The thinking of architecture is about the deep relationship which two distinct facets share: one is hard and the other, soft.
Hard architecture is about the literal, it involves materials and space, the act of building, construction, landscaping, trees and water and the moulding of form. Hard architecture is much about the product.
Soft architecture concerns the intangibles of making. At the most basic, it involves understanding the activity of function before form is ever put into place. It is about how the activity in a modern kitchen is organised around the three conditions of dry, wet and fire, correlating to storage, preparation and cooking. Or the simple fact of washing our hands before and after the use of a toilet. At deeper levels of consideration, soft issues are about the apparently unrelated. They are about how a deeper comprehension of Asian culture might have one make the first entry into a home through the dining room instead of a lobby. Alternately, it could be how an understanding of human behaviour would integrate the typical police station with the social activity of eating and the everyday rather than isolate it as a stand-alone. Or that the design of a school might begin less with the understanding of education as the act of learning different facts, than as a process which inspires us to become different people. Shallow or deep, what is important about the concerns of soft architecture is that it involves processes of the specific that can drastically change the way we understand the configuration of space and form, the creation of hard architecture.
One could say it is considerably easier to produce hard than soft architecture; it is, after all, what we have been trained to do in school. However, the truth of the matter is that architecture itself, the production of critical architecture, is not possible without a deep dialog between the two: hard architecture can only exist as a mere shell of building if it is not informed by the profound processes behind its making.
Architecture cannot but be preoccupied with form, as form itself is the basis for the existence of space and that of the human need for enclosure. We often speak of poetry in the product, asthough form has embodied meaning in and of itself, independently of process and place. However, in as much as form is a default expression for architecture, form itself has to be elevated with the creative engagement of softer issues for it to read true: the time has come for more subtlety and considerably less literal thinking about how hard, formal architecture can really get.
If hard architecture is the poetry of a product, soft architecture is about the poetry of its production.