Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 28, 2016

Schematic design

This napkin sketch by architect Ed Garbee shows the importance of schematic design, or how rooms respond to and interact with the whole of a project.

What is schematic design, and how do architects use it during the process of developing a new home? After the owner has decided upon the list of rooms and functions within a home, the designer will begin the schematic design phase by sketching, with the goal of giving some organization to the overall context. These drawings are usually simple, rough in character, and fluid in nature. The object is to define how the rooms respond to and interact with the whole of the project, which includes the site as well as the interior spaces.

In this sketch, I’m using heavy lines to indicate the separation between public and private space within the floor plan. The exterior wall at the front of the house and a central wall between the sleeping area and the living space are the keys to organization in this floor plan.

Let’s discuss the exterior of the house first. Facing the road and public approach, the exterior wall provides a barrier to interior views except for the main entrance. This serves to guide the visitor to the main entrance as well as reduce access to activities within. At the rear of the house, where family activities happen, the exterior walls become transparent, as indicated with a light line. This serves to connect the occupants to the views and activities in the back yard, expanding the interior activities to the outdoors.

Extending the public/private concept to the interior, we divide the plan with a wall that provides only one point of access to the private sleeping areas from the more public living room. This creates a separation between the quiet spaces and the noisy public activities that occur where people are entertaining, eating, or playing games. As a designer, I would give this wall a heavy appearance to demonstrate its purpose as a barrier. Interior walls on the public side of this barrier are minimal to encourage interaction while the layout for the private area reflects a more personal space within each bedroom. These walls would be constructed of lighter weight materials since they act more as screens.

The most important part of the schematic design exercise is to identify the activities and where they will occur. Organization performed with consideration to the function of a space will guide the owner and designer to a natural layout of the home, where activities don’t interfere with each other. Once this phase is complete, it’s time to move on to creating the character of the home by thinking about materials, site orientation, and trim details.

Ed Garbee can be found at Garbee Architecture, located at 633 Chestnut Street, Suite 600. Contact him at (423) 364-2830 or ed@garbeearchitecture.com.