Some architectural design features are meant to be the focus of attention, and their visibility makes the spatial experience an unforgettable one. Yet, other architectural design features are meant to be invisible, where they are purposefully designed to recede into the background. For example, when looking through a window, there are times when one would want the window to be accentuated so it frames or makes a statement about the view. Yet, when looking through a window, there are other times when one would want the window to “disappear” so the view is accentuated.
As an architectural designer, it is important that you consider how to add the nuance of visibility or invisibility to your environmental design features. This creates experiential rhythm and an architectural language that is derived from behaviors of in/visibility.
Architectural environments all have a narrative that creates experience. This experience can be a good or bad one, depending on the narrative. Just imagine a musical song, where each note is like an architectural feature. The song’s composer needs to create variation with the notes --- between loud and soft, fast and slow, or high and low tones. Ultimately, the composer also needs to consider the space, or silence, between notes as well. Design for environments is very similar. With features that vary between visible and invisible, it becomes possible to create nuance in the narrative of space. After all, you would not want to listen to a one note song that had no variation and no silence between notes. You would want to listen to a song that takes you on an experiential journey. The design for architectural environments is no different.
Being aware of the story you are telling with your environment is critical. It is important to consider what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you are evoking within occupants. In other words, what is your design saying to them? How does it guide them on what to focus upon?
Select your visible features carefully, and analyze how to make the invisible features do their job. Just because they are “invisible” does not mean they are any less important. In fact, these more subtle design elements add depth into the layers of the story you are telling occupants through your design.
To start designing more conscientiously for the in/visible elements of your design, simply become aware that not all of your design features are meant to be experienced in the same way. Some will make an obvious statement, while others will stand quietly adding to the experience. While designing, just ask yourself: How can this design element best contribute to the narrative moment of this experience? In other words, is the feature most important? Or is there something else that the feature frames or supports that is most important? This will tell you whether you are creating a visible or invisible architectural design element.
Image Credit: © Mikkel Bigandt| Fotolia
This 31 minute masterclass will forever change how you think about environments.