My Five Points of Process, Inspired by JFHQ
Throughout my journey through design and construction of the Oregon Military Department’s Joint Forces Headquarters (JFHQ), I discovered several key points along the way that made the project successful. A play on Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture, I created my own Five Points that are directly related to my personal creative process, and can be translated to any design and construction project you’re a part of.
01 Concept: “The Story”
JFHQ was generated from placed-based design concepts and inspired by geological formations and Oregon landscapes. The research and exploration of these landscapes informed the team’s sketches, diagrams, and descriptions that continued throughout design and construction. I can recall the countless times I referred back to previous diagrams and sketches, which were framed around our initial concepts, to help aid in decisions at critical points in the project.
The big question that we always asked ourselves was, “Is this important to the concept/story?”
What I found with my experience with JFHQ is that the ‘story’ helped clarify and prioritize portions of the project during construction, and it served as a way to check-in with the larger team to ensure we were on track with our goals and vision.
02 Sketch: “The piece of trace paper that is beneath the coffee cups on your desk”
A wise mentor once told me, “Don’t throw any of your sketches away.” As architects, designers, and planners, we are privileged to be able to express our ideas by sketching.
Keep sketching throughout the project and keep all your sketches. You never know when you may need them for a client presentation or a SERA Shorty (our spin on a Pecha Kucha). There were numerous times throughout JFHQ, where I had dig up old sketches to create client presentations and other collateral.
While it’s important to keep those old sketches, it is equally important to continue to add new ones to the pile. This is a good way to take a break from Revit, and you may find that you can sketch an idea faster with your hand than utilizing the keyboard and mouse.
Furthermore, we should be proud of our work and hang it up. It is always nice to see the final product of our projects, but the preceding sketches can be just as important and are equally meaningful.
03 Priorities: “The Essence / The Big Move” – Critical Design Elements
This point goes hand-in-hand with my first point. By establishing the story behind JFHQ, it was easy to prioritize design moves and identify portions of the project that were necessary to keep the design intent intact. Prioritizing ideas helped clarify which parts of the project were less critical, so we could focus on more important elements of the project.
During construction for JFHQ, balancing our desired ‘big moves’ with certain constraints sometimes became a balancing act for our team. Between the owner, contractor and architect, it was necessary that we were aligned when it came to our “big moves.” The prioritization of ideas allowed the team to be nimble when unexpected wrenches were thrown our way.
For example, JFHQ’s lobby was designed to be the main focal point of the project. The detailing and materiality of the space were critical to the overall story we established as a team early in the design process. During construction, site conditions and constructability issues challenged some of these ideas, but it also encouraged the design team to have continuous dialogue as to why certain elements were designed and crafted the we that they are.
In the end, the lobby remains the brilliant nexus of the building.
04 The Team: Collaboration Between Core Team Members Internal and External
Collaboration should not stop within the walls of the office, but should be carried onto the job site.
From beginning to end, team collaboration and communication is critical. JFHQ was a design-build project, and many people – both internally and externally – had a hand in making it successful. Everything from firmwide design discussions and small team charrettes, to those who made cameos along the way, helped shape JFHQ into a great building. For myself, many of the best learning moments occurred on the job site while collaborating with the contractors.
05 Fun: Enjoy the Process
Whether you are under a sea of submittals or up against the clock, sometimes it’s hard to come up for air and enjoy the process. At any point in a project, I encourage everyone to take a moment and celebrate the small victories, milestones, or simply the process.
You’re creating a unique place for others. Remember, this is a privilege!
These points are unique to my experiences and process. What are yours?
I encourage others to observe their own creative process, catalog lessons learned from previous projects, and other critical moments experienced in design and construction. This recollection of moments will help inform a similar framework to help streamline your process for future endeavors.