Form vs Function

glass-house

In our industry, there are two main philosophies that guide the design process. They are: “Form Follows Function” and “Function Follows Form”. Simply put, some designers believe that the way a building looks or its Form is more important than how it Functions while others believe the building’s Form is an outcome of its Function. There are good arguments to be made on either side of this debate, but this we do know; a good designer need not sacrifice either Form for Function, or Function for Form. If he or she does, they have not served their client well.

As with any fine or applied art, the basic design principles of proportion, scale, consistency, and contrast apply to building design. A strong aesthetic and functional design deals with all of these factors and their relationship with each other.

  • Proportion is how the size and shape of each building component relates to each other.
  • Scale is how the size of each building component relates to how the user experiences the building.
  • Consistency is how the color, texture, and scale of each component relate to each other while creating a single entity composition.
  • Contrast is what provides the visual “energy” to the composition.

The ability of the designer to balance these principles is what determines the aesthetic and functional success of the design. If a building is out of proportion, it fights itself. If a building is out of scale, people will be uncomfortable when using the building. If a building has no consistency the person trying to experience it can’t find a starting point. By skillfully applying contrast, the designer can provide energy to the composition, as well as provide visual organization to the components.

The PDMi staff of Engineers and Architects believes that strong visual Forms are easier to accomplish when they reflect a well-planned functional design. Give us a call we would like to put the “Art of the Design” to work for you on your next project.

Leave a Reply