Architecture Site Analysis - Evaluating Your Site Visit

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Introduction

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 the site

As covered here in our what to do on a site visit section, 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.  
  • Access
    • How do vehicles and pedestrians enter the site, is there an existing circulation route, is there more than one entrance.
  • Typography  
    • Levels, Key features/restrictions, Exposure to elements.
  • Views
    • 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.
  • History
    • Listings, heritage assets, narratives.
  • Ecology
    • Habitats and home to protected species.
  • Site restrictions
    • Visibility, light, views, ground conditions, neighbours.
  • Features
    • Areas to expose, hide or maintain.
  • Hazards
    • 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.

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Design influence:

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:

  • Axis
    • What is the sites predominate direction and orientation? What shape is the site?
  • Circulation
    • Does the site have features that could determine circulation routes? Should they be gradually unveiled?
  • Views
    • How can you obtain the best views?
  • Hierarchy
    • Should your building be the primary feature? Should it play second to the site or perhaps an existing structure?
  • Structure
    • Does the site dictate a certain construction technique? Lightweight? Elevated? Cantilevering? Local techniques?
  • Scale
    • Is there already a built scale to comply with? How many storeys should it have? How imposing should it be?
  • Massing
    • Should it be one building? Or a group? Are there site features the building should orientate around and interact with?
  • Restrictions
    • Is there a designated area that you can build in? Are there areas that should be avoided or given space?
  • Light
    • How can you get the right amount of light into your building? How will the light change between times and seasons?
  • Order
    • Does the site dictate a specific sequence of spaces, forms or scales?
  • Exposure
    • Does the building need to be protective? Or can it open up to the site? Should it be welcoming?
  • Form
    • Do site elements and features dictate the volumetric shape? Does the building need to work them?
  • Materials
    • Are there local vernacular materials to draw upon? Are there locally sourced materials to use?
  • Obstructions
    • Are there areas or features that need be worked around?
  • Sustainability
    • 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