From Notes To Ideas To Sketches

Your architect has interviewed you for the program for your project and then researched the zoning ordinance and building code to establish constraints.  Now comes the time for him to think and put pencil to paper.  There may be a Mozart-like inspiration as ideas for floor plans and building elevations gush out as fast as your architect’s pencil can dance across his sketch paper.

More likely this design development process will proceed fitfully as ideas emerge, are tested, are maybe found wanting and rejected or perhaps are found to be of value and further refined.  Not yet sure which way to go, your architect will hold several ideas in mind simultaneously by layering multiple sheets of transparent sketch paper over each other.  First the floor plans, where life’s activities take place, are developed.  Then from the plans, the building’s elevations and exterior massing logically take shape.  Finally this entire delicate composition is transferred into the computer where the parts are fit together accurately.


Now Comes The Hard Part

As precise dimensions are calculated, the fluid floor plans will now coalesce into habitable spaces.  Your furniture must fit in comfortably.  Corridors must be wide enough and counters deep and long enough.  Is there enough closet space?  Your bed shouldn’t end up against a window.  Nor should the dishwasher be across the room from the kitchen sink.  You wouldn’t want the entry door into your home to open directly into the living room.  These are the kinds of things your architect must take into consideration as your building is further refined.

You should also get an efficient use of space so that your home looks roomy even if it’s not.  Sun light is healthy and views are exhilarating.  Your architect should provide your home with the largest windows you can afford.  Outdoor decks and balconies with some greenery, especially on small urban lots, are desirable.


What About Finishes?

Your architect should work together with you to select finishes which will withstand the loads that you will impose on them.  In addition to the commonly used painted drywall, carpeting, tile and wood, other exposed finishes could be brick, steel, glass, concrete, terrazzo and stones of all sorts.  Ideally, finishes should also provide continuity throughout the building to visually hold it together, almost like an organism whose parts appear to work together harmoniously, each existing to serve the whole.  One way to achieve this effect is to use the same materials and finishes both inside and outside.  This gives the impression that all parts of the building are unified in speaking the same language, instead of it being a hodgepodge of spaces brought together in a discordant manner.


What Do Engineers Do?                                                             

In my next blog I will examine the often unheralded, even misunderstood, role that engineers play in construction.

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