Preliminary Design / the end of round one

FSB Illustration: Preliminary Design Elevations

The architectural character and palette of materials were outlined in the previous post on the “trail to creativity.” The materials must now be orchestrated into an expression of form that creates visual and physical texture. The designer is challenged with how those elements integrate with each other and flow from one the next to create architectural interest and character. It is all too easy to only think of the site and floor plan as flat planes. While the site and floor plans are represented as 2 dimensional illustrations, the challenge is to be thinking of the site and building as a 3 dimensional elements concurrent with working out the site grades, views, circulation, building access, building space needs, groupings, adjacencies and flow.

The integration of the architecture and engineering systems cannot be an afterthought to design; something left to chance. The results of this approach can be disastrous. So as the site and plans evolve, the designer must be thinking of how engineering systems are woven into the architectural solution. At times the engineering systems themselves become exposed expressions of the architecture.

Piping, air distribution ducts, electrical conduits and data cable must traverse the building both horizontally and vertically. They must get to their terminal destinations in harmony with the architecture. Equipment must be housed in spaces dedicated to mechanical, electrical and communications. This results in a variety of spaces and chases being allocated in the plan. Architects want these spaces to be minimal while the engineers look for generous space that allows access to all sides and surfaces of equipment. In the end it is a compromise that allows equipment to be accessed and maintained while using square footage efficiently. This is sometimes easier said than done.

The desired architectural expression has led to the structure becoming the most expressed engineering system. The balance of the engineering systems, plumbing, fire protection, power and data are carefully integrated into cavities and chases. The only expressions of these systems are the terminal elements like air diffusers, sprinkler heads and light fixtures. But even these elements need to be orchestrated into the finish surfaces of ceilings, walls and floors.

FSB Illustration: Preliminary Design Exterior Views of Chickasaw Visitor Center

Schematic design also referred to as preliminary design is the phase of the project that immediately follows the programming, problem definition effort. The objective is to develop viable architectural and engineering concepts that represent the goals and objectives of the project.

The preliminary design is not intended to be the final solution but rather a positive step in the right direction towards a solution that you can feel good about showing to the client, a solution that will excite the client, the various stakeholders and of course the design team. The illustrations shown in this post represent several attempts and rounds of testing alternative ideas before arriving at what we believed was an acceptable solution. The pile of waded trace paper left on the floor is a testament to the fact that this is a challenging process for even the senior designer.

Just as the designer must think about the integration of architectural and engineering from the first notion of design, the designer must also be thinking of how spaces and materials transition from the exterior to the interior and then back to the exterior again. You cannot rely on software programs to do all this 3 D visualizing. The designer must develop skills that enable one to visualize these materials and spaces in their own mind with the software being a tool to enhance the creative discovery process.

Only after weeks of development do we believe that we are at the point to document the preliminary design and confidently present it to the client. Our deliverable takes the form of a booklet filled with summaries, narratives and illustrations. Click here to view Table of Contents.

SB Illustration: Preliminary Design Interior Views of Chickasaw Visitor Center

The next phase is Final Design known within the design industry as Design Development. This effort entails refining and finalizing the design and incorporating preliminary design comments received from the client. It’s the time to get everything worked out at a greater level of detail before moving on to construction documents. The client’s comments do not affect the design significantly, but we discover that there are details, some influenced by LEED requirements, that need to be worked out further.


Filed under Design, Interior, LEED ®, Materials

2 responses to “Preliminary Design / the end of round one

  1. Mack Caldwell

    Hope you will use the “Mondrian” pattern of the mullions used in the Cultural Center. The material connections back to the CC look convincing in the renderings. Are you using similar glu-lams?

    • Mack, The “Mondrain” pattern of mullions is being used in the smaller glazed openings of the Visitor Center. However, in the high ceiling Gallery space, the intention is for the large volume to be transparent and provide panoramic views. In this area, the mullion pattern is simplified and less articulated so as not to detract from the transparency of the space. There are a number materials at the Cultural Center that also are being used at the Visitor Center, however, in regards to the glu-lams the story is shared in the post “And The Beat Goes On.”

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