The discussion of what makes for good residential design is a continuing conversation that dates back and continues among consumers, academia and the industry. Personal experience, higher education and individual sensibilities formulate one’s unique perspectives on what good design is. These individual observations add to this ongoing dialogue and affect our responses to our living environment.
For the average person, the value of good design is more of an ephemeral thing than an element of real consequence. You can’t live without basic necessities, and quality design is not one of them for most of us.
Good design is, after all, totally conceptual, not a substance that be touched and held or summed up on a calculator. Completely subjective to the beholder, good design is more akin to a human feeling such as love than any tangible, such as concrete.
Consequently, and unfortunately, good design is not fully appreciated or valued by the average person in the same way as something concrete, perhaps in the same way that love is sometimes taken for granted. We tend to value things that are quantifiable. Quality architecture is not only difficult to quantify but, for many, is just plain difficult to even recognize.
Maybe, like love and other more human emotions, you know when you have it but can’t describe it; people talk about it, but it means something different to everybody. One thing is for certain: When it comes to residential buildings and the people who use them, they can coexist without good design.
Well, how much design love can you live without? You can take it to the extreme and have none. Some people complacently exist in poorly designed homes of bad proportions and impractical floor plans. Or you can live with a little extra love; a bit more functional floor plan, not so bad proportions or use of natural light, and a mediocre relationship of the building to its surrounding site, trees and solar orientation.
People can also choose to live in a house full of architectural love, with a floor plan that performs like a symphony of good circulation, interesting vistas, multifunctionality, great use of natural and artificial light, and aesthetics that speak of great textures, soothing colors, inviting spaces and interesting volumes; a house that performs mechanically in harmony with the environment, its engineering systems and the needs and wishes of its occupants.
I can go on describing what makes good design. And while some people possess this gift intuitively, it’s the architect who can best speak this love language of good design and who can wear the highly restricted badge of architect, having spent a career, if not a lifetime, perfecting his intuitive and learned skills.
We need to advocate for ourselves and promote the value we bring to the table. I’m gratified to see this effort gaining momentum throughout the country and I encourage everyone to get behind good design. Related professionals in the housing industry should recognize the intrinsic value architects bring and not be so eager to substitute technicians of limited accreditation and skills.
Yes, it takes extra hours of dedicated professional time to achieve a higher level of emotional intelligence for homes. It’s reasonably going to cost more to move design and performance of homes to a higher level. The consumer needs to understand they get what they pay for and good design will continue to pay back over and above the original investment.
It’s important that everybody in the housing industry keeps the residential architect as a key leader on the team. This will result in well-designed homes to better our world and spread design love.
Luis Jauregui, AIA, has been a member of the local and national chapters of the American Institute of Architects for more than 20 years. He is an active leader within the Homebuilders Association of Austin, Texas. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read past columns at rdbmagazine.com.