design by project brief

This document describes a research project that I planned to undertake in 2003. The project was to have enough quality to serve as a PhD project. The current state is that the scientific interest was established. I got the go-ahead that included the scientific support from a promotor. Unfortunately the institute did not have the financial means to also provide for accessories like a desk, telephone and a businesscard. I'd have had to undertake the efforts from home. Working in such a next to total state of isolation didn't appeal to me and I decided to continue my efforts in a different direction.

architecture and information technology

Drawing boards have disappeared from the architects firm. In the early 80'ies graphics terminals came on the market and software that turns a computer into a drawing machine emerged. 2D drawing software became commercially available and AutoCAD, being one of the first, managed to to date dominate the market. In the mechanical engineering domain 3d-modlellers became available. This software used an essentially different approach. Instead of manipulating the components of a drawing -point, line, surface- this software allows manipulating 3D objects. These objects can be rendered in many different ways. Now a similar approach is emerging in software for architectural design. Object Orientation generally is considered to be the engine that drives the idea of buildings being composed of objects that can be graphically manipulated and rendered. We are becoming aware of architects not producing drawings.

the architect makes a model

Architects develop a model for a building. That model usually or next to exclusively is presented in the form of drawings. Hence we mistake the architect for a producer of drawings. Rather the architect makes a model for a building. The easiest, most understandable way of communicating the model is by rendering it graphically. Other renditions of the same model however do exist. The construction companies that are going the build the thing, along with the drawings, receive a book of written specifications. This spec book is also a rendition of the model prepared by the architect. If a scale-model were needed for wind tunnel testing, such a scale model too is a rendition of the model prepared by the architect.

the architect fulfills a demand

Architects are business driven artists. Their products carry aspects of both the world of art and the world of plain production of artifacts. Every architect has his own position on the gliding scale from sculpturer to building engineer. To make a living they do work from requirements defined by a principal. These requirements, the project brief, do not uniquely identify the solution. They leave room to be filled in by the architect. The architect adds his vision to the requirements to come to a design, a model that merges the principals' requirements with the architects' vision.

the base process

I here present an extremely simplified model for the process of, from requirements and vision coming to the built environment.(Also see my write-up for the Information Architect , from which the below scheme is taken.)
from opportunity to solution
The design process is executed by the architect, the construct process is executed by a building construction company. The vision is managed by the architect. The requirement is managed by the principal.

research focus

architectural modeling

The newest products on the market achieve component based modeling. These products do not support the design process. They are geared towards denoting the outcome of the design process. Much of the research is concentrating on the design process. The goal is to find ways that allow the architect to work what is often called top-down. Vague-specific would be a better characterization and research in that direction can be found. Some research focuses on collaborative design where geographically dispersed parties can together work on a single design.


A complete description of research in the field of IT and building design and construction can be found at the roadcon website . This is a Europe wide initiative to organize efforts made by European researchers. In follow-up documents, after inviting participants to formulate specific research subjects, it is concluded that few proposals were made to address the early stages in the design process, the stages where the requirement -the project brief- plays an important role.

design by project brief

This research aims at developing instruments that These improvements can be achieved by applying simple process control models to the design process.
controlled output
In building construction terminology, the model that the architect created, the output, is reconciled against the project brief, the input into the design process. Discrepancies then get resolved by adjusting the designed model and/or adjusting the information in the project brief. This control mechanism is a feedback type of control. The research will also attempt to resolve a feed-forward control mechanism. A mechanism that, taking the project brief, will give the design process a head start as by providing appropriate renditions of the project brief. Where in the project it will be necessary to validate findings and solutions, this will be done against real-life cases in the design of hospitals. Hospital buildings are complex in the sense that they house many different functions. They are complex enough to require design process participants to have tools and methods for validating the designed model. Another consideration is that for the design of hospitals normative rules are available from identifiable institutes. The project will aim at also producing software that illustrates the workability of the ideas. The plan is to resolve this software such that it can cooperate with existing and commercially available packages for architectural design.


If you have comments on this proposed research, for instance with respect to: If you have suggestions, if you know of people working on more or less the same type of problem, if you in one way or the other would like to contribute, then send me an email.
Theo van Eijndhoven, 2003