With the real estate market heating up, it seems as if the architecture and building sectors are slowly doing the same. At the very least it seems as if we’re moving from tepid to warm. The trend has some thinking about remodeling or building anew and I’d like to offer some general guidelines that seem to get lost in the mix. This isn’t the definitive list, merely some things to keep in mind as you start to think about a project. But first a short preamble.

“Architecture is really about well-being. I think that people want to feel good in a space.”

Zaha Hadid, the well-known Iranian architect, penned this phrase. She also happens to be the only woman to win the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious prize in architecture. “How difficult it is to be simple,” wrote Van Gogh regarding his art. I’m reminded of this every day.

Every job is different each with own set of variables and in these times of austerity, the clarion call to whittle out excess rings louder. The more I thought about my early fascination with architecture, it arose out of a similar connection with spaces. I wasn’t sure what it was that made me feel right in a space and to this day it’s not always clear. You know it when you feel it. In retrospect, I have a few hunches.

So what constitutes an “architecture of well–being” and how does one get there? While I can’t say for sure, here are a few guidelines that point in the general direction:

1. Designs that are well built.

First and foremost – regardless of how well designed, if a project is poorly built, you will sense it and it will never feel good. This further speaks to the inseparability of architecture and construction. Beware those folks who tell you at a dinner party they had their project built for $145/square foot.  Possible? I suppose, but highly unlikely.  In the long run, it’ll likely cost you more money as the building starts to fail.

2. Healthy design and construction helps to create an architecture of well-being.

One example: Building a highly insulated house, or any house for that matter, and filling with material that off-gasses, trapping them inside for your family to breathe definitely doesn’t promote well-being. That new car smell and new house smell no longer smells “so good!” Strange as it may seem, indoor air pollution can be worse than outside air pollution and the incidence of allergies and asthma has increased dramatically over the past few years. Hire folks who understand how to design and build healthy projects.

3. Develop a team.

Putting effort in creating an integrated team that includes a contractor early in the design phase will not guarantee a successful project but it will put you way ahead of the game. This puts you on a position to save time, money, resources and stress. More well-being.

4. Sense the spaces to which you are drawn.

Could be a restaurant, a home, a place of worship, a bus stop – whatever.  If a place or setting speaks to you, slow down and ask yourself why. For example, think about walking into a restaurant that appeals to you – where do you want to sit, what are you drawn to, colors, fabrics, finishes, textures, enclosure, ceiling height, sound etc. What qualities make it a place to which you are drawn? If you can, make mental notes – better yet, write them down. Start making notes and cataloging them using online resource tools like Pinterest or Evernote.

One last thing that I try to impress on my clients. Everyone is creative, you all have ideas – express them, give it a whirl – they might not be the best ones or final ones but design is an iterative process. Good design happens through testing not by holding back. To that end here is a great TED talk by David Kelley, one of the guys who started IDEO. Watch it by clicking the picture below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Daniel