Little Maps

Last updateAPRIL2020

3. Search and Plan: The Whole Equation

A design problem is not solved like an algorithm, but as an equation. Any missing or not calibrated factor, any mistaken order or omission of one variable, will lead to a wrong conclusion. In design there is objective and quantitative right and wrong decisions.

-The precise, rigorous ordering and qualification of the data and the initial unknown quantities and qualitites, the relations between them, will give us a complex equation with multiple questions and clear priorities. The questions are about what and how we’ll add, take out, transforming matter and energy into an inhabitable structure, and the overall needs and possibilities of the current commission.

This equation does not have the form of an equation. It resembles a diagram. This equation is not, and cannot be solved by, some preestablished formulas. The way how we order these questions will generate the plan, and in order to develop it, in the following stages, we will apply some techniques, both known or made on purpose for this particular study case. The plan is the outcome of an objective process. It needs to be totally justified by practical and performability reasons, which of course include dweller’s and builder’s feelings, not ours.

-What is a diagram?

-It is data organized in such a way that establishes qualitative relations between several items. It is a map that has no direction and place yet. Our diagrams don’t need to have the shape of a diagram. They just contain the basic relationships of our plan.

-What is a plan?

-It is the actions with timing and resources that will help us achieve our goal. It is similar to a strategy, but we are not in a war situation.

-What documents do we produce here?

-In this stage, we draw nothing but thoughts, as diagrams or ideograms. From these first three stages we will obtain a few priorities and a few questions, that form our plan. All important questions that will appear along the way of the project, are implied in this equation. Most of the mistakes made in a project are a consequence of a lack of critical attitude, attention and rigour in these first stages. The answers will not be relevant and pertinent if the questions are incomplete or confused. Too often there is a tendency to eliminate, in an arbitrary or capricious way, some of the questions of the equation. Or prejudiced answers are anticipated, in a static and finished way, so that the project is only a lineal way to build a fixed image. This is due to ignorance, or some egotistic dark ambitions and desires of the architect. We know for hundreds of years now that all this doesn’t work. If we have been rigorous and precise in these first three steps, the resulting plan, displayed in one or more diagrams, will guide us on the sometimes too winding way. We can always come back to them whenever we get lost, or doubt visits us too often.

As in real equations, just a wrong or missing factor, or the inadequate grammar, might lead us to a wrong outcome.

A -1 is missing in this one.

-We need to organise, prioritise, choose and synthesise the important questions that any commission brings.
If we move fast to the next step, or we haven't gathered all data carefully enough, that's the length of the equation we might get.

-If we gather data carefully and don't hesitate, that's actually the complexity of our endeavour. As complex as it is, if the priorities are clearly set, the next steps are not a complicated mental process.


Two drawings that José Antonio Coderch in the initial design process of the Casa Ugalde.
The one on the left shows his thoughts on the relation between the important parts of the house and its site; how the house will be placed in the terrain.
The one on the right already includes thoughts about the shapes and qualities of these important parts.


What can we think of? To live before living.

What can we think of? To anticipate how a place will work, how will people feel in it, how it will age, how it will get better with time.

What can we think of? To build before building.