What is Design Thinking in architecture about?
Updated: Jul 4
Architecture in all regards is a collaboration between technique and aesthetics. An architect implements the two while aiming to create a balance. It complements creation through developments in technology and the evolution of systems.
Design thinking in architecture adds a human-centric approach to this innovation. But, in this practice, architects are the kingpins. They sustain a peculiar image by disregarding any outside influence. The discourse in architecture focuses on functioning in isolation while ignoring external factors. Architecture explores novel spaces and new ways of living. Architects have a self-proclaimed responsibility to paint the canvas of the urban realm. They have an unparalleled dominance over the design process. But, the manoeuvre has more to it.
Le Corbusier was an illustrious veteran of architecture who provided systemic living solutions. His works remain relevant even today. Although Corbusier's approach was inspiring to young experimenters, his thoughts were rigid. He was an individualist. Hence, he was unable to break out of this mould of ‘The Architect.’ A surly and self-centred individual who changed the dialect of architecture. Yet, Corbusier never envisioned his practice as a professional legacy. Being full of himself, he was never able to create his team. Even the position for someone to follow in Corbusier’s footsteps was vacant. Nobody could keep his practice alive and carry forward his ideologies. His processes featured notions of the field that are considered regressive today. Thus, Corbusier’s demand for an autonomous environment ensued in an opinionated perception of him.
As a specimen, his experience highlights an innovation that is hard to master. It requires professionals to take their regular thinking to a higher level. Design thinking renders a holistic reasoning process void. Architects, as aspiring innovators, sustain brainstorming processes. Seldom have the finished strategies or products made it to the outside world. The approach to innovation has to integrate all aspects of business and society. It depends on the design thinker’s attitude in developing the product. Furthermore, what goes on behind the scenes impacts assimilation of insights into problem-solving. In totality, these aspects affect the perception of the consumer. There is a bias because of their opinion of the creators. In due course, the marketplace is the testing ground where the products are either accepted or rejected.
One might say that the design process is never-ending. But, architectural design carries on under many constraints. The problem-solving process initializes with establishing a framework for evaluating them. In terms of feasibility, viability and desirability, a design thinker strives to create a balance. Moreover, their solutions are weighed beside market opportunities, challenges, and desirable consumer values. It helps re-evaluate their positionality. Thus, design thinking as a method is persistent. Approach and reproach are the only ways to get things right. It uses the designer’s sensibility, knowledge, and compassion in its entirety. Their astute hard work helps achieve a successful outcome.
On further examination, the process begins with gaining empathy and understanding the end-users, a participatory approach involving stakeholders with different perspectives. After assessing this volatile mix of human factors, a peaceful coexistence emerges. It is not a simple linear process. But with a team of optimistic and collaborative design thinkers, plenty can be achieved.
All in all, design thinking can improve a practice substantially. It gives a user the most suitable solution, product, or environment to grow in. Nonetheless, it is even more valuable for an architect. By looking, listening, and learning, they can navigate ideas without running in an infinite loop. The clarity builds as they cherish feedback. Going forward, they lead by example. Even while using design thinking as a leader, no problem is too small to start with. The competitive advantage they gain sets them apart from the rest of the industry. Furthermore, it goes beyond the endless open-source knowledge available. Design thinking can reinforce the worn-down processes that need upscaling. The reward comes from creation and re-creation. A successful outcome of the masterwork is noticed when we measure its impact on the world.
What requires awareness is our changing collective consciousness. Architecture transcends us all. Moreover, it explores universal living patterns. Design thinking is the tool in architecture that enables us to understand the masses better.
As we dig deeper, it will be integral to understand the role of design thinking in history.
About the Writer
Saakshar Makhija is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. He is the Co-Founder of Emblema Designs, a graphic design, and digital marketing venture. He has experience working with Rethinking The Future (RTF) and India Lost and Found (ILF) by Amit Pasricha. He attended the summer school organised by the "Rafael Manzano Prize for New Traditional Architecture" by the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU), Spain.
About the Editor
Esha Biddanda Pavan is an architect and urbanist currently based out of Toronto, Canada. She is a graduate of the School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University, UK, and the Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Bangalore. She has experience working at Kitsune Consulting, Cardiff University Business School, Weaving Thoughts, Keha Casa, Kabir Hira Architects and a-designstudio.
About the Illustrator
P. Trishita is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. She is also a multipotentialite, illustrator, singer, and occasional songwriter.