Design Principles

Kanso: Eliminate clutter and express things in plain and simple ways.

As an example, an over-abundance of design elements can lead to clutter and should be avoided. This will lead to a calm mind and can function as a backdrop to things that may necessarily be more “cluttered” due to things beyond the control of the architect.

Fukinsei: Use asymmetry or irregularity to achieve balance.

Asymmetry or irregularity will engage the mind and can be as balanced as a symmetrical composition. It will ultimately be interesting and usually will imply more that it states. Asymmetry also avoids having to “pigeonhole” elements into a symmetrical scheme when they really might not work in a symmetrical scheme.

Shibui: Understate and don’t elaborate.

Much can be said with few elements. Spaces between elements become more important. The relationships between elements can be stronger with a few understated elements. Concepts or ideas which are a foundation of the design need not always be elaborately described. If the concepts are strong enough, the simple fact that they were incorporated in the design process is enough.

Shizen: Depict naturalness with the absence of pretense and artificiality.

There should be an ease and natural feeling in the presentation. If it seems forced, there’s probably a better solution.

Yugen: Use subtle and symbolic suggestion rather than obviousness.

There’s no need to restate the obvious. Secondary elements can be used to emphasize the importance of primary elements.

Datsuzoku: Transcend habit, formula, and conventionality.

We design for the situation as needed. We don’t recycle old designs. Every situation requires creative thought. But at the same time, we are knowledgeable about historical precedents and current methods and materials.

Seijaku: Achieve a state of tranquility and energized calm.

There should be tension and release, freedom and constraint: each will give the other more significance. What might sound like contradiction actually gives the opposite feeling more solidity.

Wa: Embody harmony and balance avoiding self-assertion.

There can be harmony in a pleasing collection of related things. There can be harmony in repetition with variations. The options are endless. Self-assertion isn’t necessary if harmony is achieved in other ways.

Ma: Provide an emptiness, spatial void, or silence to provide a focal point.

In other words, there should be a foreground and a background. Things that take precedent and things that recede. This will emphasize both the focal point and the void.

Yohaku-no-bi: Appreciate the beauty of what is implied, unstated, and unexpressed.

Let things have their own time and their own space. Not everything has to be “in the field of view” at the same time. Implied connections to a bigger picture or worldly view provide grounding and a feeling of connection.

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