Architects are natural storytellers – it’s a process that is inherently built into our creative process and when used properly, it’s one of the very best tools in our tool bag.
Part of the reason architects are such good storytellers is that they frequently develop a narrative to help guide them through the design process. It’s not that much different from “Method Acting”, a technique that combines an actor’s interpretation of their character’s psychological motives and personality traits with their own personal experiences and memories in an attempt to create a more life-like performance.
Whoa [mind blown] .. that’s what I do every day!
When I sit down at my desk to start the design process, particularly when I am working on a residential project, I take everything I know about the people I am working for and I develop narratives to help guide me through a pattern of their behavior so that I can design a house that suits their needs, not one that suits MY needs. That distinction is what technically makes me a professional. When we get a new client or project, one of the first things we do is try and find out who they are and what they want.
This is the most important step in the initial design process.
The other way that architects are great storytellers, is that we develop these narratives as a mechanism to educate someone on our thought process. Since a lot of what architects do is esoteric, being able to articulate my reasons for solving a problem in a particular way – without being condescending – is an important skill. I need to walk people through my design process in a way that they can understand the end result in a more appreciative manner – it works way better than telling someone:
“I’m the professional here, just do what I’m telling you to do.”
[Career tip: Don’t do that.]
The way I do this in meetings with the client, is that I use my sense of humor – or at least what I think is my sense of humor. I put myself into the role of the end user and imagine them using the space in a particular manner. I use that same technique on this site all the time. I thought I would collect some of the very best examples of “storytelling” from past articles on my site and put them all here for your perusal. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence – and I don’t think that it is – but these are some of my most favorite posts.
I have a new girlfriend … Well, I think she’s a girl. We are in love and it’s awesome! I’m getting to do all sorts of things I’ve never been able to do before…
Sometimes things don’t work out right and in construction, this is a bad thing. Look at what happens when things go wrong.
A good designer considers furniture placement in their designs, because if they don’t, you might get yourself what I like to call “a hatchet bedroom.”
Architects have done many things they’re not proud of … but I’m try to get some help.
Holy Moly! Do you see that guy all bent over with the shovel?!? That could have been ME! In an effort to edumacate you (the reader) – let’s take a closer look at what’s happening using a special filter on my camera (it’s called the “Pain-o-meter” filter if you’re interested in picking one up)
I was a little surprised to discover that despite having told almost every conceivable work related story I know on this blog, somehow my “Golden Handcuffs” story apparently hadn’t made the cut – and this is one of my better stories. Never take a job just for the money …
The difference in the creative process is the narrative, or the art of telling a compelling story. It starts with the story the clients bring to me in the beginning, and my eventual interpretation of how to effectively communicate that story back to them in a new setting. That’s why every project is different (despite the same requirements) and why some architects are better than others.
This was the third post in a series of posts called “ArchiTalks”. There are a few other architects who maintain blogs who were given todays topic “Architectural Storytelling” with very loose instructions as to what they are to talk about. We have all agreed to publish our responses on the same day – that way none of our articles will influence somebody else (as if)
If you would like to see how other architects responded to this topic, just follow the links below. As the links get sent to me, I will come back and add them to the list.
Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Take the Time to Tell Your Story.
Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
Stories in Architecture
Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
Architects can Improve their Marketing by Incorporating Storytelling
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
architecture as storytelling
Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
AE048: Success Through Storytelling with Bob Fisher of DesignIntelligence
Evan Troxel – TRXL
It’s Their Story
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
Architectural Storytelling: The Legacy of Design
Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio
Architecture and Storytelling are Forever Linked
Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture
The Secret Ingredient To Convincing Anyone To Do (Almost) Anything“
Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen
The Generational Story – Architecture as Storytelling“
Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture
The Story of a Listener“
“Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
Architectural Story Books“