iterative design, can it be any other way?

design is science and art coming together as one. the ratios of these two fundamental ingredients tend to differ with application. designing a piston is going to be predominantly if not entirely scientific whereas a sculpture may be equally weighted on the side of art.

but it is architectural design we focus on here, where arguably science and art are equal partners. 3d modeling has aided architecture immensely. the client wanting a walk-through of his or her new home can now have one before a shovel touches the soil. but is it realistic to expect that a design can be 100% complete prior to construction, without any further tweaks and interations, without further refinement, yet still come together as brilliantly as a design that is refined and improved as it is built?

we suggest not..
in justifying our position, let’s look at some of mankind’s greatest architectural accomplishments, and what went into them:

st. peter’s basilica: you don’t go through half a dozen of history’s greatest architects without major iterations to a design. with construction spanning 120 years, it’s simply a fact that the majestic attributes of this masterpiece are the result of a century plus of refinement. one may argue that architects of the 16th & 17th centuries did not benefit from computer generated 3d modeling as we do now, but such a view largely discounts the brilliance of men like michelangelo, who without doubt had an incredible, almost supernatural ability to visualize a design in his head prior to actuating its construction.

vote 1 for iterations.
taj mahal: the 17th century was a big one in architecture. papals, emporers, kings & caesars sought to carve their grandeur in history by creating iconic architectural tributes to themselves, their gods and on occasion their third wives. with a relatively quick construction period spanning just over two decades, some might argue that the architects, largely recognised as being headed by ustad ahmad lahauri must have had a remarkably clear and unwavering design locked down from the onset, with relatively few or no modifications made to it throughout construction. a closer look at history however points to the fact that the taj mahal was built in stages and the labour force of roughly twenty thousand workers was probably more likely the factor behind the relatively short construction period. these stages meant that the team of architects were presented with continual, ongoing opportunities to revise and refine.

vote 2 for iterations.
fallingwater / kaufmann residence: we change themes on this final masterpiece, moving to a private residence rather than a religious monument. in the 1930’s legendary architect frank lloyd wright took it upon himself to lament in time the framework upon which most modern architecture is based; a framework so pure and uncorrupted most modern architects still worship, aspire to and defend its principles today. presented with a challenging topography, wright designed fallingwater – a masterpiece that set the principles that man need not and can not outdo nature in design, man need only embrace it. clean lines and integration to the natural contours of the site speak to it’s grandeur, rather than floral carvings on a wall. as pure and precise as wright’s original design was, a challenging site and ongoing disputes with contractors and engineers meant revisions, refinements and resolutions were abound.

vote 3 for iterations.
while it’s great to have an initial design you love locked down before you start building – don’t be disheartened or feel your architects have let you down if they propose revisions and improvements along the way, such is the path to amazing works..