Architects are multidisciplinary individuals; they usually have a broad range of skills, but the one skill they need to have to succeed is communication skills. What’s the point of designing a project if only one side of the party can understand it? When architects discuss amongst each other, there is a depth of understanding that is communicated verbally and visually, a language if you were to hear as a non-architect you wouldn’t comprehend. To produce that same amount of clarity, enthusiasm, and understanding to laymen, how do architects conversate about architecture?

How do architects usually communicate their ideas?

During the 20th century, the need for architects to communicate better with the rest of society, clients, and construction companies rose since more organizations began to commission architectural works.

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Architectural sketch_©

Typically, an idea begins by trying to solve a problem and creating a design brief. The architect usually sketches a concept to represent it to the client. After working on a design and going back and forth between the clients, project managers, contractors, suppliers, and authorities’ drawings need to be communicated to get a full understanding of how the project works. The use of 2D drawings alone isn’t enough; sections, elevations, animations, perspective, VR, thinking, and showing the idea in a 3-dimensional space will give clients and stakeholders a better understanding of how it functions and gain a feel for the project.

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Architectural drawings_©

Some architects have taken it upon themselves to involve the locals, when possible, before the construction process to better communicate the design, reason of choice for materials selected and have them be a part of the process.

Francis Kere, for instance, has said he prefers to draw on the ground instead of on paper; he creates mock-ups of his design solutions, showing proof of why he decided to use a specific material and design, giving the locals a better understanding of the why and how which in return inspires them and makes them appreciate the specific use of available materials.

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Francis Kere standing in the middle showing the strength of a structure through a mock up_©

Architects explaining architecture to Laymen

Since the test of time, visuals have been integral to conveying an idea. In ancient times petroglyphs, a pre-form symbol of writing, had images incised or carved into the rock and were recognized as the earliest form of communication.

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Petroglyphs on a cave in Utah_©

Pictographs, on the other hand, are a true form of symbolic writing showcasing an event, concept, person, or idea through drawings. These two means of communication were meant to transmit essential messages.

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Pictograph, hieroglyphs in Egypt_©

It’s only natural that in the 21stcentury, it has evolved using this history, and developing it will only enhance the understanding of an idea. Now, architectural diagrams could be referred to as the new pictographs used by architects that could be described as a step-by-step process offering a clear understanding within a single image or several sequential images of either a construction explanation or a concept, bridging the gap between architects and non-experts.

No one Is more famous than this for using this tool as Bjarke Ingels.

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BIG, Architectural Diagrams_©

Each step of the sequence is a step closer to understanding the full picture, the full reasoning behind the solution provided.

Humans usually comprehend better when they can connect with a project; since all architecture impacts people in one way or the other, their understanding and opinion are just as crucial as the designers.

Better visualizations such as orthogonal drawings, 3D renders, VR, use of colour schemes in presentation, and human references to understand the scale will enable the clients and non-architects to not only fully comprehend the reason behind everything but also have them get a sense of it.

Architects go the extra mile to make sure their idea is understood by others as it is by themselves. They intentionally use colour to bring drawings to life, making specific crucial elements to their concept pop out.

American Dream_©Yue Ma

“God is in the details”-Mies Van Der Rohe.  

They use detailed drawings to gain a better understanding of textures, scales, and light. They bring a drawing to life by using light, shadows, and tone, resulting in a composing image of hierarchy. 

The more 3D dimensional a drawing, the clearer and easier it is for non-professionals to understand it and gain a new way to view architecture and senses from different angles.

Last but not least, writing has been a tool most of the population uses to communicate; architects are no different. There is a fine line between architecture and writing; it has the power to transform a narrative space into a material one through words. The description of materials used, the thought process, space, the interior and exterior, light and shadow are all as necessary to provide people with an understanding of a design, giving them a full sense of immersion in the project.

Rem Koolhaas said: “The world is a single entity rather than a fragmented situation” when combining all means of communication to facilitate collaboration, increase communication and provide guidance and vision into a single entity, whether you are an architect or not, you will and should gain a better view and understanding of architecture.


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An architectural masters graduate with a passion for design and writing. She holds a strong attitude to overcome obstacles combined with an optimistic character used to bring value to whatever project she is working on. She is organized, motivated, self-confident and success oriented.