Little Maps

Last UpdateNOVEMBER 2020

4. Search and Plan: To Foresee

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

To foresee. From predictability to foresight.

-First we decide how this future habitat can be lived -what it is for. Then we foresee how it will be, which conditions we need to provide to make it possible -how can we use all resources at hand-, how it will behave, what it will provoke. How can it last as much time as possible, how does it get old, how does it really work. And then, by forebuilding, we think about how it will be materialised, how it is assembled and disassembled. To foresee and open possibilities at the same time.

Planning and designing are different actions that require slightly different abilities and training.

To plan is not an exercise of imagination, not even of constructive imagination, but of foresight. It is not a mental projection, thru images or imagery, from here to there; but rather a pendular journey, from here to there, from there to here; from now to then, from then to now. It’s nothing abstract, but very concrete indeed.

When designing, on the other hand, imagination comes in handy. You can project on your mind how a building and its parts might move, bend, warp, shake, and be repaired. How its touch will feel. How it will behave during a violent rainstorm. How does it dilate and contract. How does the light get in and out.

How it gets less dirty and how it can be easily cleaned. How will it age. Will it be better as it gets older?

This part is scientific. How a building will behave can be predicted and verified. How people will feel and behave in them can also be a science, only one that is still way behind, and with some strong ethical questions as well.

Every decision has a consequence. When designing a building, tens of thousands of decisions are made. Most are implicit, mindless or taken for granted, and we (the architects) are not even aware of them.

-What do you think of when designing a building? Which are your priorities?

-We place ourselves as observers of how this construction will behave in terms of climate conditions, endurance, deformations, weathering, use and overall performance. From this acute seeing we can carry out the modifications so everything works better.



FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, 'The logic of the plan'. First published: Architectural Record. 1928.

A good plan is the beginning and the end, because every good plan is organic. That means that its development in all directions is inherent -inevitable. Scientifically (…) to foresee all is “to plan”. (…) All is there seen -purpose, materials, method, character, style. (…) But it is a map, a chart, a mere diagram, a mathematical projection before the fact.

To judge the architect one need only look at his ground plan. He is master then and there, or never. (…) Because before the plan is a plan it is a concept in some creative mind. It is, after all, only a purposeful record of that dream, which saw the destined building living in its appointed place. A dream -but precise and practical, the record to be read by the like minded.

The original plan may be thrown away as the work proceeds -probably most of those for the most wonderful buildings in the world were, because the concept grows and matures during realisation, if the mastermind is continually with the work. But that plan had first to be made. Ultimately it should be corrected and recorded.

Therefore, conceive the building in the imagination, not on paper but in the mind, thoroughly -before touching paper. Let it live there -gradually taking more definite form before committing it to the draughting board. When the thing lives for you -start to plan it with tools not before. To draw during conception or “sketch”, as we say, experimenting with practical adjustments to scale, is well enough if the concept is clear enough to be firmly held. It is best to cultivate the imagination to construct and complete the building before working upon it with T square and triangle.


What can we think of? To build before building.

How will the building survive earthquakes, fires and hurricanes?

Check, check and check. Then check again.