Design project framework
Prior to starting the design, it is necessary to define the parameters of the project, and draw upon the extensive research that has been carried out so far. By this stage we have developed a brief through discussions with the client and other stakeholders. We have carried out an thorough site analysis, gaining as much information as possible about the site, surroundings and context. We will also be searching for ideas that will provide a basis for our concept. We now need to pull all this information together in order to proceed to the next stage.
Project Design Brief
Following discussions with the client we can begin to build an understanding of the spatial requirements of the project. These could include:
- Room requirements, types of rooms, how many rooms
- Floor areas of rooms and spaces
- Flexible spaces
- Floor area standards to carry out particular tasks
- Spatial relationship requirements to the site and context
- Relationship between spaces
The brief may be very detailed, perhaps for a residential client who is very clear about how they envisage their new home. Or the brief could be more loose, with a commercial client having bought land for development, but requiring further investigation as to the best use of the site. This is where feasibility studies would begin to establish the kind of project to proceed with.
On the other hand, if the client was perhaps a retail brand, a supermarket perhaps, or the type of commercial enterprise that had multiple outlets in different locations, they would be very clear as to their requirements and not doubt have very detailed procedures and needs to fulfil the brief.
Working with the brief it is necessary to establish who the end user of the building will be. If you are designing a private house, it is likely the client will be the end user. This means you will be able to ask many questions and get to know the client and what they need for their new home.
However, if you are working with a developer, or on a large scale development, it is most probable that the end user will not be the client. It is important to establish both the needs of the client, for example, maximum profit at minimum cost for a developer, and the needs of the actual building user. Sometimes the term stakeholders is used, to encompass all parties that have some form of engagement in the project and need to be considered during the design. A stakeholder could be the client, developer, investor, contractor, community, end user and so on.
Type of project
We will also be able to establish from the brief what type of project we are working on. Are we looking at a residential project for a single family? Or a multiple occupancy residential project where we will be attempting to fulfil the needs of multiple families? If a multiple occupancy scheme, is the project private or public? Will the apartments or dwellings be owned by the occupiers or will they be rented? How will the budget affect the project?
Is the project a commercial endeavour? The building could be serving as offices, business premises, retail, restaurants, factories, and the list goes on. For each of these types of commercial project, it is important to establish how the building will be used and by whom. What kind of tasks will be carried out in the building and what specific requirements will those tasks have? This could be lighting, temperature, special equipment, and many more factors that may be specific to this particular project.
Is the project a public building or an institution?
A public building or institution could be anything from an airport, to a government building, museum, library, hospital, school, and many more. Some of these types of buildings can have many requirements and complicated briefs. Establishing detailed information about these types of buildings and carrying out thorough research will help as the design process gets going. Some buildings will serve more than one function, a museum for example. Although most of a museum space is displaying objects or paintings, a museum may also be used as an event space, may include a shop and a cafe. All of these parts of the project must be considered with the same amount of care and attention.
In the same way, a hospital not only has highly specialised equipment and needs, but also will house anything from a shop, cafe to laboratories, teaching spaces and many others.
The type of project will be a key factor in defining the project requirements. Precedent studies can help with the research and development stage as the designer can engage with and learn from existing buildings.
Architecture precedent studies can aid your design process from concept to final design.Note that precedents are not copied but used as an inspiration to your design, an idea or guide to a method that you are wishing to employ in your scheme.
The use of a precedent in design can lend authority to your design by associating your proposal to something else. A precedent can communicate a meaning to your design, whether as a form of dialogue to your client, the public, or for the designer.
Many of the decisions that are taken on the project will be a response to the site of the proposed building and its context. The site analysis will provide a wealth of information to learn about the requirements of the site, the local area, the history, the climatic conditions and many more factors that will need to be considered.
Many architects use the site as a starting point for developing their proposal. Some of the factors that will need to be studied include:
- Location – where the site is situated
- Neighbourhood context – the immediate surrounding of the site including data on zoning and buildings and other impacts on our project.
- Zoning and size – dimensional considerations such as boundaries, easements, height restrictions, site area, access along with any further plans.
- Legal information – ownership, restrictions or covenants, council related information, planning regulations and restrictions future urban development plans.
- Natural physical features – actual features of the site such as trees, rocks, topography, rivers, ponds, drainage patterns.
- Man made features – existing buildings, walls, surrounding vernacular, setbacks, materials, landscaping, scale.
- Circulation – Vehicle and pedestrian movements in, through and around the site. Consider the timing of these movements, and duration of heavier patterns. Future traffic and road developments should also be considered.
- Utilities – Any electricity, gas, water, sewer and telephone services that are situated in or near the site, along with distances, depths and materials.
- Climate – all climatic information such as rainfall, snowfall, wind directions, temperatures, sun path, all considered during the different times of the year.
- Sensory – this addresses the visual, audible and tactile aspects of the site, such as views, noise, and so on. These again should be considered in time frames and a positive or negative factor can be attributed to the condition.
- Human and cultural – the cultural, psychological, behavioural and sociological aspects of the surrounding neighbourhood. Activities and patterns, density, population ethnic patterns, employment, income, values and so on.
Once data relating to the site has been collected it can be evaluated, considering some of the following issues:
- Street patterns
- Street section
- Scale and the hierarchy/form/space
- Land use
- Neighbourhood relationships, formal street variation
- Perspective relationships, views
- Edge conditions, surfaces and materials
- Natural and man made
- Movement and circulation within and around the site
- Vehicle vs. pedestrian
- Public space vs. private space
- Open space
- Climate – sun angles and sun shadows
- Negative and positive spaces – we move through negative spaces and dwell in positive spaces
Characteristics of the site
While we have studies the features of the site using our site analysis, it is important to also mention the non physical context of the site. A site will change over time, and these changes may not always be visible. Non physical context can be political, social, cultural, and historical. To understand these aspects of the site, and weave them into the project is an important study during the design process.
This type of data can be difficult to collect, and in some cases it has been shown that engaging with and involving the community in the design project allows the architect to gain a true reflection of the non physical context of the site. Collaborations allow the design to reflect the needs of the community and integrate them into the project.
Drawing from the research stages, the brief, site analysis, project type, site characteristics we are able to proceed to developing our concept of design and start to develop an outline of the project needs. Although we have mentioned many factors here, there are certainly countless more, and often varied from project to project, site to site. There isn’t just one way to approach design, but hopefully the points raised here have encouraged or inspired a design thinking to lead you to develop your scheme.
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