Architects = Fishermen or Gamers?

Dear design students, 

We address this funny blog to you because this might be useful for you at some moments. We are sharing with you a common design approach at HOMA architects to provide you a narrow perspective on the thinking activity that we are practicing.

Designing is completely different from smartly copying and combining existing elements. Neither is it simply a skillful act of applying design operations following experiences. Copying or applying design skills without a soul will normally give poor design quality. In the best case, the result is just a lifeless beauty. References play an important role in expressing ideas and avoiding the mistakes of others. But regardless of all possible references, architecture must be obtained by searching directly from the analysis of project data under the rules of the game set by the architect himself for the building.

At HOMA architects, creation task is closer to a seeking journey in real life than an act of “creating” in an abstract world. Our creative method is basically a research method. Our magical spell for all projects is:

“According to certain project criteria, there are always good options, excellent options, and the best option. Our job is to find them.”

The word “good” here could be heard as “being adequate” to the project’s conditions, with an aesthetic value that the users would love and is widely accepted by society. Therefore, sometimes some projects are so difficult that we feel all ideas are rejected, but again, none of them are hard enough to discourage us. Good and very good ideas are always there to be found. Sometimes, with enough luck in terms of time, budget, and manpower, we also find excellent options. In our place, more talented architects would find better options. However, within the time and place that we are framed for the project, we always do our best to find good ideas.

The research only starts when we have all inputs and a thorough understanding of the project. Then, it is necessary to establish a set of logics that will serve as the backbone of the research. Each research direction must follow some logics which we consider as the rules of the game. Setting the game rules is more important than playing it. HOW WOULD A GAME MAKE SENSE WITHOUT RULE?

HOMA architects’ daily work is quite similar to game designers and testers. We have to check if the game is logical and interesting. For each potential set of logics, we make from 1 to 10 sketches. The challenge is that there is not just one set of logics, there are usually more than 2. Sometimes, just one part of the project requires us to make up to 30 sketches according to different logical branches. And we have to patiently search branch by branch. We must sketch out the most graceful options and also the ugliest ones.

Patiently check every single branch.

Sometimes we get tired of sketching, we take a break to think, then back to sketch.  We keep going on that way until we spend all the limited time for research.

We rarely do visually pleasing sketches. There is no time for that. Some drafty lines are just enough to fix a flashing-by-idea, then we must switch to search for more ideas. At this stage, images are quickly built and immediately collapse in our brain at a speed that no computer can match. It is at the speed of imagination.

There is no time for visually pleasing sketches

Then we lean back for a moment and look at all the sketches like a strict jury judging the ideas of strangers. We have to quickly decide which ones will be selected to push up and which one will go straight to the trash bin.

Watch this video and see all the sketches we study for just one facade.

With the most potential sketches, we further concretize to turn the draft lines into physical elements that are closer to construction practice. The next step is to use simulation software to test if the game we came up with is interesting. Software testing let us know if the game is bad and must be discarded, or need further sharpening to become rational and enjoyable. Sometimes huge temptations might surge to entice the designer to add this or that, or to operate extreme architectural moves to flatter eyes. Visualization software can be an evil accomplice to the architects’ clunky and cumbersome greed. The designer must be able to judge what the project needs.

Our biggest secret is to deduct information from the design to make it rational, and thanks to that, make the project more interesting.

It is somewhat similar to playing Jenga.

Our learned lesson from real-life experience is that only patient and solid searching methods will give good results. We do not rely on random luck to have good projects.

To find the track of good ideas, there is no other way but diligently following each branch of the trail. Usually, thrown-away options outnumber the kept ones. With some projects, good ideas appear immediately; with others, the best option comes only after days of struggling in stress. So, architects rarely look cool the way Howard Roak is described – Stop dreaming, please! They usually look like hungry gold diggers with multiple personalities – unstably switching between being Nice and being Evil.

Does this man look familiar to you? 😉

Poetically speaking, the hunt for ideas is similar to launching a fishing net on the ocean. Experienced fishermen can detect the flow of fish, know where to drop the nets so they do not have to land with empty hands. But no one knows in advance which the best fish they will catch is. However, fishing experience, methods, and technology will determine the probability of catching big fish. The fishermen will know which one is the best in that catch, not the best in the ocean.

The hunt for ideas is similar to launching a fishing net on the ocean.

Therefore, if you call HOMA architects FISHERMEN, we won’t deny it. Our fishing facilities and technology are constantly upgraded, making sure to catch delicious fish.

Or if you call us GAME WRITERS then we would also agree with you because our daily job is to write and play endless games about humans, space, light, and material.

We are HOMA Architects.