03  Writing a Starting Statement

Human history is a sequence of amazing moments. This includes new building projects. Given that designing projects is complex, the realization that all buildings start with a new and unique moment of inspiration is especially important. It is easy to make assumptions and fall back on previous experiences. Forgetting that all architecture projects start from a fresh, new individual vision can cause costly mistakes, and amazing new ideas can be overlooked.

Everyone involved in the design and construction of a building needs to understand the big idea behind it. What is the end goal? What is the project aiming to achieve? The initial idea needs capturing somehow. The tool architects use to do this is often referred to as a concept, or starting statement. This ought to be a short, definitive statement that records a moment in time and grounds the project in tangible language.

West loop 02
DSC 0017

It reminds everyone working on a project why the project exists, so they can realign their work at any point, if required.”

The value of being able to start a project by succinctly capturing and sharing the reasons a project exists cannot be stressed enough. It is important for many reasons. The first is that we are human – exceptional, but limited in our own ways. Construction projects are complex with a lot of moving parts with long timelines that require long-term focus from multiple participants. Human nature means we easily get distracted. Group thinking can, and often does, meander off course without discipline. A starting statement grounds the project firmly and gives the architect, the design team, and anyone related to the project, something to refer to. It reminds everyone working on a project why the project exists, so they can realign their work at any point, if required. Every project is constantly pulled off course. It’s the nature of working with collaborators over time to create something new, no matter how simple.

Society’s modern methods of working do not help. We are ever more connected in today’s transactional world and stimulated to a point of saturation. We can get dozens of emails, with differing opinions, before 10am. We can build 3D models that present alternative visions, prompt questions, and open up opportunities for change. We have, it seems, endless choices. At the end of the day, however, success comes from handling all the inputs and pressures that come our way during the design and construction of a project. A clear and concise Concept or Starting Statement gives everyone a shared reference point. This allows regular check-ins. Are we still all heading toward the same goal? Are we still on course? It is easier to get back on track during stressful periods by referring back to a Concept or Starting Statement. There will always be stressful periods. They are part and parcel of every construction project.

IMG 0354
Hallstar 3

As a written narrative develops, you can begin to add visual examples to act as inspiration and provide illustrations for the narrative. Similarly, any examples of design drawings of features that produce the same qualities you desire in the project can be added. Without curation and commentary, however, it can be easy to misinterpret the intent of an image or diagram, so it is helpful to annotate these reference images with explanations that explain why they are relevant to the current project, and why they resonate. With only a small amount of direction, images and drawings can be essential communication tools whenever you are speaking the language of architecture.