It goes without saying that creativity lives in architecture. It’s a freeing field that allows the mind to go wild and bring ideas to life. Architecture students might be inclined towards becoming architects because of the nature of the practice. However, how true does that hold when faced with reality? In studios, we might feel like we can be more expansive, curious, and bold with our designs. Professors and mentors push our limits and test our ability to be creative architects. Yet, it’s worth diving into how creative architects really are and whether anything ever stunts their growth. 

What it means to be a creative architect and is creativity ever limited? - Sheet1
Vega, S. (2018). Types of Creativity. [Photograph]. (TED). 

A Creative Architect

Our minds resort to multiple places when thinking of what creativity means. Some might imagine a glamorous art piece, a funky outfit, or a must-see building. Creativity applies to many avenues and fields and is an art itself. Architects rely on being creative in both simple and complex ways. 

For example, manipulating light or using recycled material can be some strategies that imply a creative design process. The effect of creativity can also be created through an ambiance or atmosphere rather than physical presence. We can take a step back further and think of how buildings or landscapes are integrated into the site and its context. All forms of design are valid ways of being creative. There can, however, be pressure within all this. 

Especially as a student learning to become an architect and figuring out the ways of the field. Creativity has proven to be dependent. Relying on the design process and the effort of the architect, creativity is not a guaranteed outcome. Some can argue that being creative is an innate ability and doesn’t reside in everyone. While that may be true, one can push past those limits and standards.

What it means to be a creative architect and is creativity ever limited? - Sheet2
Brown, J. (2013) The Brain of a Designer. [Drawing].
This is what it means to be a creative architect. It doesn’t entail that you need to be extravagant and far-fetched with your design, but that you understand the rules of the career and you find ways to abide by them. You can easily point out Zaha Hadid as a creative architect that deleted the boundary and put her spin on architecture and what it means to be an architect. 

You can also point out, however, that Le Corbusier was also a creative architect from another perspective. Being a creative architect varies from person to person, both as the designer and the consumer. Simple designs that focus on a few concepts, like light and structure, can be just as powerful as those buildings that are curvacious and seem to float. The way people interact with a structure also makes a creative architect. 

Most times, the process of creativity is masked as strategy and intellect. It’s expected that we must be smart to be creative. Yet, this can be misleading and turn people away from becoming the best architect possible. Creativity is just what you make it out to be. Your approach to design is what makes you a creative architect.

Limits of Creativity

However, what if things become difficult? What happens when we are faced with limitations and barriers? While there is an argument that creativity exists everywhere and can be taken advantage of from various paths, there’s also the idea that creativity hits a limit. As architects, there are moments when we feel that we’ve hit a stump, a sort of writer’s block. It’s true that it does limit our thought process and design strategies but does it limit our ability to be creative? 

Another example could be when we’re out in the real world and the engineers tell us we have to have a certain number of columns in each room. Does this pragmatic approach cancel the desire to be creative? What about when we’re in school, just inspiring architects, who are faced with a challenging site full of highways and pollution. 

One may say that this leads them to design something simpler and to the point; something that doesn’t require much effort to creativity. Yet, someone else might say that this pushes them to do better and design better. We are by nature challenged and limited. Despite that, our creativity is still what remains constant.

Helmutk.(2018). Creative Block. [Cartoon].

Pushing the Limits as an Architect

Behind every building, landscape, and city are creative architects and designers. Individuals who remain true to their intentions and do things with their hearts. Being a creative architect is undefinable because each person exudes their form of creativity. Sometimes, without us knowing, we tend to be creative beyond areas of creativity. It’s an exciting adventure to find out how you can push yourself and bring your point of view into your designs. 

While we might encounter a difficult site or an engineering obstacle, these limits are catapults towards challenging yourself even further. You must stick to your design morals and implement your version of what it means to be a creative architect in everything that you do. While you might be doubtful, you should also have hope that creativity really does exist everywhere. You don’t need to be born with it nor do you need to be a certain type of person. You just have to be yourself and that will always be enough.


Shatha Abushaikha is an environmental design student in Houston, TX with a passion for writing and research. Aside from being captured by architecture and its endless possibilities, she also enjoys watching anime and painting. Shatha hopes to spread inspiration and believes that people are what drive design.