BS Integration, Part II_Leonard Bachman’s perspective

museum of flight

Contemporary architecture of the last three decades took a postmodern turn in a mostly pluralistic quest for formal complexity and theoretical abstraction. Giving over the sophistication of technical systems to other members of the building team, designers became increasingly limited to “six inches of architecture wrapped around an optimized set of systems.”

Gradually however,  five dominant trends have brought holistic treatment back into the limelight of architectural thinking:

  • From handmade building to kit of parts: after the Sydney Opera House and the Kimbell Art Museum, economy, precision, speed, and prefabrication
  • From formal to technical constraints: advances in science and technology, emphemeralization and technophilia versus Frankenstein and technophobia, condensation of technical timeframes: Chartres Cathedral versus Lloyds of London
  • From structural to environmental issues: Levine and Weeks (1984): temple to castle to cathedral to palace to factory to high-rise to laboratory.
  • From intuitive to optimized design decisions: Christopher Alexander and Notes on the Synthesis of Form (1964)
  • From monumental to sustainable goals: Paleotechnic to Neotechnic (Geddes, 1915; Lyle, 1994)

For Bachman exists a intercomplementary duet of architectural intention and systems thinking. “Design begins with philosophical constructs about what a building could be in its highest realization” he says, considering formative intention “what distinguishes critical architecture from functionally commodius but common buildings”.

Integration on the other hand introduces for Bachman “a holistic management ethic”. He says: “this ethic takes the form of systems thinking in networked flows of people, information, energy, and materials”.

To prove his point Bachman makes a reference to Ibsen Nelson’s Museum of Flight in Seattle. The design originated from the idea to exhibit planes as if they were in fligh. Nelson departed from this idea and went on to design the steel trusses, the glass facades and the solar defense. “Selection and deployment of the museum systems had to address the critical technical issues and simultaneously satisfy the design intent” says Bachman, “so integration was inherent in each decision”.

Finally, Bachman summarizes the deisgn process as follows:

  • Program: client, brief, budget, site, code, climate, all the givens
  • Intent: philosophy, team, intentions
  • Critical technical issues: inherent (typological), contextual, intentional
  • Appropriate systems: precedent (typology, formal, technical…), performance specifications, site, structure, envelope, services, and interiors
  • Beneficial integrations: shared space (physical), shared mimage (visual), shared mandates (performance).



Bachman, L., ‘A Design Paradigm for Integrated Building Systems’, American Society of Civil Engineers, Proceedings of Building Integration Solutions Conference, Austin, September 2003. DOI: 10.1061/40699(2003)34

Image: Museum of Flight, 1979, Ibsen Nelson, available here


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