When you’re beginning architecture school a lot of the methods and techniques well-known architects use are unknown for you. This is why studying precedent architecture is important All architects in Michigan have studied existing architecture to help them with their own designs Precedent studies is where you chose an existing building and study the building and the architect. You expose yourself to design methods of specific architects and learn about how and why the designed the building based on site conditions, time era, societal limitations, etc. You learn how architecture has developed through time.
For example, the Tower House in Tokyo Japan that was designed by Takamitsu Azuma is a six-story building that is roughly 600 square feet. Azuma was fond of city living and admired the idea that a city could provide everything you needed. He thought that you didn’t need to have a care, a lot of storage space or a large kitchen. Every room is small, considering 6 floors at around 600 square feet means each room is around 100 square feet total. He believed that the city was available to you. If you need groceries you could walk to the local grocer down the road or if you needed a new book to read you could take a trip down to the library. Azuma purchased the lot it sits on in the ’60s and at the time Japan’s economy was going through a major redevelopment. He was set on the location of his plot of land and was determined to make its size work. Since he didn’t have the room for his house to spread out like a ranch would, he went vertical with it instead. He used materials that we local to create a beautiful concrete tower. Studying this particular case study you quickly became aware that lighting and views were one of his main focus’. He strategically placed windows high in the stairwell along each floor. There were no doors in this structure, so the stairs connected everything allowing light to enter each space evenly. The lights in the stairwell created a tale of different views as you traveled up the stairs. He placed them high so the focus would be placed on the sky and treetops instead of the busy concrete streets. On the very top floor was his office, it is used as an extra bedroom today, which is accompanied by a balcony.
Architects in Michigan looking at the house today you’ll notice the contrast of shape compared to the newer high rise buildings surrounding Azuma’s home. These details show age, history, and design thinking process. When you notice buildings like this, don’t automatically assume that the design is bad, or weird. Ask yourself, what was the reasoning behind a specific feature of the building. All architecture is interesting and there is a reason behind all design elements. With Takamitsu Azumas Tower House the shape directly reflects the property line maximizing space inside the home. Also, someone without a design background may question his use of smalle rectangular windows without realizing they were placed with a specific purpose. Becoming more familiar with precedent studies you would know to look at the site and immediate surroundings and question the layout of the interior to look for answers.
You can study these buildings in depth, look at their floor plans, elevations, and site plan to gain a better understanding of the limitations the architect(s) were facing at the time. Seeing the plans in details shows you how drafting has changed. With the Tower House, the plans you will find are copies of the hand-drawn plans that Azuma completed. It brings in a whole new appreciation of how drafting is done today.
By going through these case studies your learning to acknowledge the smaller details that are going to make a big difference in your designs in the future. You can use methods you’ve learned from precedent case studies into your own designs. Doing so creates a connection between the two. Architects in Michigan can use precedents to help easily communicate design ideas to their clients. Showing a client an existing building that is utilizing designs similar to the ones they want instills confidence in their decisions. When architects in Michigan use precedent studies to explain their ideas to their clients it is showing the meaning behind their designs.
You learn how to solve specific design problems. Using precedence to aid you in your designs isn’t to make one lazy but rather enrich the designs of the modern world with ideas that are known to work. Herman Melville once said, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation”. You’ll hear many architects in Michigan say “Nothing is 100% original” which is true. We all know that history repeats itself and the methods and techniques of architecture are tried and true, so if you see as a design method in multiple buildings it must be working and serving a purpose and can serve once again in modern design. While using a precedence study to learn you must apply your own creativity to make the design your own. It never hurts to study precedents because there is a limitless amount of design problems that you’re going to have to solve. Subjecting yourself to historic creative ways of solving them will make your jobs easier in the future.
If designers only applied existing methods and avoided applying their own ideas we would be stuck in an ugly, repetitive, mundane world filled with architecture that worked but wouldn’t be exciting. Your designs, and the precedent study should be responsive to one another. No designs are exactly the same. They all have different limitations, that influence designs and change the overall concept of a building. So, duplicating a building exactly is only taking away from the function of the design because some of the issues won’t be met. This will only lead to uncomfortable spaces with ill moods, bad lighting, and overall non-functioning designs. All architects in Michigan are or have studied precedence in architecture while attentively implementing methods that have been used for years to contribute to their ideas and help them solve design problems and achieve functional designs.