Design & Craftmanship Manifesto

Writing almost exactly two thousand years ago in his seminal work De Architectura, a ten volume tome on engineering and architecture, Vitruvius advised that a structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas, venustas:  it must be solid, useful, beautiful.

In The Seven Lamps of Architecture, written in 1869, John Ruskin said:

“When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for.”

In 1908 Frank Lloyd Wright explained:

“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”

15 years later Le Corbusier, the Swiss modernist wrote Vers Une Architecture:

“You employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces; that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say –‘This is beautiful.’ That is Architecture. Art enters in.”

Dieter Rams, legendary industrial designer at Braun, and a source of great inspiration for Steve Jobs at Apple, amongst others, said in 1980:

“My goal is to omit everything superfluous so that the essential is shown to best possible advantage.”

Richard Sennett, in The Craftsman 2011:

“Craftsmanship names an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake.”

Elegant (shorter OED definition):

“characterised by grace of form, style or movement; refined, graceful, free from awkwardness, coarseness, clumsiness……ingeniously simple and effective; excellent, first rate”

These are the principles that lie behind what we choose to call our Design and Craftsmanship Manifesto. This manifesto will be our blueprint for how we want to do our thing. It will evolve and change, but fundamentally it will remind us how to stay on track.

  1. Good design will be a thorough, iterative process – an activity not an end result. It requires an integrated approach that looks not just at built form but also at resource use, materials, community and ecology.
  2. Good design is less but better design. It has a bias for simplicity and utility. We will seek to reduce visual disturbance and avoid unnecessary elements, and to resolve the complexities inherent in construction with refined, elegant and relaxed solutions.
  3. We want architecture that considers the precise setting out of building elements so that the holistic result is an elegant composition. Space, light, proportion and layout all play their part.
  4. We will pay particular attention to “genius loci” – the spirit of the place. We will respect cultural and environmental heritage and tread lightly where we go. Our buildings should be appropriate for the environments they are situated in.
  5. Good design begins with an understanding of movement patterns, the permeation of the site, and a rigorous understanding of the context within which appropriate uses can be located and suitable densities determined. The result will encourage people to gather and socialize.
  6. Designing and crafting good quality spaces is only the start. Homeowners and building users need control over their environment. How occupiers wish to best use, manage, and subsequently repair their spaces must inform their design.
  7. The homes we build should be flexible and allow for growth, adaptation, and customization.
  8. Longevity of materials, and those that patinate and ideally improve with age will form the bedrock of our specification. Everything that is touched – handles, locks, electrical controls, brassware – should be robust, give ergonomic pleasure, and be of the highest appropriate quality.
  9. We will respect the craftsmen and err towards bespoke solutions where materials are reduced to their essence and then expressed. Our buildings will be well made and durable.