Rules of thumb for strategic building designers:
Some can be borrowed directly from chess players: “Favour moves that increase options; shy from moves that end well but require cutting off choices; work from strong positions that have many adjoining strong positions.” More specific to buildings: overbuild Structure so that heavier floor loads or extra stories can be handled later; provide excess Services capacity; go for oversize (“loose fit”) rather than undersize. Separate high-and low-volatility areas and design them differently. Work with shapes and materials that can grow easily, both interior and exterior. “Use materials from near at hand,” advises Massachusetts builder John Abrams. “They’ll be easier to match or replace.”
The Sakuteiki is an old japanese text designing and maintaining gardens. Rather than defining clear rules, it advocates analysing (and emotionally understanding) the context of each project. As a starting point, it asks three questions:
Asking Why means to grasp the task from a functional perspective and to understand its creative potential.
How asks for the best method to achieve the intended result, based on the designer's education and skill.
Using what is the most important question: it asks for the material to be used, literally the elements the garden is constructed from.
In other words, Sanuteiki suggests that building a garden should be guided by its intended cultural and aesthetic function (why?) and the designer's creative approach (how?) – but its form is ultimately defined by and emerges from the material that guides the design process. Every rock and tree placed define the following steps as they have to be undertaken in context.
There is merit in approaching the design process of a website as a process of iterative placing and building. It alleviates the requirement for a design or an idea. Instead of perceiving the design process as a hard task that needs to be completed (often under pressure of time and budget), it could it resemble something procedural. Ideas may emerge more naturally, as a whole in accordance with the project's individual aspects. Following this approach makes treating ideas like diamonds – singular, precious things made under pressure and duress – seem ineffective and needlessly agressive.
Peter Märkli's seminal quote about the nature of creation takes on another layer of meaning when applied to the digital space. The digital, of course, expands the reach of conceptual invention to the material layer:
While building a bridge requires precise engineering to assemble large amounts of steel into the sky, architects and engineers working in the digital realm are faced with inventing the very materials they may use to construct a new digital edifice – all atoms unfound, all code unwritten.
The privilege and bane of having to invent one's own materiality starkly confronts us with the constructivist nature of our reality: Websites are buildings made of pure thought, materialized into an equally human-made plane of reality by a string of decisions.