Week two is one of my favorite weeks of an entire project. I love to see how close to my original pencil sketch a final design comes. The excitement of week two, when the momentum is high and the creativity is at it’s maximum, is when a project really comes alive.
Typically, week two falls between when the client has signed your contract/proposal and when you will next meet with them. It may not always be the second week from when you have first met your client. It often takes time to generate a contract, get a deposit, get contracts signed, and begin the start of the design phase. During this phase of design, meeting every two weeks is ideal. Some clients like to meet weekly, but it can be more frustrating because there is less time to produce results. This often makes it seem like less has gotten done from week to week. For this reason I recommend meeting every two weeks.
During the first part of the week it is critical for the Architect to find out all of the site constraints. Typically I spend a lot of time on the town website verifying the code, the zoning, the setback restrictions, the height restrictions, shore land zoning, or any other town adopted codes or restrictions. If there is not already a good site plan, contacting a surveyor at this time is money well spent, especially on tricky lots or lots located on bodies of water. Contrary to popular beleif, in building it is not better to do something and ask forgiveness later. It is not unheard of for a planning board or town council to require a contractor to take down part of a structure that is non-conforming. When doing a renovation on a lake there are often expansion requirements and phosphorus plans to consider. It is imperative to know, before you start designing, what the site constraints will be.
Next, and probably my favorite week of design, is the first leap into the design project. Out rolls the trace paper, next comes the sharpie, and bubble diagrams emerge. Sustainable design takes into account how the building is laid out on the site, but it also takes into account how the program is laid out within the building. It makes sense to group some programs together. It also makes sense to group certain program requirements on the North side, some on the sunny South side, and others on the bright morning East side of the structure. It also is very economical to group plumbing requirements together and locate closet spaces on sections with no view. Based on the square footage desired, and the program the client has given, a form begins to emerge.
From the bubble diagrams I lay out three simple floor plans. Research, and experience, have shown that when presented with more than three options, people have difficulty making decisions. These floor plans will often be variations on one plan, or may be three unique plans if space and budget allow for that type of flexibility. Architects are trained in space, proportion, and design, but the client has to live in the home, so their voice and opinion will be what steers the project as it moves forward.
In future weeks, as the design starts to narrow down, and the questionnaire the clients filled out on wants and wishes helps to take a mass/form and develop it into a dream home.