Thoughts on Building a New House, Part Three: Site

What does it mean to “site” a building?  Aren’t the “Builder” houses on the west side of town “sited?”  Or the office buildings and strip centers along the street that lead to the west side of town?  What does it mean to have a “dialogue” with the physical environment?  That sounds very noble but it also sounds like academic “architectural-speak.”  Genuine dialogue is hard enough between people.

Yet, during this project, it became more clear that it is crucial to “listen to a site” and the only way to have a successful building.  And when I say site, my hunch is that Site is larger than merely the physical environment of land features and solar orientation.  It includes more abstract things such as Client, Budget, Program, and the Cultural/Social/Geographical meaning of a place.  Really, it is the thing that will help to create a PLACE—and places are where people want to be, isn't it?

Our site had the creek running thru, it had a small thicket along the creek, it was in the flood plain.  The best view faced East, toward the creek, a good thing for this site because the West sun in West Texas can make you cry.  For our small city, there is a fairly busy street along the south boundary.  It seems the stars had aligned for placing the house facing the creek, towards the best view, and out of harm’s way (the sun!).  The view was everything.  If the house didn’t pay more attention to the view than itself, I believe it would be a failure.  The entry and garage would be on the south where we would keep things simple with few windows to avoid a connection to the traffic of the street, as well as providing a buffer to the sun.  The south side could help to shield the rest of the site and house from noise and unwanted onlookers.

 -Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 3:10PM

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