“It’s so fine yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas” – Paul Cezanne
Many people might imagine their dream design scenario to be one in which they are completely free to express their creativity. But like a solution needs a seed crystal for crystals to form, so too does a designer need something with which to get the design started. If we view constraints as seed crystals, the more there are, the faster and easier the design process is likely to be.
Constraints narrow down the possible to the doable. They simplify the process. Limitations are focal points around which you can design.
You might consider a site with a lack of an essential resource such as water. Your focus will then be around the capture and conservation of water.
As another example, it can make the style of element you add to a design clear. If you face the constraint of freezing temperatures, then you are not going to look at thatched huts as a viable option for housing. In fact, just by having freezing temperatures, your building shape and orientation are largely predetermined for you.
Constraints can also bring you down to Earth, focusing you on what you need rather than what you happen to want at the moment. Financial restrictions, for instance, weed out “what would be great” from what you or your clients actually need.
If you find yourself faced with a big, empty site, look for fixed points you can work around. These serve as a starting point. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You find a piece that stands out from the others, and then fit it together with its neighbours bit by bit, forming a foundation.