Joshua Prince-Ramus – Creation and Execution – bringing social agency and cultural formation back into the architectural process. He suggests a process for design that makes a lot of sense to me.

Issue: What is the problem to be solved? What are the constraints?

Position: Made in collaboration with the client. Develop the positions that will have to be met in order to have success. This is a functional process rather than an aesthetic process. This is a focus on Purpose, not simply the purpose of the end product – but the larger social and political purpose of the space AND it’s users.

Manifestation: What is the creation that emerges from the collaboration? The final product here is not fixed … not in the traditional architectural model of the ‘artist’s vision’ which the client must squeeze themselves into. The aesthetic derives from the manifestation of the positions that need to be met.

Aesthetics have trumped rational functionality and agency in the architectural process for some time now. The approach being suggested by Prince-Ramus isn’t new – it’s actually a return to much older sensibilities in design – from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller. The larger cultural context and social constructions should be considered when approaching a problem. If the function of the end space is given ultimate priority, then we continue to create inhuman spaces. If the aesthetic impact of the end space is given highest priority, then we create beautiful wastelands which humans have trouble relating to as functional spaces.

In order to merge these two end results – the imperative is to work first with the problem to be solved and work primarily to empower the end user to overcome all barriers to functional mastery. In real terms today – these considerations need to include economic efficiencies, integration of sustainable technology built in to the core of the structure, and a clear dedication to multi-use spaces. This is as relevant to a single family home design as it is to a theater.

The rise and proliferation of the McMansion can be linked easily here to lost agency. When the highest priority is placed on status as a design principle, efficiencies are often abandoned and greater social and political impacts are ignored. The return to socially conscious (political) architecture is already well on the way – and as humans continue to realize and embrace interdependence, further refinements will surely arise.