Context, Conditions and Culture

Recently, I read a review in Open Journal of the prominent Melbourne photographer, Derek Swalwell’s, recent exhibition of work. The review distilled the work into a true depiction of Context, Conditions and Culture. This got me thinking about these ‘three C's’ and how entwined they are in architecture and the development of design strategies.


You must know your context. Context can mean the ‘vibe’ of the local neighbourhood or the architectural character that’s common to it. It can also span beyond the physical and relate to the history, politics and people that play a role in the site or area. If the context of your project is not the same as your personal context it can be hard to grasp the nuance, learning and listening is your best bet.



What is unique about where you are? This may have something to do with the site’s existing conditions or geology. Perhaps it’s a hundred year old tree that’s spread its roots far and wide. Understanding the conditions of your site and thinking creatively about how to make the most of what’s presented to you makes for interesting and unique projects that are grounded in their history.



Design that’s embedded in place, equally should be embedded in culture. Whether that culture is easily defined, or more nuanced, the architecture should work to reflect this. Culture should not necessarily be replicated, but rather respected and translated in a way that’s appropriate to the type of building and client you’re working with.

How do you think about the ‘three C’s’ when you’re designing?