How to Formulate Your Architectural Design Concept by Detecting Patterns (Video)

Video Introduction

By becoming highly aware of pattern both within your architectural designs and within the way your occupants use them, you can significantly boost your ability as an architect to design for better experiences. There is a point where pattern becomes behavior, and your awareness of not only when this occurs, but also what it affects is key as you create building designs that will interact with your occupants. In today’s video, I walk you through the relationships between building and occupant through the lens of pattern detection — to help you think in new ways as you formulate your initial architectural design concept.

Micro-Lecture Video Updated: 2015

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Video Trasncript: Video from 2015

00:06 Maria Lorena Lehman: This is Maria Lorena Lehman, Founder of Sensing Architecture. And in this micro lecture, we’re going to explore pattern detection and how you can use this to help you with your initial stages of design concept formulation. Now, pattern detection can help you to enhance what your design, what your architectural design, can do for its occupants. So, in the diagram, we’ll begin with buildings here, and occupants here. And as you can see, buildings and occupants have an improvement cycle, where they feed back to one another. So, buildings yield behavior, particularly as innovative architectures are gaining capabilities, like kinetics and sensors embedded within them that can help them actually behave through time to impact occupants, particularly through sensory design. Now, the stimuli that your building emits can be considered its behavior, and this in turn yields patterns. And these patterns come together to yield more than the sum of their parts, where their behavior impacts occupants. And it can impact occupants on five key levels of experience. In fact, it can impact them physiologically, intellectually, emotionally, behaviorally and even spiritually.

01:46 MLL: So, occupants, in turn, behave, they have behavioral cues. These cues can be physical, they can be verbal, and so on. So these behavioral cues emitted by occupants as they go about using an environment become cues that get pulled by the building, which in turn, can sense occupant behaviors. Now this can happen in innovative buildings that have integrated sensors, for instance, that can understand through its micro architectures what occupants might be perceiving as they experience the building. And again, buildings can emit behaviors that have adapted to occupants using their building in real time. So, this dialog, this mirroring between building and occupants is very important to understand, particularly as new technologies become embedded within buildings today. Many forms exist in how you can use pattern detection within your design concept. I’ll list just three forms here, but there are many more.

03:02 MLL: Variation is the first. With variation, you can use your building design materials and integrations to differentiate how your building will impact its occupants. A second form is metaphor, where you look for patterns that yield something greater than themselves. And these can be metaphors that occupants recognize consciously or subconsciously. So, metaphors form another type of inherent pattern in how your building behaves and impacts occupants and, again, how those behavioral cues by occupants impact the way your building behaves.

03:44 MLL: Another form is juxtaposition, and this is where architectural elements can contrast one another. So, this involves you synchronizing your architectural materials and the stimuli they emit, so that in synchronizing them, you’re impacting the way your occupants behave, and this again gets pulled back into the building’s behavior. So hopefully, you’re working to create environments that impact occupants to help them thrive, to help them live happier, safer and more fulfilling lives, which are even healthier. So, use pattern detection as a starting point to generate and formulate your design concept. I think it will help you with those initial first steps.

04:33 MLL: Thank you for watching. This is Maria Lorena Lehman, Founder of Sensing Architecture. If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to join my Design Insight newsletter, and you will also get my book “Bringing Architecture to the Next Level” for free. Discover how you can shift your mindset to reach breakthrough ideas, meet and predict occupant need using sensory design, leverage the design process so you can get more with less and rethink new technologies to unleash your innovative edge. To join now and access your book, simply visit

Video Transcript: Video from 2011

00:01 Maria Lorena Lehman: Hello, this is Maria Lorena Lehman with Today, I’m going to talk about pattern detection within architectural design and how you can use pattern to really enhance your designs not only esthetically but also functionally in terms of what they can do for your occupants. So, if you’ll notice here, you have your building and your building, of course, communicates with your occupants. But then you ask, “What comes between these? What from here to here can we use as architects to really open up the dialog of communication between the two, so that each enhances the other?”

00:49 MLL: One major thing I’ve been looking at lately are patterns, and pattern detection. Because of course, the building has its own behavior and with its behavior, it yields patterns that ultimately affect occupants. And as your occupants inhabit the building and travel within it and experience it, they too then elicit behavior, and those behaviors also have patterns. So, the trick then becomes for you as an architect to pull all of these pattern behavioral cues together so that you can best mirror and open up that dialog of communication between building and occupant. Now, pattern detection of course can take on many forms.

01:47 MLL: So, I’ll just mention a few here. One might be variation. So, begin to look at how your building elements, both static and dynamic, play off of one another, how they vary from one another, how they’re different, and then look at how those differences affect your occupants because they too are different. They have different ages, different genders, different learning styles, different ways of socializing, and they need to know different things at different times while they’re within your space so that they can function within it optimally.

02:32 MLL: Another thing to look for might be the use of metaphor. And with this, what I mean is to simply look for patterns that your architecture brings where it can pull together and mirror something greater than itself that we recognize, or that your occupants recognize. This is a great way to bring your architecture to new heights so that it can be greater than sum of its parts. Another is juxtaposition. Begin to look at where your architectural elements contrast with one another, and how the differences between these things can actually help your occupants.

03:29 MLL: When doing all of this, as you get started and begin to focus on variation, metaphor and juxtaposition, you’ll suddenly be gaining new insight into how you can better inform your design concept. This is a question I get asked about a lot from you, my readers. When you’re beginning a project, you’re given certain programmatic requirements but you seem to get stuck on how to begin your overall grand architectural gesture and your concept which is very important because so much stems from that initial gesture. So, just begin by looking at patterns, and I think that will take you in a good direction.

04:23 MLL: Thank you, for listening. This is Maria Lorena Lehman with

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