Myth: Form Follows Function

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17 Apr 2017 by mallyanitin

This argument gets philosophical.

In classic building architecture, the form of a stadium is meant to perform the function to host large audiences. The form of a house is meant to perform the function to host families. A stadium form is not used to home a family! So, it follows, form follows function. This argument then leads to architects and designers to start from function to create forms.

  1. Can an architect create form of a stadium to home a family of four? Why not?
  2. What about Bill Gates house? Is that form follows function, or form follows money spent?

Let’s take another example. How about a car? The function of a car is to take a few passengers from point A to point B safely.

However, cars are also used for

  1. Kidnapping people
  2. Moving goods (not passengers)
  3. Racing

Seems like new functions were discovered once the form (‘car’) appeared. The form was adopted for other ‘functions’; not originally intended for…

Let’s take another example. How about email? The function of email is to communicate a message from a source person to several destinations persons.

However, emails are also used for

  1. Advertisement.
  2. Spreading malware
  3. Sharing photos
  4. Sharing legal documents

Seems like new functions were discovered once the form (’email’) appeared. The form was adopted for other ‘functions’; not originally intended for…there may be specific platforms for ‘sharing photos’ e.g. instagram; these specific forms could also be used for ‘selling drugs’ and ‘pornography’; not the original function.

Let’s take another example. How about Blockchain? The function of blockchain is to maintain a distributed ledger of transactions.

However, blockchain can also be used for

  1. Creating and maintaining a patient’s historical record
  2. Internet of Things
  3. Voting

Seems like new functions were discovered once the form (‘blockchain’) appeared. The form was adopted for other ‘functions’; not originally intended for…there may be specific platforms for maintaining patient’s record or maintaining registry of connected things.

These examples above, indicate that “Unintended Functions Follows Form that Follows Original Function”. Kind of a recursive loop!

Having a functionalist (modernist) mindset in design & architecture is good; however, it creates blind-spots in designers that makes them choose from past (known) stereotype solutions and patterns. This results in re-use of known patterns; good for manufacturing & speed, bad for creativity.

OK! Just trying to say that there it’s more complicated than form following function. These days, it’s really form following profit and function following form. Flexibility and open mind is required to keep up in this changing world.

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mallyanitin

mallyanitin

A leader! Attracted to creativity and innovation. Inspired by simplicity.

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