How does the Design Thinking of an Architect Happens?

How does the design thinking of an architect happens?

Perhaps this is one of the most important questions you will ask yourself when you start planning your house.

Whether you plan for yourself or use the help of an Architect, this question remains relevant.

First, if you want to plan your own house, you need to know at least what steps should be taken when designing a house/residence. Thus, you can avoid unnecessary mistakes in the planning process.

Secondly, if you decide to use the services of Architect in designing your home, you also need to know how an Architect think, so you can better communicate your ideas. Thus, the resulting design is suitable to your needs.

In this first part, we will try to explore an architect’s way of thinking by following the explanation of the experts, trying to get to know some school of thought adopted by Architects especially those who practice the profession in Indonesia, and how you can use this knowledge to make it easier for you to design your home.

What Expert Says

The attempts to study and model the ways or mechanisms of an Architect’s process in design thinking have actually been done.

One of the experts, Melanie Crick, wrote a report about her research on the creative process of Architects in doing a work of architecture.

Crick in his report entitled “Exploring Excelence, How Architects Think” tries to learn and digest the creative methods in designing an architectural masterpiece carried out by an Architect and seeks to model the mechanism to determine the best conditions and mechanisms for creating an architectural design [1].

The study begins by studying the literature specifically related to the cognitive and psychological mechanisms contained in the design process. Armed with such early data and information, Crick later interviewed the already well-known Architects such as Will Alsop, Mario Botta, Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier, Eric Owen Moss, Glenn Murcutt, Bernard Tschumi and many more.

The results of this interview are then analyzed and discussed in the context of architectural theories and other related theories and used as the basis for concluding the findings of this study.

In her report, Crick’s highlights something very interesting. Crick, from the beginning of the study emphasizes two important things in the creative process that need to be learned, namely: ‘intuition‘ and ‘understanding/insight‘.

This is mainly because in the literature on creative process, there has not been much discussed about what happened in the cognitive and psychological processes of an Architect and Designer just before the ‘aha moment’ process takes place [2].

Crick argues that in general the literature has something in common with regard to ‘intuition’ as a necessary component of the creative process of an Architect or Designer.

One important point Crick describes here (this I also mention again in the third part of our e-book on the Six Stages of Planning Your Dream Home) is that in general the literature agrees that one of the most important principles in the creative process when creating a design is the ability to accept an ‘inspiration’ without having to question whether or not the idea might be realized [3].

Crick adds, in the process of thinking that does not include the creative process (for example, the analytical thinking process), most people tend to automatically reject or doubted the idea that comes from intuition.

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Our minds are too accustomed to suppressing and rejecting something that in the public view is unusual and unacceptable idea.

Though it is actually the ability to accept ideas that arise from intuition without banging it with logical thinking, which according to Crick is one factor that later became the determinant of the success of marrying between the idea of ​​irrational (intuitive) with rational thinking (logical) resulting from a creative process.

(Note: I feel the need to emphasize the phrases of the creative process, because I think many of us may not be able to distinguish well between the analytical thinking process and the creative thinking process. In a simple way, the product of an analytical thinking process is the result of analysis/conclusion, while the product of the creative thinking process is a product in the form of a work In practice, the process can be interlinked)

In the process of ‘marriage’ between ideas derived from intuition with this rational idea, the process of verification of the idea occurs. Iteration or repetition of verification may occur to many times as Crick has described in his report.

In the creative problem solving practice, this is very common and usually manifests itself in the form of revision activities of concept and design revisions that can arise more than once. Even in many cases, there may be many conceptual design options with dozens of revisions.

design thinking of an architect
Inspiration [illustration] (Source:

Different Architect, Different School of Thought

In addition to architect’s intuition and understanding, it turns out there are other things that can affect how an architect thinks.

If you look at architectural works either directly or through print or electronic media, you will surely see the different styles or styles of each Architect reflected in the building he created.

In addition to showing the architect’s architectural characteristics, the difference in styles in the resulting design can not be separated from the school of thought embraced by the Architect.

This school of thought is usually embraced by a group of architects who share the same understanding of design philosophy.

Don’t be surprised if there is an expression “different architect, different school of thought“. This simply illustrates that among Architect also happened differences in understanding a design process.

To do so, understanding these differences can help you get acquainted with Architects’ design thinking and choose the right Architect that suits your principles.

In his book, Korydon Smith, a professor in architecture in the US explains that in the field of architecture, the formation of theories, methods of thinking, and flow (both style and thought) do not occur as in science (science).

In the world of architecture, this collection of knowledge that then becomes the theory (architectural paradigm) is often born from the architect’s individual point of view, subjective, informal (not necessarily based on empirical research results), and contains one or more of the following: an idea which an Architect has made about the world around him, a question (viewpoint) the Architect chooses to ask something about the world around him, and the method the Architect uses to answer that question [4].

Thus, it is not surprising that you will find many school of thought (both in the context of thought and style) as you explore the pages of architectural magazines, or when visiting various open houses held by Architects/homeowners.

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You do not need to be confused with the many options of architect’s style. All you have to do is go back to yourself, and try to answer the three things mentioned above (your assumptions about the world around you, what questions you want to answer about the world around you, and how you will answer them) .

Of course, if you feel hesitant in answering these three things you can go and consult to one of the Architects who have a vision more or less the same as you. Match in this vision will help you and Architects in working together to realize your dream home.

The good news is, I’ve listed a list of some young Architects you can call at the end of our e-book to make it easy for you!

To read more about what flow and style you can find in the world of architecture, you can read the book “Buildings Accross Time: an Introduction to World Architecture“.

Take an Advantage from the Architect’s Design Thinking

As I explained earlier, one of the benefits of knowing an Architect’s way of thinking is that you will be able to at least understand (though little) what is important in an architectural design process.

With this know how you will be able to start the process of planning your own house.

To find the initial ideas, you can begin to imitate the process that an architect takes when designing a residential. Then, when you start to get into the very technical stuff, you will be able to more easily communicate your ideas to the Architect you choose.

In addition, another advantage you can get from adopting an Architect’s way of thinking is that your ideas could flow smoothly.

When you can differentiate between the analytical thinking process and the creative thinking process, you will be able to enter the creative thinking modes better.

By adopting the creative thinking process as the Architects used to do, you can gather diverse ideas better. Not limited to the things that are commonly encountered only.

Even you can present fresh ideas, perhaps ideas that you never thought before if you are still using the analytical thinking process approach to produce something more appropriate when approached with a creative thinking approach.

In this process, you are not required to have special skills such as drawing skills, sketches, computer graphics, and so forth.

All you have to do is think creatively and start generating ideas that you feel best fitted with your character and needs of your family.

Thus, your idea already has a mature conceptual foundation from the beginning, even before you bring it forward to the Architect who will help you take care of more technical matters.


(This article is also included in our FREE E-Book which you can download here)



[1] Crick, M. Exploring Excellence: How Architects Think.
[2] Thurstone dalam Crick, M. Exploring Excellence: How Architects Think.
[3] ibid 1.
[4] Smith, K. (Ed.). (2013). Introducing architectural theory: debating a discipline. Routledge.

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