creative inspiration

Where do I find creative inspiration?

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Where do any architects find creative inspiration?

Is there an answer to this? Well, after reading this question on the blog generator site Plinky.com I sat down to ponder this one. That’s when I realized that was part of the answer. Keep reading, I’ll explain.

For me there is no simple answer because it is too complex to explain the way the right side of our brain works while the other side casts its vote too. It seems axiomatic that creativity is the part of all of us that cannot be forced. It cannot be turned on and should never be turned off if you know what’s good for you. There are things we do that stifle it and there are things we can do to enhance it.

Before I answer the question with any specificity, allow me some history. It was somewhere in the 5th or 6th grade that I discovered I wanted to be an architect after I found myself drawing all of the time. Following that I had a brilliant art teacher throughout my three years of junior high (yes we called it that when I was in school) who inspired me to be creative. We did focus on technique and process in his class, but what I remember most is his ability to encourage creativity in his students. Since I was also a budding art student I really took to his teaching method. Because of him at an early age I started to ask “why not” and break with tradition and convention…before I even knew what they were! I began to be uncomfortable with following norms when it came to my creative work. We kept in touch, and years later he asked me to design his own art studio…cool.

Now back to today, I am still unsure if I can even answer this at all. I would say that inspiration comes from so many things around me and all of my life experiences to date. A bit trite, right? Some might say music, beautiful landscapes, poetry, or even that special person. All of those may be true, but I would say it comes from “within” the project (site, program, existing conditions, client’s preferences, budget) and from “without.” Ideas can come from flipping through magazines, books and blogs or it could come from walking or driving around. Oftentimes it doesn’t even come from architecture at all. Sometimes there is a symbolic or metaphoric reference. I suppose it really comes from looking, always looking at everything around me. Two dualities come to mind to explain my creative process, pondering+pursuing and creating+discovering.

Pondering is slowly stewing over ideas in my mind, over and over, allowing them to simmer as I work over them mentally. I can do this outside my office, as I drive, and at times as I try to fall asleep. Pursuing is the opposite. It is the rigorous studying of the ideas I’ve pondered. It takes ongoing sketching, modeling, drawing, doodling and testing. It is where the client and I evaluate if what worked in my mind really works.  This is fun, but messy, frustrating at times yet rewarding. I recommend carrying a sketch book everywhere you go. Neither these activities act independently. They often occur simultaneously.

To address creating and discovering, I’ll quote my philosophy I wrote for my website years ago. “We feel we must test in order to measure. We believe design is a process of creation and discovery, meaning that some aspects of design are a direct synthetic, creative process extending from the analytical work of the designer. Throughout that process, the designer, by looking at alternative responses is led to uncovering elements or discovering what the context of the site or the program conveys as being essential. It is the intersection of these two investigations that can lead to the pleasantly unexpected. We believe context is understood by identifying the essence of the project site, the program, topography, climate as well as the nature of the nearby built environment. Budgets, client tastes and goals as well as governing agencies also contribute to this context. All of these are aspects that inform our design process.”

Perhaps I’ve spoken around the subject or even appear to be evasive. That is not my intent. Since it is difficult to be specific about creativity, in a follow-up post, I’ll give examples of how it manifested itself in a few projects of mine. In the meantime, I would love to hear from where your inspiration comes.

photos are from macca’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

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creative inspiration

10 thoughts on “creative inspiration

  1. Rashmi says:

    Its true that sometimes inspiration does not even have to be from architecture. For me , it always depends on how I feel.. most of the times i’m inspired by feelings and my hand works automatically on paper. Some days i just need to be lost in the crowd to be inspired. Or be fascinated by a particular shape and a design just emerges . That’s the wonderful think about the human mind.. If you want ANYTHING can inspire u. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your input. I think some people hold the source for ideas as only being some spiritual or esoteric experience, which it can be. Sometimes it comes from simple work.

  2. […] As an architect, Lee Calisti is asking himself where the creativity and inspiration comes from in hi… He first describe a system that is very similar to the Gestalt theory about human mind: a system that accumulates images and experiences that is used to solve new problems and face more challenges. It has an ever growing border. I was very keen with this understanding of the minds in my early years as an architects. Now it seems that this theory is no longer part of my borders, being incorporated in my own Gestalt. What strikes me about this description of the way that humans are developed is that this model has its own purpose: to perform better, to help solving problems. […]

  3. Lee, thanks for the post. Great work on the artist studio. Quite an elegant work.

    Your manifesto does a better job than I could of describing what drives and informs the creative process. I would like to think that design is the process of uncovering what is already there, but the subjective nature of design doesn’t allow me to fully embrace that concept.

    I do find that I can be more creative within constraints than without them. I have heard this from others as well. + 1 for creativity – I agree with the quip about not stifling it…

    1. Thanks. I agree that there is more creativity within more contraints. I believe it eliminates chasing endless opportunties and allows us to focus. Architecture in a vacuum doesn’t exist or at least doesn’t exist very well.

  4. […] As an architect, Lee Calisti is asking himself where the creativity and inspiration comes from in hi… He first describe a system that is very similar to the Gestalt theory about human mind: a system that accumulates images and experiences that is used to solve new problems and face more challenges. It has an ever growing border. I was very keen with this understanding of the minds in my early years as an architects. Now it seems that this theory is no longer part of my borders, being incorporated in my own Gestalt. What strikes me about this description of the way that humans are developed is that this model has its own purpose: to perform better, to help solving problems. […]

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