What Does “Design Excellence” Mean To You?

Photo: First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942.

By Aaron Trahan, AIA Committee On Design Knowledge Scholar

The theme of the Committee on Design Spring Conference, “Defining Architectural Excellence”, is one that cannot be  defined, drawn, or planned, it can only be born, experienced, and described. Over the next few weeks, I hope to draw conclusions from the conference, in a series of posts that will highlight the overarching themes from our symposia, panels and intimate discussions.

As architects, our clients expect 100% design excellence, no matter what the scale or the budget of the project. This, I believe, is achievable because scale and budget do not determine architectural excellence.

Excellence requires a complex balance of the pragmatic and the poetic, which throughout history has been on a pendulum scale. Currently, I believe that we are near the center point of that scale, which is unfortunately headed in a more conservative, more pragmatic direction. Economy and conservatism have slowed the progression of design excellence in the United States, especially in comparison to European and Asian design culture.

Throughout the series of posts ahead, I hope to further define and analyze design excellence, while also drawing some conclusions from my experience in Columbus. I look forward to continuing the theme of the conference with those of you who joined me, as well as those who are interested in discussing this theme further.


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