How to review an architectural project by yourself

May 3, 2019

Finally. The moment has come – you received a first draft of your project.
if you are not sure how to test it, let me introduce you to a few basic guidelines that will help you review it yourself.

 

First impression

 

First impression of a court yard in Antigua, Guatemala

What is the first thing a visitor experience in your project? Is it the reception desk? The garden? The storage area?
This decision is a strategic one:
In some projects we want to keep the main area as a surprise – something to reveal, an exclusive touch.
In others – we want everybody in the street to be able to see what is going on and create an invitation.

In my first Seattle project we decided to go with the second approach – and design the facade in a way it can open up completely, creating seats in both sides of the window.
My client says this is the busiest seat in the restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Layout

 

Layout plan simply means the way things are organized.
If it’s a compound – what spaces are next to each other? Which functions facing the street? Which ones are facing the back?
If it’s a smaller project – like a private residence or apartment, it could be the decision which rooms are next to each other – the master bedroom next to the children’s room? Or in an opposite sides of the hall for privacy?
All of this decisions effect our experience and the way we interact within the space.

Not too long ago I stayed at a hostel in Mexico and had a wonderful experience until the bar, that happens to be right above my room start playing live electronic music and didn’t stop until 1 am.
bar+ room = definitely not next to each other!

Since you already have a draft I can assume you did the user experience practice.

And we can move forward to the way the functions organized:

make a list of all the “ingredients” of the project and divide them –
what has to be next to each other (for instance, kitchen + bar) what can be (reading area+ rooms) and what shouldn’t be (loud music bar + sleeping area!)

 

 

Circulation – the flow

 

Another important factor you should pay attention to is circulation.
that means the way people move through the building.
It doesn’t mean only staircases and elevators- it’s the story your building is telling.

When I first arrived to Nozawaonsen in Japan the hotel owners told me they are considering to change the guest lounge into 3 rooms. “nobody is using it, its always empty”
I found it hard to believe, the common areas in hospitality projects are the core of the guest experience, and in this case the perfect place to meet each other after a long day of snowboard & ski.

when we arrived to the property it was clear to me:
the original design of the property hide the common area!
as a guest, when you first arrived all you would see is the gear room, the corridor and your room.

 

We worked together, re-defining the values of the project and the ideal guest flow, and at the end I created a new floor plan that made it easier for the guests to enjoy what they had to offer.

 

 

Sun and wind directions

 

Before modern times, all the buildings that ever existed could be defined as “sustainable design”. Simply, there was no other choice.
it made a perfect sense to use the resources we have available and free, such as the sunlight and the wind.
The first question I am asking when I see a site plan is “where is the north?”

Depends on the climate and the specific characters of the area,
Do we want to create natural cross ventilation or a shelter from a strong wind?

In warm countries we will be carful with having big opening to sun directions that are hard to control.
In cold climate we would invite the sun in and have passive heating – similar to a greenhouse.

The best way to know what is the “best” way to build in a new area is to study the local architecture. And them make adjustments to modern and smart solutions and materials.

With that being said, I want you to keep in mind that there is one more factor to take into account – the human ecology and not only the planet ecology. It means that while a curtain design can be very sustainable it might feel unpleasant to humans. I am writing another article dedicated to this topic since I find it to be something many people skip, promise to keep you posted!

 

 

Materials

If you see a photo of the project, could you guess where in the world its located? the connection to local culture effects the way we experience a place.

Look around you. What are the old traditional methods for construction?
Can we learn something by studying it?
How about materials? What do we have available around us?
The materials tell us more them just the technique. It defines the scale of the space, the size of the openings.

The complete design is a combination of all of these factors.

 

 

 

 

 

I hope that now you understand better what to look at when you review an architectural design, just remember-
Architecture is more than a checklist, it has to have soul and elegance when composing all of these elements.

 

Let me know if that article helped you, or if there are other topics you would like to learn more about.