Redefining Architectural Context

Redefining Architectural Context


Within the field of architecture, the term context is repeatedly debated and often misunderstood. It is a term that some architects take for granted and unknowingly abuse. In our modern world, the context has lost its meaning, value, and purpose.

The goal of this research has been to explore how the architectural profession collectively understands and misunderstands architectural context. To this end, forty-nine design professionals in the field of architecture were surveyed to establish a benchmark for understanding the currently used definitions and interpretations of architectural context. Admittedly, the survey is only from professionals who practice in the Intermountain Region of the United States and thus somewhat reflects western U.S. sensitivities – although the authors believe the results would probably differ slightly across the various regions of the U.S.

While over fifty percent of those surveyed believe that architectural context plays a vital role in design today, there is still a small percentage that disagrees and believes architecture should not be constrained to its surrounding environment. Whatever value is placed on the context, whether it be embracing it or defying it, context must always be noticed, embraced, and enhanced.

Sample Question: How important is it for a building to relate to its immediate architectural context? + Mostly: 47% + Moderately: 27% + Completely: 20% + Very Little: 4% + Not at All: 2%

The survey results were then further analyzed and interpreted through two critical lenses supported by theoretical readings on the subject – 1) Tom Turner’s SID Index and 2) Kenneth Frampton’s writings on Critical Regionalism. Through these modes of inquiry, the authors have sought to discover the importance and value of using context to inform and influence design processes, critical decision-making, and the physical realities of architecture.



Method Studio Research Fellow
Associate Principal, Method Studio
Assistant Professor, MSU School of Architecture


Jake Gartman is a fourth-year architecture student at Mississippi State University and is originally from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Jake is a talented and passionate designer whose work is dedicated to contextualism beyond image and form. In March 2018, Jake presented his research on “reDefining Architectural Context” at Method Studio.