At its core, site analysis is an investigative tool, a means to gather essential information and insights that inform and shape the decision-making process. The intricate dance of interpreting land features, climate conditions, and human factors is more than just a technical exercise; it’s a critical step in envisioning how a space can be transformed and utilized.
From the towering skyscrapers of bustling metropolises to the serene layout of a neighborhood park, effective site analysis serves as the bedrock upon which sustainable and functional designs are built.
…and once you’ve collected all of the information from your site visit as highlighted here, along with the findings from your desktop study, it’s time to take the next site analysis steps and use them to influence and drive the concept development of your architectural project.
Using your site analysis the site should now become the generator for your projects conceptual development and should be used to shape and evolve your architectural design decisions throughout the process.
Evaluating your site
As covered in previous articles, in terms of the site itself you should evaluate your analysis on:
- Site boundary conditions
- Look at the extent of the boundary and what forms it (vegetation, fencing, buildings etc).
- Neighbouring buildings
- Their location, scale, height, use, vernacular.
- Legal Restrictions
- Is it within a Conservation area or SSSI , are there covenants or easements, TPO’s, Rights of way, listings.
- Street patterns and sections
- Are there obvious grids or symmetries between streets, is there a vernacular, is there a hierarchy.
- How do vehicles and pedestrians enter the site, is there an existing circulation route, is there more than one entrance.
- Levels, Key features/restrictions, Exposure to elements.
- Public and private vantage points, views out of and into the site.
- Climate conditions
- Sun paths and wind patterns.
- Land use
- Natural or manmade, public or private, open and closed space.
- Trees and vegetation
- Sizes, amounts, positions, protected.
- Listings, heritage assets, narratives.
- Habitats and home to protected species.
- Site restrictions
- Visibility, light, views, ground conditions, neighbours.
- Areas to expose, hide or maintain.
- Electrical lines, flooding, land slides.
These should all provide clarity on where to best position your design proposal, and highlight the elements that will go onto help shape it.
For example, a building with both south (sunlight) and north (views) facing aspects, may warrant a the floor plan that orientates around a series of south-facing courtyards. This would allow the accommodation to benefit from both the views and direct sunlight.
Whilst architecture is by its very nature an extremely subjective subject, a buildings position (when backed by research and analysis) often is not. Every site no matter how restrictive, has its own optimal location.
Critical Analysis of Data
- Identifying Patterns and Anomalies: Effective interpretation involves looking for patterns in the data that reveal opportunities or challenges. For example, recurring flooding in an area suggests the need for robust water management systems in any development. Likewise, anomalies, like a unique ecological feature, can present both a constraint and an opportunity for innovative design.
- Cross-Referencing Multiple Data Sources: To ensure accuracy, data from different sources and methodologies should be cross-referenced. This helps in identifying any discrepancies or gaps in the analysis, leading to a more robust and reliable interpretation.
- Utilizing Expertise and Experience: The role of professional judgment cannot be overstated. Experienced professionals can draw on their knowledge and past projects to interpret data in a way that software and raw numbers cannot. They can discern subtleties and nuances in the data, making connections that might not be immediately apparent.
Translating Findings into Practical Applications
- Development of Design and Planning Strategies: The ultimate goal of interpreting site analysis data is to inform design and planning strategies. This might involve identifying the best location for certain structures, determining the types of materials to be used based on climatic conditions, or planning the layout of a space to optimize natural light and airflow.
- Risk Assessment and Mitigation Planning: A crucial part of data interpretation is identifying potential risks and planning for mitigation. This could involve environmental risks, like flood zones, or social risks, like areas with high crime rates. Effective planning can significantly reduce these risks.
- Feedback Loop for Continuous Improvement: The interpretation of site analysis is not a one-off process. It should involve a feedback loop where findings are continuously revisited and reassessed as the project progresses. This ensures that the project remains responsive to both the evolving context and any new data that emerges.
The interpretation of site analysis data is a dynamic and critical phase in the project development process. It requires a careful balance of technical skill, contextual awareness, and professional expertise to transform raw data into meaningful strategies and designs.
This step not only ensures the feasibility and sustainability of a project but also enhances its potential to positively impact the environment and community it serves.
Using your data to influence your design process
Following this, the next step is develop how your design proposal will be influenced and tie into the site and its surrounding context, the following should be considered:
- What is the sites predominate direction and orientation? What shape is the site?
- Does the site have features that could determine circulation routes? Should they be gradually unveiled?
- How can you obtain the best views?
- Should your building be the primary feature? Should it play second to the site or perhaps an existing structure?
- Does the site dictate a certain construction technique? Lightweight? Elevated? Cantilevering? Local techniques?
- Is there already a built scale to comply with? How many storeys should it have? How imposing should it be?
- Should it be one building? Or a group? Are there site features the building should orientate around and interact with?
- Is there a designated area that you can build in? Are there areas that should be avoided or given space?
- How can you get the right amount of light into your building? How will the light change between times and seasons?
- Does the site dictate a specific sequence of spaces, forms or scales?
- Does the building need to be protective? Or can it open up to the site? Should it be welcoming?
- Do site elements and features dictate the volumetric shape? Does the building need to work them?
- Are there local vernacular materials to draw upon? Are there locally sourced materials to use?
- Are there areas or features that need be worked around?
- Does the building need to be self-sufficient ? Does it need re-newable energies? Are site features and/or elements to use?
The answers to the above questions will start to produce parameters and guidelines that you can and should design within, and each design and conceptual decision you make should be related back to them.
By doing this, your building will be shaped by its site and by default be contextually coherent and relevant.
This will provide a foundation and justification for why you have made the decisions you have, and also means that when your design process is questioned, your answer will have depth and be backed by a strong narrative and recorded thought pattern …no post-rationalisation required!
Next we’ll look at architectural site analyse presentation techniques, and how to use site analysis diagrams and symbols.
Also check out our Architecture site analysis diagram and presentation examples on Pinterest