by Durand Seay
The importance of allowing an architect to assist in selecting a site to build our homes.
| A primary element of architecture is its embracement of the environment. The surrounding lay of the land, the trees, vegetation, mean temperatures, average rain fall, possible natural water resources, and the longitude of the sun, all have a direct impact on how a home (or any building for that matter) should be designed. A home is just not that which is made to function inside and a fashion statement outside.
An architect will ask of a client, “Have you selected a site?” In most cases, the client has found a site for which they have already purchased. Allowing some design potential to become compromised, the architect must engage this site to determine what will be the best plan and weigh all factors. Which is more important, the front door facing the street or to have the sun properly warm and light the interior is a good example.
In other cases, a client will go to an architect with the idea of building a home, but has not selected the exact location. Oh how this scenario could be the norm and happens all the time. It is in these situations that architect can guide them to what would be the optimum site. Taking full advantage of the environment; this guides the architect and owner together to create the best design. Basically, together they find the best lot to buy or the best location on a larger property to design towards.
An architect begins by meeting the client at the site. Starting early in the mornings, the sun then is low to the southeast. Giving them a compass helps them to establish where north and south is set to wherever we are standing at any given time. The types of trees are determined and the location of evergreens and deciduous varieties are recorded. The lay of the land is observed for slopes and most wonderful views. So what is the optimum you can have, what are they looking to find? That is a south face on a downward slope with deciduous trees to the east and evergreens to the west (if we are in the Deep South), all viewing out over some type of beautiful scenery towards the south is the goal.
The logic is that the primary living areas of a home like the family rooms, dining areas and the kitchen (it set at the south east corner) is best oriented towards a southern exposure. The sun light will fill these areas, warming them during the winter months. An east window exposure for the kitchen provides light to get around first thing in the morning. During the summer months, trees to the east and west shade the home from too much warming. Additionally, overhangs protects against too much sun with higher sun angles. Covered porches work best with west exposures as well to shade the house from too much heat, but to provide warmth while we enjoy the outside.
The most public location of a home is at the front door. Here we greet our guests, shake hands, hug, grab coats, shake off an umbrella, and wave to neighbors passing by. To support these activities a porch provides a shelter, like a hand reaching out to give us comfort and a moment of repose. It is the transition point that separates us so as to soften the impact of going in or out. The porch with a foyer, entrance hall, kept to the north pushes these public spaces away from our next realms of semipublic space, the living areas described previously.
The principal here is we by nature enjoy transitions from one space to another establishing a hierarchy of privacy levels. Public, semipublic, semi private to then private are these examples of these levels. So to eliminate abrupt changes in our experiences, transitions organized how we move through a house and protect our most private of areas at the same time. All of this relates as well to how the sun illuminates and can heat our movements.
Given that a home is the highest expression of oneself, your brand, involving an architect in the journey of building a home is crucial to achieving the best results. Even if it is only to help you know what makes for the best place to site the house, their guidance will only enrich the results. Here’s to a long and happy life.