One of the first things that architecture schools teach students is the process of site analysis. The procedure and importance of the process of site analysis is the first milestone one has to reach in the process of design. So simply put, the design has to start along with the site analysis stage.
But more often than not, site analysis becomes a mandatory formality that students do at the beginning of the design process and leave it alone once it’s done. The sun path and contours are determined and adjusted according to the design idea of the architect so this results in designs that are more idea-oriented than site and climate-specific. Both of which are accepted and appreciated but only one turns out to be fulfilling the functional, climatic and human comfort needs. So since the crucial stage of site analysis influences the future design it is given a lot of time and importance to achieving desired objectives in design.
To understand the same there are several books written by architects and designers and one such architect is Edward.T. White who has written Site Analysis: Diagramming Information for Architectural Design in 1983.
About the book
The book has a central focus that explores how the diagrammatic visualization of the site conditions and problems helps to identify and visualize the design solutions. While designing architects tend to draw inferences and design solutions based on the analysis they have done but visualization and diagrammatic representation make the process easier and reliable because you can see how the problem and the solutions work out.
The balance between understanding the problem and visualizing the design solution is important for a good design. It talks about how with new research in the construction community, there have been several new legal procedures and obligations that must be followed as a part of the job of an architect. This complicated procedure is also solved by a simple diagrammatic approach to understanding the information that is overloaded.
Clients always want to be a part of the design process and decision-making. Irrespective of the type of building and their background they try to understand the process and participate. This brings up a requirement where the architects need to explain and communicate the problems and solutions and visual representation is a tool for that. Often what happens is that the process of design needs to be accelerated to reach deadlines and to do that, the process has to be controlled and at the same time, the conceptualization and refinement should be justified.
This book focuses mainly on how to tackle accountability, communication, and efficiency using a diagrammatic and visualization approach to analyze the site. It also focuses on understanding the site context, physical and sensory features of the site.
Type of Content
The initial part of the book focuses on the general Definitions, Issues, and Design Implications. It is a brief description of the importance of context and its implications on design. A plot of land is subjected to change and the author speaks about how the change is essential to be kept in mind while designing and how it is an active network.
The importance of visiting the site to understand the features and sensory aspects like the sound levels, smell, views, etc., has been explained and how these factors will be a part of major design decisions is also described. A site has a ton of information from location and climate to legal measures. It is explaining the process of how to collect, analyze, and how the site zoning has to be carried out.
The conventional methods of creating diagrams and sketches to record the data and analyze problems and context are explained using examples. The data focuses on the micro sketches used to understand rather than plans and elevations that jump to conclusions. The author explains how depending upon the types of data there, different forms of drawings can be drawn. Some concepts are better explained in plans while some are in sectional views. So the importance of communicating the idea and recording it becomes essential. This is the kind of information that budding architects and students ought to know.
There are different procedures of data collection and recording that have been explained in a detailed manner with examples and sketches. The site zoning techniques and priorities are discussed briefly. The rest of the book shows examples of different methods of representation of different kinds of site-related data like sensory, traffic, movement, vegetation, contours, etc.
The entire book probably has more diagrammatic representations like sketches more than the text itself which proves the author’s point about the importance of visualization and analysis. The text is present to support the diagrams and provide content. The diagrams are all self-explanatory. The representations are simple and monochrome making the content even and focusing on one single element. Since the diagrams are all monochrome the message or information is not influenced or pre-decided. The readers get a chance to have their own opinions on the representation techniques and content delivered.
The diagrams are shown in a holistic manner as well as fragmented smaller sketches. The composition of these sketches as a whole is also shown with a site. One rectangular hypothetical site is considered for showing the representation techniques.
Text and Fonts
The text in the book is simple, straightforward, and to the point. The text size maintained throughout the book is deliberately not overpowering the sketches. The content is delivered in simple and easy-to-understand language. The book also has a thought-provoking effect to it while reading the different methods of looking at site analysis which makes one wonder how they didn’t learn about it sooner.
Headings have been made bold and noticeable while the explanatory text is small and done so to highlight the sketches. The fonts used in the sketches are different and draw attention in an order of importance.
Organization of Data
In the final component of the book, the author shows the different methods of representation of the collected site data and analysis on architecture sheets. The importance of line weights, arrowheads, hatching, composition, and size of the diagrams are shown elaborately. These are the basic elements that make communication through diagrammatic representation easier and self-explanatory. Notes on title blocks, the hierarchy of diagrams, qualitative and quantitative data representation have been supported with small example sketches showing the overall composition of the sheet.
After the diagrams are made it is important to let them speak rather than having to explain every single point, that is they need to be self-explanatory. So the interpretation of data also becomes crucial and decisive.
To conclude, the book Site Analysis: Diagramming Information for Architectural Design by Edward.T. White is a must-read for beginners who are new to architecture, like students. Budding architects who have just entered the field of architectural practice will also benefit from this book as it covers a lot of onsite experiences and legal data analysis. However, the conventional diagrammatic representation using pen and ink might seem out of date in today’s technologically advancing architectural industry with software tools and model building tools that do the site analysis by digital means.
But at the end of the day, the architect alone comes up with design solutions and must not rely upon software tools to do the job. The representation techniques of data and analysis of problems and solutions however will still hold good even if they are hand done or created digitally. This book helps build a foundation that is essential for the process of design.