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Who supplies the Vision?



January 22nd, 2014

Who Supplies the Vision?

-Rebecca Key, AIA, LEED-AP

 

 

Who provides the Vision for a building or engineering project?

When the project is being paid for with private funds, it is often assumed the owner has the "vision" as it is the owner's desire and/or need for the project to begin with. It is the Architect's role to interpret that vision into a constructible project.

When the project is being funded with public funds; i.e. tax dollars, grants, public bond fund; who supplies the vision?

Committees are often created to develop the "program". The program usually states the amount of people that need to be "housed" in the space to be designed, specifying the activities to be performed within the space. How big is the space? What type of interaction occurs amongst the occupants of the space? Who is the end user? Are there visitors? Are there workers? What is visible to the public? What is visible to the occupants? What is the budget? What is the timetable? All of these questions and more are often identified within the "Program Document".

Sometimes the Program Document is developed by the Public entity involved, sometimes the architect is asked to assist. The Program Document is the start of the project. But where is the vision? Publically funded projects must have a "vision" behind it so that the "public" understands the importance of appropriating tax dollars to the project. Has the Vision behind the project been developed out of a specific need?

Oftentimes Program documents are created in a vacuum, without any communication between the end user and the entity creating the program. When this happens, there is often a "lack of vision" in the project. The dictionary meaning of "vision", other than the power of sensing with sight; is the "act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be." This is the creative vision, this is the power that enthuses others, and this is the driving force that compels others to be persuaded to support the unbuilt project. The "act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be," this is vision.

Good practitioners of architecture understand that one must envision oneself within the project boundaries, and understand the activities and operations that are being conducted within the program space. Once the self is allowed to "experience" the space within the mind's eye, then better decisions are made. Being able to communicate that vision, that "act of anticipating which may be" to the owner's representative, the end user, the contractor, the public entity; is critical for a successful project. So, oftentimes, in a Public Project, it is the architect who develops the Vision, and together with feedback from the owner, the vision comes after the program and not before.

If a successful project is defined merely as "On Time and On Budget", it may be profitable, but did it satisfy the "vision" of the project? Did it satisfy the desire as well as the need? Did the project satisfy other than just basic needs of humanity; shelter and protection of the activity and occupant? Did it transcend the physical realm of beauty and proportion and envelope the user in a sense of purpose and inspiration? If it did all of those things, then it was also a visionary project as well.

 
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