What Are Site Plans? How Does Salvadori Use Them?
Posted: Mar 30 2018
If you were going to design an outdoor structure in the built environment, wouldn’t you want to know what the surrounding area looks like in relation to where your design is going to be built?
Site plans are drawings that architects, engineers, and landscape architects use to show where a project is going to be located in relation to the size, position, and use of the existing adjacent structures. It’s a birds-eye view ~ a view from above ~ of the area. Site plans are part of a set of construction drawings. A site plan is like an introduction to a novel. It’s the context for everything that happens later in the book. The project is the main character; developing the design is like an unfolding plot; and the buildings and site details are like supporting characters. Just like a map, it might show the sidewalks, roads, types of buildings, open spaces, landscaping, and land boundaries, to name a few.
For instance, in Salvadori’s Landmarks, Monuments & Memorials curriculum, students are given a 1/8”:1’ scale site plan consisting of a quadrilateral park as well as the surrounding context to investigate. The four-sided park is their “plot” ~ the area where they will design and later build their project.
Once they identify details in the surrounding area (buildings, sidewalks, lamp posts, fencing, etc.) they make their own key with symbols to match the existing features on the site plan. This gives them a good idea of the current landscape and features that surround their plot. Understanding what is happening around their plot, designers gain a better idea of how the built environment could both impact and influence their design decisions. Building a scale model of the site helps them to explore these concepts in three dimensions.
For example, knowing there are tall buildings or trees looming over or near your site may change the orientation of your final structure. Similarly, having a park entrance near your plot may inspire you to change the way you want people to approach or interact with your structure.
Next time you walk around your neighborhood, think about how it was designed and how you might improve it. Maybe you want to construct a building that is more environmentally friendly, create more space for parking, add an extra entrance to the park, etc.
You don’t have to be an architect to think like one!