Fresh ideas about design
:having or showing an accurate and deep understanding; perceptive.
How do we become intelligently familiar with the full potential of a project? How does architecture integrate thoughtfully with the site? These interventions are determined through careful investigation and exploration, or site reconnaissance. Typical site reconnaissance consists of taking pictures, taking notes, and gathering existing conditions information. As a designer, are you willing to take it to the next level? As an owner, are you willing to require the same? Stradista Jayson Livingston has coined the term “inSITEful reconnaissance” to describe our detailed process. He has also offered three key steps towards achieving inSITEful reconnaissance.
It is crucial to formulate a clear picture of existing conditions when beginning any new project. Ninety-eight percent of the design process is completed in the office, so a lack of accuracy can lead to confusion, schedule conflicts, and most importantly, a loss of revenue. It is easy to get mired into producing a detailed survey level drawing, but that is a detailed task that we can rely on surveyors for. Being inSITEful is NOT knowing whether or not we are looking at a 7” curb or a 6” curb; it is knowing whether the curb is functioning properly, adding value to a space, or acting as an unnecessary barrier. Our role is to paint the WHOLE picture. To do that, we must resist the tunnel vision that focuses on only certain aspects. Hand sketches are becoming a lost artform. The ability to produce simple hand sketches to capture key moments or insights about the project can go a long way. At Strada many of us enjoy attending John “The Godfather” Martine’s (A Founding Principal of Strada) sketching lunches! Sound judgement is made when we have facts at hand to inform and drive decisions. InSITEful design begins with inSITEful recon.
Is there such a thing as too much inSITE?
Sure, too much insight can hinder creativity! It can lead to statements like “that can’t be done!” instead of “how can this be done?” What do we do with site complications like utility conflicts, environmental impacts, historical patterns? We simply note them, discuss them with our clients and develop a well-crafted game plan to address them.
What does inSITEful mean to our clients? What is the value added?
Being InSITEful is more than gathering and documenting data succinctly. It is synthesizing that data into a successful design and a built project. InSITEful reconnaissance leads to immersive design which leads to excellent projects. There is tremendous value in illustrating to the client considerations that they didn’t originally have. Through inSITEful reconnaissance, we are able to culminate our explorations into an inventive, creative, enduring legacy.
Sustainability is fundamentally about having the humility to use only what we need, live within our means, and let the specific climate and ecosystem of our region inform our daily lives. It lies in the humble acknowledgement of mistakes, and the sacrifice to change our way of life.
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"I can imagine Western State Penitentiary becoming a mixed-use development (along an extended light rail that goes to the airport!) that could include housing, hospitality, cultural uses, and community functions." - Larry Fabbroni
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