It’s all about the narrative

In approximately 3 1/2 months I will be standing on a stage in Washington D.C. at the American Institute of Architects 2012 National Convention talking about blogging and social media for architects. Most of the people who swing through here probably don’t much care about that – and I don’t blame you (you already know that I’m making it up as I go). However, what struck me this morning as I was standing in the shower (where I do some of my best problem solving), was how blogging, my presentation for the convention, and architecture in general, all have something really important in common …

the narrative.

Technically, a narrative is a constructive format that describes a series of events. Whether I realize it or not, that is what I am generally doing when I spew forth one of these blog posts – at least, that’s what I’m doing on the good ones. There is something I am talking about and despite my tendency to ramble, I have a point I am trying to make and I typically deliver it wrapped up in some sort of anecdote. It makes my point more interesting for me to write about, and hopefully, more interesting for you to read about. I don’t think it’s very newsworthy that having a story to tell makes the delivery of information far more enjoyable but how does that work with architecture?

When we get a new client or project, one of the first things we do is try and find out who they are and what they want. This is the most important step in the initial process of design. According to our proposals, this falls under the category of “programming” – it’s when you tell us what you want: 3 bedrooms, large eat-in kitchen, covered seating area outside off the kitchen, etc. Essentially the client is telling us a story about how they would like to live and use their eventual home and we, as their architect, are essentially their editors (more this part over here, delete this section, focus in on the development of this concept, etc.). This is at the root of why I think getting a project specifically designed for you by an architect is superior than something that already exists in the marketplace. I can assure you that a 3 bedroom, 3 bath house designed just for you by an architect will be decidedly different than some other 3 bedroom, 3 bath house assembled as a kit of parts by a spec-home developer.

The difference is in the narrative … the story that you bring to me and my eventual interpretation of how to effectively communicate your story. That’s why every project is different (despite the same requirements) and why some architects are better than others.


Just something I was thinking about and thought I would throw out there to anyone who felt like adding to the story.




Original from Life of an Architect

Cite: Borson, Bob. "It’s all about the narrative" 22 Mar 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
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  • Jennie

    This is a really interesting post to me. About a year ago, we redesigned our website for our architectural firm. Then, in December after attending Reinvention (Residential Architect’s conference) in Phoenix, we ended up completely rewriting our lengthy “About Us” section to one short paragraph reflecting the idea of narrative as it relates to building. I’ve been writing narratives about completed projects on our blog–slowly, but they’re coming along. It’s a nice way to conclude a project and we always learn so many things along the way. Each project truly is unique. I appreciate your efforts to communicate the value of what an architect brings to the process. By the way, I just registered last Monday for your workshop in DC at the AIA Conference. Looking forward to it.

  • Bob @ Life of an Architect

    Hi Jennie,

    Thanks – I am glad you enjoyed the article – or at least found some resonance. Make sure you come up and say hello in DC, I hope the information we are going to try and cover in the presentation comes across well. There is a lot to cover in so little time.