Connect the why and what to formulate a design rationale
The key step in constructing a design rationale is to develop conceptual and practical connections between the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ and understand how to bring different elements together. A good rationale makes a clear narrative for change, where the ideas for change (‘what’) have clearly articulated reasons for change (‘why’). Constructing and comparing different rationales is part of the process of reaching a good solution and proving you have explored different alternatives. A design rationale is an important step in articulating and testing ideas in preparation for commissioning and working with an architect or other consultant. It can also help you identify the changes that you can implement quite easily and quickly on your own, and those that require specialist expertise from a design professional or heritage expert.
As you connect your ideas for change with your underlying issues, assets and outcomes, it may be useful to keep certain top-level themes in mind, such as entrance and approach to the building, separation and connection between sub-spaces, use of height of the building etc. Your decisions will influence what you see, hear, feel and how you ultimately experience your place and can have important implications on how the heritage of the place is treated. For instance, creating a new level floor in a building, may help improve accessibility, comfort, and allow more people to use it for community activities. But of course, certain constraints may exist in terms of preserving historical elements of the building (such as fonts or pews) or financial feasibility. Adding facilities such as a kitchen/cafe that serves food, tea and coffee for the worshiping and wider community may be important for the sustainability of your place, but it may also compromise or challenge the ability to provide a tranquil environment for worshippers. Considering how such a space would relate to various activities in the building at different times may lead to various solutions for separating or integrating the cafe within different areas.
Constructing a design rationale is an iterative process: you will need to repeatedly re-examine and re-evaluate your reasons for change and their relative importance and impact compared to other ideas, as well as go back to your original ideas of what changes will address which issues or desires, and reject them if needed, generate new ideas or reconfigure them.
Tools for thinking
These templates can be used to record your thinking about how different ideas for changes may build on your assets to meet your issues and desired outcomes.
You may print multiple copies so that you compare different ideas on the basis of the issues and outcomes they meet and the availability of the assets they draw upon.
How to use this tool
You can use the templates individually or in group conversations. You will need to decide who needs to participate in responding to these questions and how. So, you may organise a meeting or workshop where people will come together to reflect and respond to these questions. It is useful to use the templates in a conversation with the key project/building group and your worshiping community. You may also invite other users of the building (e.g. groups running or attending activities in your building) or other members of the wider community. Remember, in some cases you may not have the answers and other activities will be required to collect views, feedback or evidence for your claims.
Your objective is to formulate and negotiate different suggestions for changes to your building to come up with an overarching rationale.
It is recommended that you start by bringing together the outputs from the ‘why’ (issues, assets and outcomes) and ‘what’ (ideas) and map out how they fit together. It is important at this stage to consider how to prioritise and potentially cluster different issues/outcomes, and how to combine different ideas or create new ideas that can tackle a number of issues/outcomes. You may discuss your ideas in terms of how attainable they are in the short, medium or longer term. For example, while some ideas may solve one specific important issue, they may require long term planning, while other ideas may solve multiple smaller short-term problems. As a group, you need to balance these requirements and think how to stage your design project.
There are two templates provided. The first is for you to outline each idea for change together with the issues and outcomes it addresses and assets it utilises. The second template helps you reflect on any negative impacts on the heritage and historical significance of your building, your liturgy and your faith rituals, as well as the different people that use the building for different purposes.
Click on the images to view examples of how the templates work
These are some resources that can help you progress your thinking. Note that some of these resources were developed specifically for churches, but the information should be useful for all faith groups and denominations.
How to develop and communicate your design rationale