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Design Vision: What is it and Why it is Needed

Learn about the meaning and role of a design vision

Embarking on a design process to transform a place of worship means embarking on a complex journey of collaboration and negotiation. As there will be many players involved, it is important that they all understand how they fit into the process, and how they can best bring together their collective skills, creativity and experience. Building a shared design vocabulary is a good starting point for this. Another way to build a common ground is to develop a shared understanding of what a design project involves.

The Royal Institute of British Architects’ RIBA plan of work, lists a number of different stages that any design project involves. In this course we are mainly focusing on Stage 0 and Stage 1, the strategic and preparatory phases of a project, before work with a commissioned architect begins in earnest. An important part of those stages is the development of a design vision, which is the focus of this section. In the following week you will learn more about developing a strategic rationale for change.

Image of the RIBA wheel showing the different stages of a design project

What is a design vision

Developing a design vision is a critical milestone in the journey of developing changes and adaptations to a historic faith building.

Rather than predicting the future, a design vision is about shaping the future: it is about imagining the qualities of the elements of a place (the qualities of its spaces, uses and experiences) that would enable something of value to be achieved. For instance, a design vision could be about a place of worship that works as “a platform for connecting people” or “a welcoming space”. A design vision outlines a big picture of what people or communities value to be able to do or be.

But, a vision is not only about the big picture that outlines what is valued. A design vision should also provide a direction on the ‘means’ that need to be created in order to achieve something of value, using design language, for example ‘‘a fluid space that enables functions to be mixed”. In some cases, a vision encapsulates what some professionals refer to as the ‘design concept’: the guiding principle or idea of what is to be designed such as “a safe haven” or “a breathing space”. And this is where design language is important.

Developing a shared vision is not easy, as different people come with different perspectives, experiences and desires. A visioning exercise should try to bring diverse voices together and an enabler (whether it is someone within the project group or an external advisor, consultant or mentor) can play a really important role in this.

A community may have diversity of visions, but also a vision may be expressed in many different ways according to the purpose of communication or who it is communicated to. A design vision can take various forms: words, text, images, models or a combination of all these forms. See how the creation of a vision can be facilitated in the next step.

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Enabling Community-Based Leadership in Design: Sustainable Development of Historic Faith Buildings

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