In collaboration with Susan Schmidt Horning
Successful Design in Engineering and Architecture
Abstract Joseph Pitt asks: “Who is more creative: the architect or the engineer?” He then links this question to the issue of successful design in both fields. Pitt argues that engineers approach the design of an artifact with the question of utility and efficiency in mind, whereas the architect privileges aesthetics, but also function. Standards of evaluating success are more difficult in architecture than in engineering because constraints in engineering are narrower. Therefore the production of variation, an important feature of creative processes, becomes more difficult in engineering. From this follows that if architects and engineers cooperate on a building, the creative credit should go to the engineer.
Design is at the heart of both architecture and engineering. However, the factors that bear on design decisions and outcomes differ for architects and engineers. For engineers, the design of an artifact or a system is approached with questions of utility and efficiency foremost in mind. For the architect, function and aesthetics take center stage, with aesthetics sometimes overriding the ability of the object to perform its function. These differences raise questions of how to determine, when a design is successful. Despite the fact that issues concerning architectural design are more prominent in the popular imagination than design issues in engineering, I will argue that the question of what constitutes successful design is especially troubling in architecture. The difficulty of establishing criteria for evaluating the success of a design raises questions as to the very meaning of “design...
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