Program sometimes gets a bad rap in design studios because we often design boxes (or blobs, or prisms, or whatever your formal predilection) as containers for fairly normative program. When you use words like housing, makerspace, lecture hall, gallery, library, or atrium to describe spaces in your project, you make a ton of assumptions about what happens in those spaces, and what those spaces look and feel like. It’s a cop-out! Program is something to be studied, contemplated, and ultimately designed. You are not designing a building, you are inventing a whole world in which that building can exist.
A couple great TED talks on program and design process that you should check out: Joshua Prince-Ramus (a member of the “House of Rem”) talks about how their fresh look at program translates directly to form in three projects:
Ole Scheeren (another Rem descendant) talks about how architecture can tell a story through program, and through form: