Recently my architecture firm EDGES sent in a design entry for a commercial building complex. Before starting on the conceptual design of the building, we had the eternal discussion common to all designers of Form and function. I re-write this article which I had written a few months back but now modified by my own experiences to explore both sides of the argument.
Form follows ……… function is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. It was the late 19th century architect Louis H. Sullivan who coined this phrase “form (ever) follows function” in 1896 in his article “The tall office building artistically considered”. Sullivan developed the tall steel skyscraper in Chicago during this very time. His assistant Frank Lloyd Wright later adopted the same principle in a slightly different form.
This phrase became a battle-cry of Modernist Architects after 1930s which implied that all decorative elements (ornamental) were superfluous and the building design should be a direct reflection for the function it has been designed, making it simplistic and contemporary to look at. It is a belief very close to “Less is more” and which sheds all elements used for ornamentation of elements.
Nearly a century later Hartmut Esslinger (a German-American industrial designer) on the lines of this famous maxim re-coined it into his design principle “form follows emotion”. Esslinger is known for his ground-breaking designs from Apple, Lufthansa Airlines, Siemens, Motorola and many more. Speaking from a context of product design he says, “brand position is what counts, and brand goes back to the emotional content of products”. The future is in personalization and we as designers get hints on this every day.
Frank Gehry’s design for Guggenheim museum in Bilbao is a perfect example of form following an individual’s emotion. Every owner or an architect has an emotional connect with its building, so it is natural for a building to be a confluence of the emotions of the architect and owners.
As for our design entry we tried our best to merge Form, Function & Emotion together and everyone who was part of the design team had their own perception about the building’s architecture. Ultimately a building does reflect the personal taste of the designer & the owner.
Our entry has finally been shortlisted in the top 3 entries and we like to believe that the building “form did follow our emotion”.