FROM PROGRAM TO DESIGN, HOW ARCHITECTS’ USE BRIEFING DOCUMENTS

JOHN L. HEINZ, FLEMMING OVERGAARD

Abstract


Architects often express dissatisfaction with the briefing documents consisting of long and detailed lists of technical requirements for each space within a perspective building. While this information is essential, it fails to transmit the feel for the project essential to the architect as the starting point for design. Architects therefore repeat much of the effort of preparing the brief – interviews with client and users, precedent studies, excursions to recent projects – in their preparation for design. This suggests the question: how much of this effort can be saved through better selection and presentation of briefing information. This study will use a comparison of the briefing process in several countries, Denmark, The Netherlands, and The United Kingdom, to attempt to improve our understanding of the relationship between briefing and design. The article concludes with a series of recommendations for improving briefing documents and the briefing process. The most important of these are that programs must convey not only the technical requirements of the spaces listed, but also the feel – both of individual spaces and the project as a whole. Programs should also convey the actions, culture and attitudes of the users of the facility. However, even with these inclusions, architects still need time and work to get the program (both as document and as idea) ‘in their fingers’. The program cannot be presented as a literal text, instead it will always be analyzed by the architect, and this analysis seems to be an essential part of the design process.


Full Text: PDF