Site Anaylsis – What should you be looking for?

Upon starting a new project, a site visit is one of the first steps in the design process you tackle. Conducting an analysis can be a daunting task and because these initial stages are incredibly important I have listed a few areas of focus for you to consider.

What should you be looking for?

Location – Undertake prior research of the area before visiting. Make a mental note of what areas you could focus on upon arrival. Where is the site located? How is the site approached? What is the existing land use?

History – How has the area developed over the course of time? How can your design be respectful of the existing context? What architectural movements are in the area? Are there any important parts of the sites history you want to preserve?

Geological – Geological factors will influence certain aspects of your design. It is important to have an understanding of what your building will be built on. How stable is the ground? What types of foundations would be appropriate?

Anthropological – The study of humans, past and present, with in the area is important. How is the area occupied? What are the neighbourhood relationships like? Human interactions?

Hydrologic – Analysis: Water movement, water distribution, and quality of water in the area.  Research the water resources in the area and environmental watershed sustainability. Is there any potential for rainwater collection or any need to plan for flooding?

Patterns – Can you notice any patterns such as: Street patterns, natural vs man-made, street variations etc.

Circulation – How do people move in and out of the space and through the area? Concentrate on vehicle Vs pedestrian movements, cycle routes, access to and from the site.

Orientation – The orientation of the site will prompt some design decisions. It will tell you the best way to position a building in order to optimise the natural resources such as the sun and wind. It can also indicate where certain rooms will be best positioned in the design for example: putting the kitchen in the east for morning sun.

Temperature and Sunpath – Look at the local climate and monthly average temperatures. This will indicate potential for natural lighting techniques and solar energy production.

Wind Direction – If you are to design a climatologically responsive building, careful consideration will be needed to best use the direction of the wind to create natural ventilation. This will initiate the placement & size of openings such as windows and doors.

Soil Type and Condition – From a structural point of view this is an important aspect of the site study. What will your building be built on?

Topography – By looking at the slopes and levels of the land you can produce a detailed contour map if necessary. Other areas to focus on include: Edge conditions, surfaces and materials in the area.

Vegetation & Natural Features –  Look at the trees, fauna and flora present in the area. You should indicate these on the site plan so you can refer to them during the design process. Can they be incorporated into the design? As well as the location of the vegetation it is also important to include a certain level of detail about them. For example: type, size, diameter, heights etc. This will help you easily refer back to them and make conscience decisions as to how to work with them.

Precipitation & Hydrology – During the site visit, you need to identify water sources in and around the site, for example: lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers etc. The scale and location of the water sources should indicate if they could be integrated into the design scheme. Also look at: rainfall in mm, precipitation, water drainage patterns, relative humidity, moisture content, the water table and the potential for rainwater collection.

Infrastructure Facilities – Make a note about services present in the location. Look for: electricity supply, water supply, waste disposal and drainage connections etc.

Surrounding Land uses and Buildings – By looking around at what exists you can determine certain elements of your design. If there is a problem with the site you can see how other buildings have tackled it. You will also need to look at how these buildings will directly affect yours. Study the noise impact, building heights, scale, hierarchy, form, public Vs private space, open space, negative and positive space and overall massing etc.

Prominent Vision Lines / Visual Links – How a building reveals itself can be extremely important. The views to and from the site can be carefully considered while designing. Are there any perspective relationships and interesting views you want to take advantage of?

Locally Available Resources – This is important if you are trying to design as sustainably as possible. What materials are available in and around the site, which can be used in the design? This will help to reduce the transportation energy & overall costs of the project.

I hope this post helps get you started with this task. Please find below a link to my Site Analysis Example Board on Pinterest for inspiration.

Useful Links: My Pinterest:

(post in progress)

Book Review #1 – The Environmental Design Pocketbook (2nd Edition) by Sofie Pelsmakers

If you’re thinking of investing in just one book on sustainable building design I’d strongly recommend you buy The Environmental Design Pocketbook by Sofie Pelsmakers. The book is currently in its second edition, and should be essential reading for not only architects and architecture students but anyone else involved in the construction and operation of buildings.

The Environmental Design Pocketbook is a fantastic reference book which is well illustrated and easy to use. The research incorporated in this book make it an essential reference to both practicing architects and students concerned with the environmental impacts of building design.

At almost 500 pages, this edition continues to build on the already vast amount of data contained in the previous edition, bringing the book up to date on recent changes to both regulations and practices. It tackles topics from what can be achieved in the building industry to UK general policies, legislation, frameworks, tools and environmental assessments.

Throughout the book, it is well organised and boasts helpful illustrations to aid the details. At the end of a chapter there is a ‘key recommendations’ section which flags the points that require further thought; arrows are used to indicate points to cross references with other chapters or sections and finally, a spanner symbol relates to building maintenance and care.

Overall, The Environmental Design Pocketbook is a must have for anyone serious about sustainable design which is an important and growing topic within the architectural industry. I found this book to be extremely important to have on hand as it is packed with everything you need to know about how to design a green building in the UK. As a student I will find this book invaluable for helping me to embed sustainable strategies into my projects.

Price: £25

Map Making

Mapmaking is a basic human instinct. It is how we make sense of the world around us, and has become a hugely important record in our written history. Cartography has been known to date back approximately 8000 years, before we even learnt to write and has continued to be a valuable resource.

Mapping was a prominent part of our initial context studies in architecture school. It was a process which could be displayed in both 2D and 3D forms and exercised in a range of media. Maps are incredibly useful for data visualisation which can be used for personal benefit or as a tool to communicate a sense of the area with others. These outcomes can be incredibly important and could reveal patterns you may not have noticed initially. The maps we produce today within the creative field are often conceptual, being used for installation and explanation. When thinking of producing a map there are some things you could consider:

  • Edit out what you don’t feel important or relevant
  • Think of a specific objective
  • Do you want to show complex social structures?
  • Direction
  • Symbolism
  • Micro-climates
  • Sun-paths
  • Circulation
  • Transport
  • What are you recording?
  • What Qualitative and Quantitative data do you want to show?
  • Is it a diagrammatic map?
  • Are you focusing on mapping: particular buildings, roads, landscape, materials, textures or vegetation?

After deciding on the correct approach for your map it is a good idea to make sure you have the relevant information to accompany it or if you feel the image is enough to communicate your ideas.

  • Title
  • Orientation
  • Date
  • Author
  • Legend
  • Scale
  • Index
  • Grid

The map In the reference image is a figure-ground study drawing for Vitra Firestation by Zaha Hadid.

Quantitative – Relating to, measuring, or measured by the quantity of something rather than its quality.
Qualitative – Relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity.
Cartography – The science or practice of drawing maps.

Sensing Spaces

The Sensing Spaces: Architecture Re-imagined Exhibition was run by the Royal Academy of Arts from the 25th January – 6th April 2014. The event called for seven architects to reawaken the city’s relationship to architecture by showcasing the importance of the role it plays on our everyday emotions. The participating architects: Grafton Architects Diébédo Francis KéréSensing-Spaces1 (1) Kengo Kuma Li Xiaodong Pezo von Ellrichshausen Álvaro Siza Eduardo Souto de Moura The goal of the exhibition was to evoke different emotions from the visitors and ultimately change the way the city engages with architecture. The collective architects were given 23,000 square feet and 72 days to complete a breathtaking large scale installation. Whilst visiting I found myself not just viewing the designs but how different groups of people were reacting to them. The designs were highly interactive allowing visitors to touch, climb, sit walk and play within the space. The chosen materials varied considerably between installations, allowing for human response to be changed through sight, scent, sound and touch. The different materials and shapes caused opposing behaviors and where some designs created a tranquil atmosphere others encouraged noise and play. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this exhibition. After seeing how a variety of materials, shapes and lighting can affect the human emotion so considerably, I have taken away the understanding of how crucial these factors are in producing good design. Further Reading:

(Post in progress)

“In a city the atmosphere is all around you and is ever changing. New things will become old things, so the idea of continuity is very real. Time is a great architect.” – Alvaro Siza

Designing for nature – Project Bird House

I recently became a member of the RSPB and was sent their ‘Give nature a home’ booklet ( as seen advertised on TV. Their powerful message of ‘if you build it they will come’ inspired me to explore this as a short project. Of course I am aware these animals would probably be just as happy with traditional wooden natural houses, however, I thought this could be an exciting small scaled proposal which might inspire people to pursue it further. It is a nice sized project that will encourage a lot of the thought processes used with larger schemes.

Inspiration below:

This post will look specifically at some of my most popular visitors here at home. A birdhouse should be designed with a certain bird in mind. The image above is one I explored looking at designs for Blue Tits. Blue Tits are widely spread in Britain and are also regular visitors to my garden year round. They are known to thrive in the nesting boxes. Just like designing for a human, individual bird species with have their own requirements for how they live, so after some initial research I was able to form a program in which to follow when designing my bird house.


  • Security – The birds are very sensitive to the need of feeling safe. This can be controlled by using appropriate dimensions that are similar to those they choose in their natural habitats. The box height, depth and floor, diameter of entrance hole and height of hole above the box floor are all important aspects for nesting birds and should be considered early in the design stage.
  • Ventilation – Without adequate ventilation in the nesting box it can cause overheating for the birds who are used to living in cold temperatures.
  • Drainage – Looking carefully at drainage it is easy to see why this is important in birdhouse design. Designing it in order to not retain water can reduce/eliminate harboring bacteria and parasites. Slanted roofs to drain rainwater are a common feature to most birdhouses.
  • Accessibility – A safe location must be chosen for the birdhouse. When the birds are sleeping or caring for their young they are at their most vulnerable. Hanging them high in the trees is a good option for security.
  • Limiting predator access – The entrance hole should only be big enough for the desired bird to enter. This limits the amount of larger animals that could get in. Building a perch outside the door is not always advisable as predators can use it, so predator guards should be considered.
  • Ease of maintenance – Potential for a removable lid to clean out the box in between residents is crucial. This will keep the nesting box usable for years.
  • Weathering – Careful consideration for the materials and how they will perform within the climate and the environment will be an area of focus if I want to design something to be sustainable and comfortable.

I hope to do a follow up post in the future with a more in-depth and completed project overview. I am aiming to complete around 10-15 A3 pages for this project in total to keep it at a manageable size, whilst juggling it with my evening course and preparing myself to go back to University.

99% Invisible

Recently I discovered a series of Podcasts relating to design and quickly became an avid listener…. I felt this would be perfect to write my next blog post on as it has become a huge part of my architectural thinking in recent months.

Presented by Roman Mars, 99% Invisible is described on its website as ‘a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.

It is true that all of these podcasts are relevant to architecture as they enforce you to look at design as a whole. However, if you do not have the time to listen to them all I have devised a list of the most architecturally significant in my opinion. I will continue to update this as I work my way through the episodes.

To find out what all the fuss is about follow this link:

My favourite Episodes:
139: Edge of your seat
134: The straight line is a godless line
132: Castle on the Park
129: Thomassons
128: Hacking Ikea
126: Walk this way
123: Snowflake
122: Good Egress
116: Breaking the bank
114: Ten thousand years
112: Young ruin
110: Structural Integrity
94: Unbuilt
93: Revolving doors
92: All the buildings
86: Reversal of fortune
80: An architects code
73: The Zanzibar and other building poems
72: New old town
66: Kowloon walled city
64: Derelict dome
58: Purple Reign
56: Frozen Music
53: The Xanadu effect
52: Galloping Gertie
40: Deafspace
39: The Darth Vader family courthouse
35: Elegy for WTC
34: The speed of light for building pyramids
32: Design for airports
29: Cul de sac
27: Bridge to the sky
21: BLDGBLOG: On sound
19: Liberation squares + NY Dick
17: Concrete furniture
12: 99% Guilt free
11: 99% Undesigned
09: 99 % Private

Overall, I hope this becomes a useful tool encouraging us to constantly look and question not only the aspects of design we can touch and feel but, what also seems invisible at first.

(Post in progress)

My top 10 ways to stay involved in the profession of architecture.

As we all know finding a placement or a job in the industry doesn’t always come easily or quickly so what I have found to aid this transition are listed below:-

1. Subscribe to a weekly architecture magazine – This is an excellent way to keep up to date with upcoming projects and get a sense of what firms are currently working on. They also often advertise jobs.

2. Media – For a lazy evening treat yourself to some TV there are many programs, documentaries and online lectures that you can catch up on demand. TED is an amazing online space that offers a range lectures covering all aspects of design and technology.

3. Volunteer Opportunities – Keep an eye out for volunteering opportunities in the construction industry located close to home or somewhere you can easily afford to commute.

4. Short courses – There are many short courses that are available that are relevant to architecture. However, be aware that some of these may be expensive and can be learnt from home. Also drawing classes and other evening classes can keep you using improving your skills.

5. Give yourself a project – Setting your own small projects is a great way to target areas that you wish to improve. Sketching, diagramming, 3D modelling and concepting can be practised through these projects giving you goals and targets to work on. This is a really fun way to keep your mind active.

6. Find local lectures or RIBA events to attend – Keep an eye out for RIBA events and evening lectures. I recently attended one in Woodstock at a local museum where architects from MJP came to speak about 2 projects they had worked on in the area. This is a great way to ask questions and meet professionals as well as show you are a keen graduate.

7. Architecture competitions – Even if you don’t have the money to enter an idea I enjoy doing the competitions for my own benefits. It’s interesting to compare the work of those who have entered with your own design conclusions.

8. Visits, Day trips and Tours – Visiting museums and old buildings is a great way to learn about the buildings that already exist. Also try going for a walk around the city to see what gems you can find. Don’t forget a sketchbook and camera. Often the people around these areas share a common interest.

9. Sketch booking – Keep a sketchbook and constantly sketch buildings you see on your travels. This is a great way to practise sketch diagrams for site analysis and drawing skills. Small sketchbooks are great to take to interviews as they tell the interviewer a lot about you and show your thought processes rather then a finished project.

10. Blogging and social networking  

Blogs – Write a Blog where you can record things that interest you and start an online community you can interact with over topics. If you don’t fancy writing one there are many blogs you can follow and you can use the comment section. (I will post an entry on my favourite blogs).

LinkedIn – is a great way for potential employers to find you and you can interact and connect with other professionals in the industry. It is important to have a good profile as many companies use this site to find potential employees.

Twitter – My favourite social network is Twitter. This is a space where you don’t need to spend all day on however, are instantly updated with news from companies and projects.