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Design Thinking And Concepts Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2378 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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What are concepts. Where do they come from. A concept is a basic representation of an idea expressed by mind to understand/realize various things in physical/virtual world. A concept could be a symbol or a group of symbols necessary for cognitive processes. Concepts are used by mind to express different forms, shapes, behaviors and patterns in existing objects or objects that are to be designed.

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This paper will explore design concepts by various master architects, examples from literature, sketch concepts and the relationships between design thinking and concepts. How these concepts take generative expressions and are converted into architectural designs. In this paper, concept is referred as abstract of an idea which is transformed into metaphysics. Initial methods used to express an architectural idea could resemble a photo by photographer or artist’s sketch. Various methods of Concept generation will be studied to understand their reflection on architectural design process.

Design Thinking –

The term Design thinking is usually used to describe the unending process of design happening inside a designer’s mind. Design thinking is primarily assumed as the skill to recognize and understand emotions of users for a given context of issues, creative imagination in formation of visions and answers to these problems.

It is usually referred as an activity to speculate a solution for a purpose/need. Ultimately the process of design can be understood as to create rational solutions to identified problems by Trans changing existing situations into favored ones. Whereas on the other hand design is considered as a ‘reflective practice’.

There has been tremendous research studies to investigate design processes to identify the characteristics of design thinking process. Design Thinking is creation based on the accumulation of ideas. These ideas, at their very inception can be termed as concepts. During this part of design thinking process, ideas are not judged or criticized, thus the fear or inhibition of failure is taken out. Higher participation and involvement is encouraged in this stage of thinking. Out of the box thinking during ideation can lead to prominent creative solutions.

Concepts –

Concepts are the components of thoughts. They are central to many psychological responses such as decision making, classification, learning, interpretation, memory. Concepts viewed as mental representations is a basic diagram of an idea expressed by mind to understand/visualize various things in physical/virtual world. It is a symbol or a group of symbols necessary for cognitive processes. Concepts are used by mind to express different forms, shapes, behaviors and patterns in existing objects or objects that are imagined. [1]

Concept supporting methods –

Generally two methodological supporting techniques have been developed to aid concept genesis – Visual technique and linguistic technique. Visual technique is usually more based on perceptible/visual and spatial recognition using various graphical media or imagery sources with the use of three dimensional designs and virtual/imaginative information. The visual method works effectively in conveying designer’s image of the form, user interface or usage speculations of a space. The linguistic technique is based on language and lexicon methods to understand or explain concepts at the abstract level such as social belonging or meaning and values of a design or space. Both the techniques work efficiently in accelerating or delivering the concept formation and expression. [2]

Brainstorming is also a very much considered method in facilitating the ideation in quantity and is mostly used to achieve increased frequency of exploring new solutions. However, sometimes the efficiency of brainstorming is argued and the qualitative limitations are addressed.

Concepts as a part of design thinking process can be framed by understanding some aspects such as –

Recognizing the requirements and aspirations of end users.

Producing as many ideas as desirable to assist the determined needs.

Function, form, structure, meaning, philosophy, history, context, etc.

Concept as a Mental Representation –

When looking at concepts as visual or physical perceptive media, the idea behind a design can be read. Users mind at first, perceives the space or structure as a whole in a symbolic representation and then distinguishes the details of that object. For example, a tree it has a number of components such as its trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits, etc., but when we look at a tree it is perceived in an abstract shape as a whole by our mind and unconsciously small components of the tree become secondary in attention. This phenomenon is explained by Gestalt Theory of visual perception, which was first studied in 1920’s by a group of psychologists to understand the perceptual organization. Gestalt means form or shape, seeks to conceive how mind forms or interprets patterns. Gestalt theory explains the six principles of configuration – Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, Closure, Symmetry and Common Fate.

The principle of proximity explains that the objects that are placed closer to each other will be percieved as belonging together. The law of similarity states that there is tendancy to distinguish groups with simillar characteristics. The principle of continuity anticipates the desire/preference for continuous shapes and figures even if two or more objects are kept next to each other, our mind predicts the continuation within the objects and percieves them as a whole. Closure states a tendancy to complete the incomplete information, our mind will imagine the missing part of a shape in order to percieve it as whole. The law of area says if we see two overlapping figures we see the smaller ones are percieved as figures while the larger figure is received as background. Symmetry principle is that all symmetrical figures are observed as closed shapes. [3]

It is also acclaimed that there is a kinesthetic human response to forms and lines. We may observe the horizontal prairie house “falling water” designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright that may be perceived symbolically as a human body at rest horizontally indicative of domestic tranquility. In contrast we may intellect the dynamic equilibrium of a vertical assembly indicating aspiration, reaching and insistence as in a corporate H.Q. office block or a gothic cathedral.

Examples of Concept Designs –

Thermal Baths – Peter Zumthor

Concept – Sensory Experience

Figure 2

Figure 1An excellent example from last decade’s architecture, which has been widely praised for its coalition and intimate atmosphere which it gave to the site is Peter Zumthor’s Thermal Baths in Switzerland. Zumthor’s concept behind the design -C:Userschinmay-pcDesktop1180_27202901296.jpgC:Userschinmay-pcDesktopIMG_0257.JPG

“Mountain, stone, water – building in the stone, building with the stone, into the mountain, building out of the mountain, being inside the mountain – how can the implications and the sensuality of the association of these words be interpreted, architecturally?” – Peter Zumthor.

In its concept, architect has been through what ‘coherence’ represents, such as form, idea, materials used, construction techniques, details and essentially the context. Zumthor was astonished by the history and geology of the village where the hot springs were discovered a hundred years ago. The architect conceptualizes the whole design as a volume of rock, which is carved out of the mountain. This idea inspired from the way baths originate out of mountains. [4]

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Chapel of St. Ignatius – Steven Holl

Concept – Seven Bottles of Light in a Stone Box

Figure 3 – Seven BottlesThe light is sculpted by a number of collected masses evolving from the roof. Each of these aberrations aim at diverse qualities of light. All meet together for one cohesive ceremony. Each light volume relates to a portion of the program of Jesuit Catholic Worship. A perplex is constructed opposite to the windows of each bottle. Each perplex is colored on the back in a bright colour, thus when a light passes through these baffles only the reflected light colour can be seen from within the chapel. Concept is about light as a central directive and perceptual tool. [5]C:Userschinmay-pcDesktop1346601129-97-040-07b.jpgC:Userschinmay-pcDesktopSt-Ignatius-Chapel_28.jpg

Figure 5 – Baffles allowing reflected light

Figure 4 – Play of Light

Here, as a concept, Architect uses the notion of Jesuits as no single method is prescribed in their spiritual exercises “diverse methods helped diverse people”, thus Holl gathers the unity of differences into one using masses of different bottles and the irregularities aim at diverse qualities of light.

Jewish Museum Berlin – Daniel Libeskind

Concept – Between the Lines

Figure 7 – Three Paths: Continuity – Exile – Death

Figure 6 – Jewish Museum, “Between the Lines”

Figure 8 – The VoidThe Jewish museum in itself is a piece of art which blurs the edge between sculpture and architecture. The concept and design of the museum do not respond to any functional needs, but is rather designed to create spaces that tell the stories of the Jewish people in Germany. In this project, architect Daniel Libeskind has connected the history of Berlin City with the history of German Judaism. Design follows three paths of Continuity, Exile and Death. The entry of the museum is deliberately made challenging and stretched to instill in the visitor the feeling of challenge and suffering that is distinctive of Jewish history. One of the tower is called the Memory Void for those troubled by Holocaust. [6]C:Userschinmay-pcDesktopvoid-of-memory.jpgC:Userschinmay-pcDesktop3607659180_9b8d5f211f.jpg


Jew history plays a vital role in concept generation for Berlin Jewish Museum, design reflects the Jewish existence in Berlin’s past, present and future. Libeskind explores the three major experiences continuity, exile and death of Jewish struggle throughout history.

Flight 93 Memorial – Paul Murdoch

Concept – Timeline of Memory

The Memorial is built on the site where Flight 93 crash landed on September 11th 2011 in US. The memorial is a slow descent towards remembrance. Concept behind the design was to make people visiting to this place experience the descent of the plane ‘a journey of memory and hope’. Thus the design consists of spatial configurations that create experiences as desired by the architect to provide the visitors. Along the path a linear place evokes the emotions of the flight 93 passengers, making the space uncomfortable, quite. After some distance the space changes again slowly rising the hope within creating heroes. The rising path is a sign of liberty and hope. The planes path is revealed through the creating the experience of flight passengers, which makes the memorial an ongoing flight.

Figure 9 – Flight 93 Memorial – Concept Development

Concept of flight 93 memorial plays a role of narrator in its design decisions. It intends to make the explorer go through the same path of emotions as of the flight 93 passengers by narrating the walk.

Studio Strategies –

Studio 14 – Urban Intensification this year aims at the waterfront area of River Don and Canal in Sheffield. Research for the study area began with the extensive analysis of the context and the existing riverside walkways. Design speculations were proposed to strengthen the riverside walks created by Sheffield City Council. After analyzing council’s proposals for the area, major barrier identified between the connection of city center & riverside is the castle market area which is my individual project site. After studying the site from various aspects such as its natural & regional opportunities, strategic location, historical significance of Sheffield Castle and river Sheff, current importance castle market shops, vehicular and pedestrian connectivity, etc., I feel archeological significance of Sheffield Castle, along with the Castle market shops connection to the river Don & Sheff can help in creating a new identity and a vibrant public realm, thus plays a cardinal role in design thinking & concept generation for my studio project.

Conclusion –

We looked at the relationship between design thinking and concept generation, concept as a mental representation, how Gestalt theory can be applied in design and the four different examples where concept plays a pivotal role in the design process and the design itself. We learn that the Concept generation is not only limited to form of the structure, but can also be used to define various design aspects such as ideas, spatial configuration, construction, materials used, integration of aesthetic intention and functional performance into spaces. Coherence and legitimacy of the relationships between concept, form, function and design can be learnt from these cases. We can interpret that concepts may be evolved not only by intuition or pure imagination, but also by an intricate mental process of reflective abstractions that invent the concept from a comprehensive study of specific design issues. So we learn that a good design depends not on a hypothetical form but the complexity of the formal speculations. The goal of case studies is hence not to determine the intangible perfection of ideal form itself but an inspirational design process through which an artifact with the creative intent can symbolize the complex relation between concept and design thinking.


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