Imagination in Architecture Essay Competition – Results Announced!

12.04.2022, Tue

imagination-in-architecture-essay-competition–results-announced

©Vardhan Arora & Pooja Tambe

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Imagination in Architecture is an essay competition organized by artuminate in association with archiol, this competition received 72 entries from around the world.


Competition Jury:

  • Daniele Longobardi

  • Maanasi Hattangadi

  • Nicole Cullinan


The full results, including the winners, the honourable mentions, and the shortlisted entries can be viewed here - https://www.artuminate.com/competition-winners/imagination-in-architecture-essay



Scroll down to check the winning entries.



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First Prize winner:

Vardhan Arora & Pooja Tambe  (India)


4R’s: The Amelioration of Imagination

‘’The architect who combines in his being the powers of vision, of imagination, of intellect, of sympathy with human need and the power to interpret them in a language vernacular and time--- is he who shall create poems in stone.’’

-Ar. Louis Sullivan (Prominent American Architect)

Imagination is the ability to form new ideas, images, or concepts of external objects that are not perceived by the senses. It is an umbrella term for thinking and creativity. The large domain of imagination covers a range from the vaguest ideas (e.g., cube) to the firmest manifestations (e.g., juxtaposition and interplay of a large number of cubes) of forms, shapes, etc.

In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings and speak its language.

-Ar. Peter Zumthor (Prominent Swiss Architect)

Imagination is an essential phenomenon for Architects. The imagery visualized by Architects ignites the subsequent design process. Throughout the design process, Imagination is a key factor to understand the Architect's intent and the experience behind it. The experiential quality is influenced by the process of imagination to a greater extent. The fragment of imagination at various stages enables Architects to decide what kind of space and environment is best for the user.

Eventually, the purpose of the design process is for a group of users. An Architect puts oneself into the user's shoes and imagines the space, visualizing the various elements like the external form and the various structural members which make up the external form. These imageries enable the Architect to decide the best for the end-user. Architecture must be comprehensible by all for the user to experience the space imagined or visualized by the Architect. This field is unique as it is governed by artistic and engineering factors. An architect needs to know that what one visualizes or imagines needs to be buildable and comprehensible by a layman. If an Architect does not have this control over his/her imagination then the boundary between an artist and an Architect is broken. In architecture, the process of imagination must go through a rigorous process of 4R’s.

The 4R process of Architectural design is governed by various factors which enable the architecture to be comprehensible. The process of 4r’s can be understood by the unbuilt project or design for a government school in India (Note: The project was conceptualized by the authors as a part of their academic project). (Hereon, the author of the essay is also the designer/Architect of the project mentioned).


The project aims to tackle issues related to the spatial degradation and infrastructure of Indian Government schools. Indian government schools for a long time have seen low acceptance rates and people to date are reluctant to send their children to these schools. These spaces and the spaces in which the students live to exhibit a compact spatial pattern. As architecture students, the authors found it difficult to imagine quality learning spaces in these compact spaces. This was identified as the prime problem. The process for 4R’s subsequently blends into the design process.

RETHINKING: After imagining various issues related to spatial planning the authors visualized that a sense of fragmentation was essential to the spaces. This intent of fragmentation triggered the author's mind to imagine various spaces which could exhibit a fragmented nature. The author's imagination took off the idea of fragmentation of spaces to deliver a sense of playfulness by creating a series of open spaces.


REIMAGINING: To enhance the spatial quality of the school as a whole the authors imagined that the classroom would be the most appropriate unit to start with. The author reimagined various classroom forms which could be modular and developed as a school as a whole. After analyzing and imagining various possibilities the authors narrowed it down to a form that exhibits a vaulted roof and a rectilinear plan. The classroom space is imagined to be partially subterranean in such a way that the vault bows down to the ground that enables the author to imagine a dual nature to the spatial character. The dual nature of the vaults was imagined to be the modular factor for all the spaces in the school complex.


REFINING: With the help of basic proximity knowledge and keeping in mind the earlier intent of inducing a series of open spaces, the fragment of imagination was reimagined a lot of time in terms of zoning. The authors had to undertake a sensitive planning process to imagine the relationship between the different spaces in the school. The necessary changes were undertaken by imagining from the user's perspective whilst keeping a check on the functional requirements of the space as well. During this process, the contextual and climatic factors were also studied which made the design appropriate for the site. The scale and proportion of the spaces were also refined based on factors about the user; their number; their behavioral pattern; functionality and spatial quality.


RESTRUCTURING: After the authors had a clear image of the relationship between all different spaces in the school the next question was materiality. The different possibilities of the spatial qualities of the spaces concerning materiality were explored. The process of restructuring enabled the authors to devise the final visualization or imagery of the spaces with complete details. This resolved imagery is the final product that the user will experience and is the author’s (Architects) devised imagination of the school and the spaces.


The process of 4R’s as seen from the example is essential for the clear visualization of a place. The fragment of imagination needs to be tangible to the layman. The sole motive of an Architect is to create comprehensible spaces that are functional and experiential to the layman. Imagination thus is an essential tool for an Architect to kickstart a design process. Throughout this process, various factors influence the imagination. The Architect molds the fragment of imagination under the influence of these factors and the design process eventually delves into the 4R process to have the end product. The power of imagination for an Architect is essential to mold the experience for the user and be functional at the same time.


Architecture has to be greater than just architecture. It has to address social values, as well as technical and aesthetic values. On top of that, the one true gift that an Architect has is his or her imagination. We take something ordinary and elevate it to something extraordinary’’

- Ar. Samuel Mockbee (Prominent American Architect).

©Vardhan Arora & Pooja Tambe (India)

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©Vardhan Arora & Pooja Tambe (India)

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©Vardhan Arora & Pooja Tambe (India)

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©Vardhan Arora & Pooja Tambe (India)

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2nd Prize winner:

Grace Angelica Nadapdap & Lana Safrila Sheren Ferandita (Indonesia)


Eschewing The Monotony of Design : Architecture with Imagination

Humans don't live in boxes, but why don't they?Why do architects create structures with a variety of mass compositions? Why are some structures designed to be higher, more visible, lighter, or even darker? Natural landscapes inspired different creative genres in the past. However, we can't just drive down the road and see buildings shaped like chickens, cows, and trees. So, how did a blue whale become a majestic building as Yale Whale? What was the source of the transformation? Imagination is the key.

The term "imagination" comes from the word "image" and the verb "imagine" (image), which meaning "to imagine." In this context, imagination refers to the ability to conceive or create images based on reality or personal experience. Meanwhile, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines imagination as "the ability of the mind to construct various representations in the shape of objects, conditions, or activities that have not been sensed or experienced through the sensory process." As a result, imagination is a creative capture and the power of expression (interpretation) of reality and life experience, allowing for interpretation and subsequent study of something different or totally new.

In the world of architecture, imagination plays an important part. According to the Indonesian Institute of Architects (IAI), the architectural design process is divided into six steps, starting with the design concept, schematic design, design development, making DED (Detail Engineering Design) drawings, construction procurement, and periodic construction supervision. Imagination is crucial in many parts of architecture, particularly in the first three steps, when the architect pours their thoughts into the design. Imagination expands the scope of ideas, designs, and conceptions. Imagination becomes a tool for creativity to create something new, to turn the ordinary into extraordinary.

An architect will usually contemplate before creating and developing a design in order to come up with a concept that will be used in his work. This usually occurs when a person is in a relaxed state of mind that allows for conscious reflections in thinking and the development of creative ideas (Ayan, 1997). This type of creative thinking is centered on imagination and the association of ideas with flexibility (Buzan, 2004), with the goal of creating and developing new ideas. As a result, one of the most significant aspects of an architect's creativity (Amarta, 2013) is imagination. Therefore, it will be fascinating to see how imagination generates an abstract notion, theory, viewpoint, or inspiration that can aid in the design process.

The imagination's next purpose is to provide flexibility in adapting to the environment. Cesar Pelli, a veteran of skyscraper design, remarked in an interview that carrying the same image to multiple locations with varied conditions and functions is a mistake. Rather of imposing personal features or preferences, architecture should enhance the quality and strength of a location. Because the greater piece of art than a building is a city, the architect must be sensitive in order to capture the city's advantages, as well as the people's appeal and conscience, and consider how to produce appropriate designs that can showcase these attractions.

Cesar Pelli, for example, described his approach of studying Islamic culture in order to construct the The Petronas Twin Towers, which have become a favorite of Malaysians, in the article "One Aspires of The Sky" published by The Talks. Malaysia has a lot of eye-pleasing architecture, but because these structures are vestiges of the colonial past, people don't necessarily love them. Cesar creates something new with the Petronas Towers, based on past Islamic culture that he has acquired and developed through imagination.

The Ezra Stiles College Building is another tangible form. Cesar also remarked in his September 2018 interview, "An Interview with Architect César Pelli," that the buildings' elegance is how they look extremely contemporary despite Yale University's 40-year-old age. This is proof as well as a role model that an architectural design must be flexible, not only in terms of the surroundings, but also in terms of the passage of time and era, and that imagination may help make that happen.

Another reason imagination is so important is that it allows you to explore multiple possibilities. A fixed mindset acts as a barrier to the acceptance of numerous ideas. Many options are instantly rejected by the brain because it expects they will not fit into the invisible box they create. In the absence of such a barrier, however, there is a much broader pool of inspiration and ideas from which to develop solutions. What is required is an open mind to all alternatives, as well as critical thinking to select the available options based on logic and the circumstances that influence it. Even the most ridiculous ideas can be transformed into spectacular solutions with a little imagination.

Imagination also aids architects in forming a mental image or visualization of a yet-to-be-created object. As a result, I strongly believe imagination aids in the development of creativity. Not only does creativity help with design, but it also helps with technical issues, materials, budgets, and construction structures.

Carlo Scarpa, a well-known Italian-born designer, has proven how imagination can transform a concept. Carlo Scarpa didn't stop himself from visualizing his thoughts through pencil sketches, as evidenced by the sketch of the 'Location of the Langrande statue'. He will constantly delete and redraw fresh sketches in the same region in order to feel the impact of the changes he makes in the sketches he creates. He also hops about from one architectural issue to the next, such as structure, design, materials, and so on. That way, Carlo Scarpa can develop any ideas that come to his mind or capture his attention through the sketches while still being able to follow the history of his previous designs.

In conclusion, imagination serves four purposes as the result of all of these basic. Imagination as a tool for visualizing something that doesn't exist or hasn't been made, as a tool for developing ideas, thoughts, and the mindset itself, as a tool for adaption, and as a door to never-before-thought-of solutions. One thing that all of these tasks have in common is that imagination allows for new possibilities to emerge. As a result, architects must make the most of these resources in order to create beautiful, inventive, adaptive, and solutional designs.

©Grace Angelica Nadapdap & Lana Safrila Sheren Ferandita

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©Grace Angelica Nadapdap & Lana Safrila Sheren Ferandita

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3rd prize winner:

Ashish Kelkar (India)


An Idea of Imagination in Architecture

Architecture is the mother of all arts, and an idea of imagination is the most basic toolfor its creation. It is a fusion of art, materials and technology expressing the ambition of the man’s vision and the intended function of the building. For humans, change is the only constant and thus requires creative imagination from different architects to design buildings that break the monotony yet maintain the character of the place. Through the architect’s imagination, a diverse cultural identity of a nation-state is seen. The Primary design elements for architectural imagination are design philosophy, form, colour, texture, and design fabric. The design output is a careful integration of all these elements. For a successful imaginative process, an architect needs a balance of all these elements and strives to build consensus towards a comprehensive design solution. The imagination process starts with working on drawing board followed by site analysis and design requirements framed by an architect and the client. An architect needs to imagine scale and proportion of the building for a desirable output that is pleasing to the eyes. Thus, it will be interesting to understand the process of imagination discussed in this essay.

Firstly, an architect develops a design philosophy based on an imagination of the narrative or a story for a building design. A design concept evolves in this exercise, and the decisions are taken regarding artistic expression, building materials and construction technology. One must understand that imagination is original and not a replica of something. Therefore, the product that architects produce in terms of buildings is different from each other. These buildings then become symbols for the soft power of the nation-state and represent the country’s diverse cultural identity. With great power comes great responsibility, and therefore an architect’s imagination is considered the most fundamental tool of a building design. The product of imagination is more than just building design, it develops the consensus towards a comprehensive design solution that includes parameters connecting socio-economic and environmental concerns. These parameters are not visible to the naked eyes but are part of the imagination process.

Secondly, aesthetic elements such as form, colour, texture and design fabric are carefully integrated to produce a desirable output of a building design. This is seen in the context of the functioning of the building. As it is said in modern architecture, ‘form follows function’. An example of this maxim is the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright with a spiral pathway to suit the function of the building as a museum. The artefacts are displayed along the pathway with diffused natural lighting suitable for viewing purposes. There are many such examples of this narrative even in the ancient period, e.g., Egyptian Pyramids build for the pharaohs with a simple form of pyramid and belief in the afterlife. These aesthetic elements also have a psychological impact on human minds making them aware of their senses. Examples of these are churches that are tall that represent the monumental nature of the building. Also, colours like red, yellow, and orange are considered to be warm colours while colours like blue and green are cool colours.

Finally, after working on the drawing board and the sketches, it is time for site analysis. During site analysis, the design may come with many challenges. The building design needs alteration due to existing features on the site such as trees and water bodies. The design must consider the surroundings for a suitable scale and proportion of the building design. At every stage of the construction process, an architect has to imagine the minutest details such as, how to light up the spaces of the interior,how to have the most efficient circulation within the building,orwhich materials to be used near the entrance foyer, and so on. An architect also needs to consider the climate in which the site exists such as warm, warm humid, or cold etc. The spaces in the buildings are designed considering the local climate e.g., a courtyard house is suitable in a warm climate and humid climate, or a bay window is suitable in a cold climate.

In conclusion, the idea of imagination derived from such a complex design process is made simple with an artistic expression of the building design. Imagination is a starting point to endearthe final product of architecture. The art, materials, and technology produce a fabric of imagination that is pleasant to the eyes of the observer. Bringing all parameters of design together such as socio-economic and environmental makes the design human-centric and sustainable in the long run. It creates a huge impact on people’s lifestyles. Such an imaginative exercise helps to build consensus towards a comprehensive design solution. Overall, the idea of imagination in architecture is a complex thought process with intertwining ideas of architectural narrative, a story, form, colour, texture, representing the function of the building design and the cultural identity of the nation-state.

©Ashish Kelkar

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©Ashish Kelkar

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