URBAN DESIGN TRAININGSITE RESPONSIVE DESIGN An approach to delivering contextual design. by Paul Bulkeley
Aims:1. A better appreciation for the relationship between site analysis and design process – how a design strategy can be developed in response to its site.2. An overview of site analysis techniques – how to interpret a context.3. A live experience of site responsive design.
‘The site of a building is more than a mere ingredient of its conception.It is its physical and metaphysical foundation. Building transcendsphysical and functional requirements by fusing with a place, bygathering the meaning of a situation. Architecture does not so muchintrude on the landscape as it serves to explain it. Architecture and siteshould have an experiential connection, a metaphysical link, a poeticlink.’ Steven Holl, Anchoring, 1988
b. Form follows function It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, Of all things physical and metaphysical, Of all things human and all things super-human, Of all true manifestations of the head, Of the heart, of the soul, That the life is recognizable in its expression, That form ever follows function. This is the law Louis Sullivan
c. Design generated from the site ‘The true innermost being of architecture can be compared to natures seed, and something of the inevitability of nature’s principle of growth ought to be a fundamental concept in architecture. If we think of the seeds that turn into plants or trees, everything within the same genus would develop the same way if the growth potential were not so different and if each growth possessed within itself the ability to grow without compromise. On account of different conditions, similar seeds turn into widely differing organisms.’ Jorn Utzon, The Innermost Being of Architecture
How does a building grow naturally and uniquely out of the conditions of its site?
‘Considerations of design and layout must be informed by thewider context, having regard not just to any immediateneighbouring buildings but the townscape and landscape of thewider locality. The local pattern of streets and spaces, buildingtraditions, materials and ecology should all help to determine thecharacter and identity of a development...’ (Department of the Environment 2000)
NPPF7. Requiring good design56. The Government attaches great importance to the design of the built environment. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning, and should contribute positively to making places better for people.59. Local planning authorities should consider using design codes where they could help deliver high quality outcomes. However, design policies should avoid unnecessary prescription or detail and should concentrate on guiding the overall scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout, materials and access of new development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally.
NPPF60. Planning policies and decisions should not attempt to impose architectural styles or particular tastes and they should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative through unsubstantiated requirements to conform to certain development forms or styles. It is, however, proper to seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness.61. Although visual appearance and the architecture of individual buildings are very important factors, securing high quality and inclusive design goes beyond aesthetic considerations. Therefore, planning policies and decisions should address the connections between people and places and the integration of new development into the natural, built and historic environment.
NPPF63. In determining applications, great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative designs which help raise the standard of design more generally in the area.64. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.65. Local planning authorities should not refuse planning permission for buildings or infrastructure which promote high levels of sustainability because of concerns about incompatibility with an existing townscape, if those concerns have been mitigated by good design.
Context is the character and setting of the area within which aprojected scheme will sit. It is its natural as well as humanhistory; the forms of the settlements, buildings and spaces; itsecology and archaeology; its location, and the routes that passthrough it. Context also includes people, the individuals living inor near an area and how communities are organised so thatcitizens become real participants in the projected development.A thorough appreciation of the overall site context is thestarting point for designing a distinct place. Urban Design Compendium
Why use context in design?Strengthens local communitiesCreates places of distinction and identityHarnesses intrinsic site assets and resourcesIntegrates a building with its surroundingsHelps to ensures feasibilityProvides an efficient and relevant basis for design decision making.
An approach to contextual design - The notion of RECOGNITION
Skylines are sensitive to beingobscured by high buildings in front ofexisting buildings or having theirsilhouette spoiled by high buildingsbehind them. New buildings shouldrespect their elders!
The scale, massing and height of proposed development should be considered in relation to that of adjoining buildings; the topography; The general pattern of heights in the area; and views, vistas and landmarks all influence the form of a development.House in CorrubedoChipperfield
What is a valid response to context? Preserve Integrate/Respect/Compliment Re-use Enhance/Modify/Transform Repair/Revive/Restore Critique
Recognise what isn’t contextualismBuilding in Context sets out the following broad approaches that lead to the erosion of local distinctiveness. Development will erode the context if it pursues either of two extreme philosophical positions:a) A desire to purely reflect the concerns of our own time and contrasting with the context.b) A desire to purely preserve the character by copying the existing.The worst results arise when two opinions are forced to compromise late in the design process. Beware of the following evidence:
Building In Context The right approach is derived from a close examination of the context so that a new proposal can be well related to its context. This is set out as:1. Relate well to geography and history of the place and the lie of the land2. Sit happily in the pattern of development3. Respect important views4. Respect the scale of neighbouring buildings5. Use materials and building methods which are as high a quality as the context6. Create new views and juxtapositions that add to the variety and texture of the setting.7. Show evidence of having being derived, in part, from an analysis of the place.8. Repair and improves the place.
Contextual Design has:A physical fit - sitting comfortably within its setting.A visual fit – sitting beautifully within its setting.A poetic fit - making a meaningful addition to a places story.An emotional fit - ensuring occupants feel proud to call it home.An environmental fit - protecting ecology.A social fit – useful, welcoming and entertaining.A spatial fit – connected, flowing and accessible.An economic fit – deliverable.Ultimately contextual design has the potential to create a wellmannered building or place that belongs here rather thansomewhere else.
“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context –achair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, anenvironment in a city plan.” – Eliel Saarinen‘The analysis of public space provides a rational point of departurefor imagining its transformation’ – UDC
What are we looking for?1. Constraints to resolve2. Opportunities to realise3. Weaknesses to repair4. Strengths to reinforce5. Character to preserve and enhance
How do we engage with a place? How a place: LOOKS FEELS WORKS
The theoretical context of contextual decisions: i. The picturesque - Late eighteenth century contextual theorists held that landscapes should be designed with a picturesque transition from the works of man to the works of nature. LOOKS ii. Genius loci - An early eighteenth century theory, that buildings and planting should respond to the Genius of the Place, created a still-influential theory of context. FEELS iii. Modernism - Modernist architectural theory held that the appearance of structures should be a consequence of social function and abstract artistic principles, not physical contexts. WORKS
LOOKS - Townscape– a visual approach The fundamental theme of townscape as a means of providing excitement, drama and emotional response to the physical environment is most closely associated to the work of Gordon Cullen. His seminal work, The Concise Townscape consistently emphasizes that the starting point for design is the individuals experience of the environment. Ivor De Wolfe labels townscape as a visual art of town planning that is a contemporary extension of the English picturesque school of landscape design
FEELS – Genius Loci- an experiential approach Norberg-Shulz explored the character of places on the ground, genius loci is described as representing the sense people have of a place. ‘The planner’s first approach to his task is to sum up the personality of the city which has been put under his care.... The good plan is that which will fulfil the struggle of the place to be itself.’ (Sharp 1946)
WORKS - Responsive Environments– a functional approach.
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL PLACE?The seven qualities that successful streets, spaces, villages,towns and cities tend to have in common.CharacterPlaces with their own distinct and successful identity.Continuity and EnclosurePlaces where streets and public spaces are coherently andattractively defined.A Quality Public RealmPublic spaces that are safe, comfortable, well maintained,welcoming and accessible for everyone.Ease of MovementPlaces that are easy to get to and move through.LegibilityPlaces that have a clear image and are easy to understand.AdaptabilityPlaces that can evolve easily and flexiblyDiversityVaried environments offering a range of uses, opportunities andexperiences.
ASPECTS OF FORMThe inter-related elements which work together to define COUNCILLOR’S GUIDE TO URBANbuildings, groups of buildings and spaces. DESIGNUrban StructureThe essential diagram of a place. 8 ASPECTS OF FORMUrban Grain CABE 2003The nature and extent of the subdivision of the area into smallerdevelopment parcels.Density and MixThe amount of development and the range of uses thisinfluences.Height and MassingThe scale of a building.Building TypeFaçade and InterfaceThe relationship of the building to the street.Details and MaterialsThe appearance of the building.Streetscape and LandscapeThe design of route and spaces, their microclimate, ecology andbiodiversity
GESTALTTHE WHOLE IS GREATER THANTHE SUM OF THE PARTS
We look for both the practical and poetic to inform both the art and science of design decision making.
LAYERSBreak the complex down into its constituent parts
Urban Environments can be conceived in terms of four interlocking components: i. Terrestrial Environment – the earth, its topography, microclimate and processes and manmade additions to it. ii. Animate Environment – the living organisms that occupy it. iii. Social Environment – the relations between people occurring in these places. iv. Cultural Environment – behavioural norms, cultural artefacts and perception. Carmona M, ‘Public Places, Urban Spaces’ Architectural Press. p37
PHYSICAL CONNECTIONSAppreciate the physical context: i. Understand the Macro, Meso and Micro Climate ii. Identify existing landscape features both natural and manmade, topography, trees, water courses etc iii. Understand the movement patterns. Access, connectivity, linkage and legibility. iv. Consider the way people use and engage with the place. v. Establish the physical constraints and opportunities above and below ground, inside and outside the red line. vi. Form, Scale, Building lines, Patterns within the streetscape. vii. Impact on adjoining owners and key views and vistas.
META-PHYSICAL CONNECTIONSAppreciate the meta-physical context: i. Peoples perceptions of the place ii. Memories iii. History iv. Myth and legend
Establish a places identity By the identity of a place, we refer to its “persistent sameness and unity which allows that place to be differentiated from others”. Relph describes this persistent identity in terms of three components:(1) the place’s physical setting;(2) its activities, situations, and events; and(3) the individual and group meanings created through people’s experiences and intentions in regard to that place. (Relph 1976, p. 45).
Public Engagement – gathering local knowledge can reveal what is not visible about a place. i.e a Restrictive Covenant
Site analysis is a method ofgathering a betterunderstanding about aplace that must then becritically interpreted throughan iterative design processand consultation withlocal people.
“A proper building grows naturally, logically, and poetically out of all its conditions.” – Louis Sullivan
Prossibly the most contextual house we have ever designed
An entry from Snug’s blogWhen we design we must have our eyes and our hearts open. We mustlisten as well as look. We must smell, feel and remember. All of oursenses must be alive if we are to create designs that bring ongoing lifeto the places in which we work. There is no status quo. Places, like thecells in our own body, are always being renewed. The challenge is tomaintain our identity and character whilst striving towards maturity. Forthe buildings we design to succeed in this task we must develop a deepunderstanding and respect for site. The result will not however be apastiche of past responses. It will be something new, somethingbefitting our era and the needs of our age, something us and our clientscan be proud of.