A concept is often thought of as an abstract idea; a symbolic representation of more complex and explicative detail. “Concept” derives from the Latin conceptum, meaning “something conceived”. The term should not be viewed as purely an abstract headline, thought, but as something more universal: it is the reason for being for any object, entity or product created by human endeavour and thought. Any “oeuvre” – be it a work of art, music or literature – has been conceived by the human mind to some degree to bring about its creation. The concept is the reason for its existence; the “oeuvre” the tangible manifestation of the original idea.
The Concept current usage in architecture suggest s disconnection between the idea and the build reality. The two should not be separate entities; a building should be the physical manifestation of the original concept. The concept, then, for architects, should be the reason to build. We always have a reason to build.
The Specific and the Universal
Specific concepts arise from the unique conditions and environment of a particular project. These can be related to the brief: the use of the building, the needs of its users, the opportunities of the site, how the building will respond to the topography or neighboring buildings, and what it will accentuate about the existing physical conditions. Or they might relate to the political and social context: whether it reflects or rails against prevailing attitudes, and how it will improve local social conditions. Specific concepts are posed as solutions to the challenges inherent in any brief, site or environment, and can be fed into universal concepts.
Universal concepts transcend transient project conditions. They are timeless, embodying aspects of architecture that have always been, and will continue to be. For example, how architecture shapes the way in which we interact with each other, how life plays out in space; the perpetual search for beauty in all its forms through the manipulation of proportion, scale and form; the honesty of our architecture, how we build it with truth and integrity; and how architecture harnesses and accentuates light, the giver of life.
These concepts, the specific and the universal, must be present in our minds at all stages of the design process. Without them each step becomes dulled, stunted, until all we have designed is a building, not architecture. Architecture has the concept at its core; a building need not.
Text based on “The Architecture Concept Book”. Times & Hudson.
Images from http://www.stevenholl.com/