I am agreeing with Zan and Tiffany a lot it seems! Yep, this reading reminded me of the importance of constrains. I am actually planning on writing about all three Case studies, but for now, I am going to focus on just this one.

What I am going to do is try to summarize the case study and how it is similar to UX design.

After that, I am going to argue how the choice of constraint(s) actually limited the design (in a bad way) and more importantly how the designer did not step back or rethink this particular decision.

Similar Design Process

Rowe sets up the case study by talking about in details of the area in which the building is going to be built. This is a problem statement or a design prompt: here is the design space you are going to be designing in. By quickly adding a constraint, the designer goes on to sketch ideas and evaluate and iterate on the design. The interesting part of this is how the designer uses sketches to explore the problem space as opposed to use it as a final solution. I am basically thinking to Bill Buxton and Saul Greenberg’s paper no how sketching is vital for design. There are several situations in which we find the designer struggling with finding a solution, and how he embraces constraints to re-evaluate and re-design. Basically, constraints play a huge and vital part in the design. Both in helping move the design forward and in limiting the design.

Embrace your constraint

The interesting part for me is the first step in the process. He/She (note sure!) seems to add on constraint to the design space…to make “use of the wooded amenity of the site”. The reason I find this interesting, is that by adding a quick constraint early on, the designer found a design direction. And the sketching and ideation took flight. Several times the design halts.

“Generally, the problem at this stage seemed to be under-constrained and lacking a specific direction.” This is where the designer created some guidelines (constraints) and used them to evaluate the current design. It is not certain what they used to come up with these guidelines, but, this step verifies the importance of constraints and how it helps them move forward in the design.

Something I personally have been struggling with in design is that I spend too much time thinking about a problem space before sketching. Analysis Paralysis as it is called (Nelson & Stolterman, more on this next week!) has plagued me for a while now. So it is interesting to see a designer just add on a constraint and start sketching. He uses his sketches to explore more avenues and each design is essentially a solution to a previous problem and gives rise to a new one.

The designer embraces constraints of several forms, whether it is the location (woods, river), or even building material. I am beating a dead horse at this point, but this design is all about constraints, and their role in a design and decision making.

Constraints can be harmful?

The critique I have for them, and this maybe because Rowe did not explain it thoroughly, is how and why they added these constraints, and mainly why they never stepped back (from the first constraint).

I understand that you do not need a strong rationale to add on a constraint, but it seems like the architect just fancied the natural aesthetics of the location. This is slightly different from UX in that, I feel the user was not considered all that much, or the client (the person you are building for). This reminds me of an article Alisa posted a while ago on how architects seem to only build for themselves. I am not going to debate that, I mainly want to bring to attention on how the constraint seems to be a personal choice rather than a thought out decision.

This is important for only one reason that I can think off. Throughout the design process, the designer encounters several problems. While he sketches several concepts and iterates on different ideas, he is in-flexible with this specific constraint. At no point, does the designer consider taking it out and trying a different constraint to explore more ideas. Why not use parking spot as a constraint?  We see several times he runs into the issue of parking space, why didn’t he step back and start there? Why is the thoroughfare so important? We as designers understand tradeoffs, but what was this designer sacrificing by choosing to keep the thoroughfare?

I am reminded of project 4 and 5 last semester and the ill-fated body data design we created. Part of the problem was, we never let go of some of the constraints we added on in the front. Yes, the constraints had helped us narrow down to a core and direction in about 30 minutes (no joke! proudest moment last semester), but towards the end, we did not let them go, and therefore doomed our design. Specifically we constrained ourselves to outdoor wall based designs!

What do you guys think? Am I blabbing? Also help me write my argument in a more clear and concise manner!