architect - video by Architect Barry Berkus.

Architect Barry Berkus explains the 'how + why' of designing a house.

A brief summary of what Barry discusses in his video.

DESIGN BRIEF: "Enjoy the view, beach & ocean views, bring extended family home, a place that's private for them"

DRAWING: "As you sketch you draw a diagram, the diagram becomes architecture" + "Design with bubble diagrams"

DESIGNING: "It is an exercise in thinking with the hand & the mind- it all begins with a pattern diagram" + "The idea of where things are & how they inter-relate, the adjacencies of rooms & opportunities of the sun & views of the site"

SUN: "Morning sun from the east, afternoon sun from the west. "Always think of the kitchen enjoying East light, sun is a wonderful thing to gain in the morning & afternoon warmth of the sun in the living room

WIND: "Internal courtyards protect from the wind, shelter people around a fireplace. Internal courtyard design dates back to Roman era".

SUMMARY: "The greatest reward an architect can have is a happy client, a great building and place they can go back and visit because of the meaning of what they design and the strength of the architecture


What are the cultural references that relate to your project? 

Learn about 'bicultural design' principles. Read about how Jasmax and Architectus architectural practices consider and implement bicultural design in their projects.

Read about how Maori culture inspired the Auckland City Rail Link's bicultural design in New Zealand.


Contextualism is an architectural theory of design that relates to being inspired by the literal and abstract characteristics of the environment of a project. 

For example; when I was designing SnakeTower located in a wildlife sanctuary in Africa, one of the site contexts I was inspired by was the gradient patterns of the skin of the local elephants. By using a closeup photo of an elephants head, reflection duplicated and focusing on the trunk detail I was able to draw a pattern detail to use in the project design that relates to the site context.    


What are the images that relate to your project? 

Create an inspiration board (also called design boards or mood boards) with images that visually describe your ideas.

This image relates to the example SnakeTower Climate Change Project.

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Learn about historical and contemporary architecture to inform your appreciation of design. 


'Iterative' means doing something again and again, usually to improve it.

Show iterative improvement of your project throughout the design process and test your ideas by constantly getting feedback from others to improve the design of the project.

This example shows iterative technology design of the wheel, from stone to wood to rubber to 3D printed to airless tyres.


Make physical models of your designs throughout the design process. 

Architects have been making physical models of their architecture for hundreds of years.  

This is a Sir Christopher Wren drawing for the dome design of St Paul's Cathedral, 1673-1752 and the St Paul's Cathedral wooden model, 1673.

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At the start of a design project make quick paper or cardboard models of your ideas based on your design drawings. Dont spend more than an hour making these models and use tape to stick the paper/card together, glue takes to long to set, unless you use a hot glue gun. This example is a 2D triangle drawing of a design for Snake Tower I drew on A4 paper then scrunched up to make a 3D model of tower shape ideas.

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This is one of my Snake Tower design drawings and a 3D model I made in 1 hour with matchsticks and a hot glue gun.      


This foam board, bulsa wood and steel mesh model took 8 hours to make of Maya House I designed. There are heaps of other materials you can make models with. Check out examples on Pinterest.

These photos of  models are made by Hong Kong University students shown at the end of year show 2023


Visualise your design ideas in 3 dimensions using software applications to digitally 3d model your designs. 

There are many 3D software's that architects use which are listed on the page.


Some architects use Rhino 3D to model their designs, it lets you model complex parametric shapes

Major international architectural firms like ZHA use Maya to 3D model their designs

Most architectural practices use SketchUp so I recommend you get very good at using it. You can use basic SketchUp for free on their online in-browser version or download it to your computer which offers more features.


This image is by one of my students who used SketchUp to 3D model his project. 

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During the 3D modeling process you will need to render test images of your design.


Rendering is the process of using a 3D model (SketchUp, Rhino etc) of architecture and creating stylised or photorealistic digital images or videos using rendering software. Sometimes called 'architectural rendering' or 'architectural visualization' or 'archviz'.  

You need to be good at texturing your 3D models and lighting. You need a decent computer with heaps of RAM and a quality graphics card to render images of your scenes which can take hours per image.

These are the 8 main rendering softwares that architects use. 


Design using Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality digital technology. 

Virtual Reality technology started in 1838 by Sir Charles Wheatstone. In 1935 Stanley Weinbaum's fictional 'Pygmalions Spectacles' described VR goggles that offered movies with sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.   

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In 1968 the first VR+AR headset with cameras connected to a computer was called The Sword of Damocles

Ivan Sutherland created the first CAD drawing software. Watch this video.

Read about the advancement of VR+ AR headset technology in video games, military, NASA, gloves etc. 

By 2015 VR technology started to become available to the general public with headsets from Oculus, Sony, Samsung, HTC, Google. This is when architects started using these consumer headsets for architecture.

There are now heaps of options for for visualising architecture in VR + AR, especially using game engines like Unreal and Twinmotion. Buy a headset and give it a go!  Watch the AR + VR videos on YouTube 


The public release of Generative AI applications in 2022 ment Artificial Intelligence technology enabled computers to create photorealistic or stylized images of architecture designs based on text prompts.

There are many text-to-image Generative AI applications, the main ones are Dall-E2 and Craiyon by OpenAi (creator of ChatGPT),  Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Neural Blender, Starryai, and Google Imagen.


Image-to-3D like Nvidia's NGP Instant NeRF and text-to-video are the next evolution of Generative AI imagery that architects can use in the architectural design process.

Tim Fu is one of the worlds most prominent architects using AI to design architecture.

Read more about architecture AI


What are the important detailed designs of your project that will define your project?


For example, what is the stair design of your project? 

These annotated photos show various designs.


Here are more stair designs on Pinterest


Read about how Apple patented their curved glass stair design.     

Troy Donovan is an expert architect detailed designer, his Instagram is the _donnies.  


The architectural design process based on Blooms Taxonomy Theory pyramid


Knowledge: observe the art and science of architecture, understand major ideas, master the subject matter 

Understand: describe and explain architecture using drawings, translate knowledge into new context, predict consequences 

Apply: use information, methods, concepts and theories in new situations, solve problems using skill and knowledge 

Analyse: show relationships, predict and draw conclusions 

Evaluate: compare and discriminate between ideas, assess value of theories, make choices based on reasoned argument, recognise subjectivity


Create: evolve the design process using the experiences learnt from the first stage of knowledge 


If you have never designed architecture before or want to practice the experience of being an architect and the process of design then try these example projects.




If you want further advice on design then check out the advice and resources that architects offer on YouTube. 

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