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Form and Context at the Foundation of Good Design


How do we deal with these issues of mismatch and imbalance in the fundamental process of formulating the design. It's about the way we conceive the process of design itself. If we don't understand the context as a whole we cannot make good decisions about the each of the myriad of forms and they way they combine and interact to make up the context.

So if we are working on space for the accommodation we cannot make good decisions about the positioning of the mast unless we are also considering all of the other aspects of the context that will be affected by the positioning of mast.

So if the context is the need to create a vessel that will have pleasing performance in a wide range of sea states and wind strengths, then we have to consider the position of the mast in the context as well as the practical implications for the layout.


Christopher Alexander expresses the concept succinctly in his book Notes on the Synthesis of Form:

"Every design problem begins with an effort to achieve fitness between two entities; the form in question and its context. The form is the solution to the problem ; the context defines the problem

When we speak of design the real object of discussion is not the form alone but the ensemble comprising the form and its context".

"The rightness of the form depends on the degree to which it fits the rest of the ensemble".

Chincogan 52 Catchus. Thanks to Andy and Greta Baker for the Photo

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