God is in the Details

God is in the Details

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History refers the architect as a Master – essentially the person who ‘Knows-it-all’.  Is it possible to be a ‘Master-of-all’ when buildings are more complex and construction technology is changing rapidly?  In other words, he is called the “City doctor “as understands all the aspects of the planning of a city. Can we be the ‘Masters’ and be ‘detail-oriented’ as we are expected to be? 

Let’s ask ourselves ‘What is Detailing’.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

‘Detail’ is to report related minutely/thoroughly in.  It is often expressed, specially attributed to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that ‘God is in the details’.

The word ‘detail’ is generally associated with ‘construction details’ but this expression primarily refers to the drawings must be self-explanatory. It is true that architects need to focus every minute detail of the project. But it is not essential that ‘construction detailing’ is required at all the stages of the design process. One should be aware that practicality and the feasibility of the design while conceiving from the conceptual stage , but what is more critical is that architects are thorough in what they do in each of the design stages, and have enough ‘design details’ in their documents at each stage during the execution of the work. 

Black Leather Barcelona Lounge Chair for Knoll, 1997


Most projects have 3 distinct design stages:

  • Concept design
  • Design development 
  • Construction details

Concept design

This is the beginning stage of the design process and describes the important design characteristics of the project.  This entails understanding the client’ vision, review of site conditions and constraints i.e. Site Analysis, Climatological aspects relating to the site, orientation etc. code requirements and any other background information.  Keeping in mind the client’s vision and other parameters, design is evolved in form of multiple concept ideas, culminating into a design concept. Initial thoughts in on space planning with clients brief and the quality of space is a critical aspect of Design. Multiple meetings with the client are essential to finalize a concept that realizes the client’s vision and dream for his building.

A ‘Barcelona’ foot stool 1929, Knoll Studio, 21st Century

Design development

This is the stage that essentially realizes the concept vision into a realistic design. Co-ordination with the various engineering disciplines is critical at this stage. Drawings that include plans, sections, elevations are prepared and decision on the use of materials and their preliminary details are also documented at this stage.  Final schematic of the built form is prepared in  3d rendering of the building is made to understand the relationship of spaces. 

Construction drawings

Sedia MR 10, 1927

This is the stage when all the drawings that include detailed plans, sections, elevations are drawn sufficient for construction in other words called GFC (Good for Construction) Coordination with all the engineering disciplines is essential and is completed during this stage.  Final construction and finish materials are specified during this stage.  All the details are noted keeping the initial concept design in mind all these service drawings are prepared with all agencies/consultants.


Knoll Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe Chairs

As an architect he needs to have for “eye for detail “which is essential that each of the stages is complete with his consent as he has visualized the built form and integrating of spaces. At any specific stage the project his value addition would add value to the project, as well as the quality of built environment. A project is successful from the drawing board to the ground, any design deviation from the original GFC / Details may lead to quality of work. Lack of understanding by the construction team or adequate construction details shall have an adverse effect on the design which has been approved by the client. There be problems in execution as well as cost and time overruns.

So, God is in the details – If the concept of design having the client vision in view the architect/designer would be able to achieve the desired results at the work place.

A minute details of any aspects of the building has to be adhered strictly by the construction management team at site.