"We don't know where we get our ideas from. What we do know is that we do not get them from our laptops." - John Cleese
People often ask us where our design inspiration come from. Does it come from within? Are architects just naturally inclined to be creative? I'm here to tell you that 99% of design inspiration comes from our knowledge of the past, our education and observations of our surroundings.
"The only art I'll ever study is stuff that I can steel from" - David Bowie
Is it okay to admit that architects are influenced by the work of other architects? Of course it is, and those who say otherwise are lying. In Austin Kleon's wonderful, concise book, "Steel Like an Artist", he explains the methodical process artists and architect have towards conceiving new work. We copy our heroes and although we rarely admit it, our heroes are often our peers. He goes on to explain that steeling from one person is called "plagerism" but steeling from many is called "original".
Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant would say, "There isn't a move that's a new move." He admits that his moves are stolen from watching tapes of guys who are his heroes. When Bryant stole a lot of these moves he found that his particular body type did not allow him to completely pull of the moves he stole so he had to modify them to suit his own abilities. He adapted the moves to make them his own. Similarly architects draw inspiration from their heroes and the cumulative result is shown in the work we produce.
We try to produce work that we feel is missing or there is a need for. I can't speak for other architects but those of us at Element 5 Architecture search out certain projects and influence our clients to allow us to produce work that we find compelling. As Austin continues to grow and densify (and become less affordable) one typology we are investigating is micro-housing. Another is adaptive re-use for under-used or abandoned structures. Another is adapting the duplex to various sizes and configurations to increase urban density in a comfortable way. Sometimes we find clients and developers willing to listen to these ideas, sometimes developers come to us because they've heard of our interests. You could say our approach to unique design comes from investigating new building types.
"My interest in making music has been to create something that does not exist that I would like to listen to. I wanted to hear music that had not yet happened..." - Brian Eno