HOW do we SITE BUILDINGS

Post 527  by Gautam Shah

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We may conceive a building in complete disregard of its location, as a holistic form, but sooner or later it has to be grounded. The site formats a building form in size, scale, shape and linkages to the surroundings. The siting, however, demands a building to match its topography. It needs an environmental confirmation through placement that includes the alignment, contextual positioning, climatic appropriateness, and access modalities. The orientation defines how the form is perceived through various sensual faculties. The sensual faculties are highly directional and the make the orienting a building, an exercise in angle, level (datum) and bearing.

Chandigadh City India by Le Corbusier has been planned with Shivalik hills as the inspiring orientation Wikipedia Flickr image by Author Raakesh Blokhra

Grounding a building makes it an inevitable entity for the location. A holistic form is subjectively conceived and its only bearing is the specificity of a building. It is a conceptual but a transient entity till it is justified on several counts. The form gets a ‘make-over’ with realities of Siting, Placement and Orientation.

Hadrian’s Wall and path, section near Crag Lough Roman province of Britannia Wikipedia-Flickr image by Author Johnnie Shannon

SITING a building to a very extensive land, substantially occurs on the basis of impressions of first encounter or visit. The land reveals itself primarily from the direction one enters it, and secondarily due to the engaging features beyond its territory. For small urban lots, partly developed plots for landscape design or built spaces such as for interior design, all reveal something how these are connected through the cuts, gaps and openings. These not only stretch the extent of the realm but endow a unique spatial character.

Japanese Tea House, located at the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem Wikipedia image by Author Gryffindor

PLACEMENT of a form or conceptual entity onto the site needs alignment and accommodation of the boundaries or edges. The irregularities of the site edges are possibly historical effects that require functional and visual adjustments. The site boundaries or the edges are formed of many neighbouring properties. For contextual positioning, one may confirm the scale, size, shape, and style, or go against it, but it must confirm to the larger discipline of the urban setting. As soon as placement of the conceptual form on to the site emerges, the macro climatic appropriateness becomes relevant. For urban locations the wind directions, dust turbulence, a solar ingress etc., are substantially altered by local conditions. For interior design the glare from glazing of neighbouring buildings, visibility of shop fronts against solar reflections, varying light-shadow on openings and open spaces must be checked. A site offers certain Access modalities. These modes define quality of experience to the built-form or an interior form. The modalities are defined by depth, elevation and angle of access. All these can be changed to gain new insights to the site. Sites have had downward, upward, straight, skewed, direct or long-winded entries. The shortening or extension of time and distance is used to add or reduce the introductory interlude to the site.

Aerial view of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Lincoln Memorial is in the foreground.

ORIENTATION relates to directional functions of the environment and selective sensorial perception of the designed entity. Orientation works as linear connection to a real or metaphysical thing. Strong presence of an object at a distance creates a point to which things are directed, such as trees, mountains, valleys, chimneys, lighthouses, towers, pylons, forts, etc. Such strong elements in smaller or interior spaces are created to ‘hold inescapable attention’ such as searchlight, throbbing or pulsar lights, signages, brilliant colours, high pitch sounds etc. The environment effects such as solar radiation and breeze are highly directed, which in turn make illumination and climatic comfort a location specific matter. Buildings are not only opened or closed but the form is transgressed inward or outward to manage the gains or losses of it. Projections, galleries, cutouts, chowks, are such transgressions that stretch or shrink the building. Orientation also relates to cardinal points N. S. E. and W. with the solar inclination, magnetic forces and spiritual beliefs. Indian traditional building design canons prescribe rules for placing architectural elements and functions in various corners. Orientation helps to connect the sensorial faculties to stimulative aspects of form. We orient or directionally connect ourselves to sources sounds, visual stimulation, tastes and odours. Spatial arrangements use such linear connections of orientation for creating relationships through proportions, scaling, series, hierarchy etc. Patterns, textures and grains are strongly directional and so used for creating oriented layouts. Other means of the directionality are angles, contours and slopes. Stairs, escalators, elevators, corridors, long passages, boulevards, avenues, walkways, parapets, are all linear elements that establish oriented links.

South of Paternoster Square in London, England wikipedia image by Author gren

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