Site plans are one of the most interesting of the sets of architectural drawings, it’s main challenge is to show if the building you designed works in relation to it’s context.

Image courtesy of Sanaa / Grace Farms Site plan

A common mistake is to take our 3d modeling program, zoom out and create a plan from there. But what we lack in is in asking ourselves the question: what is the main role of a site plan and why should I create one?

If your project is a small house in the woods or if is a multi housing unit in the urban center of of your city a site plan is still just as important.

The main role of a site plan is to show the relation of the architectural project to it’s site or to it’s context. How does the project relate to the natural areas that are in the site? How does the project relate to existing or future buildings? How does the project adapt to the existing terrain? How does your project open up to the views (or closes up to the harsh winds)?

All of these questions and more are essential for creating a site plan. But let’s see four specific elements your site plan MUST HAVE in order for it to be a real site plan.

  1. Graphic Scale

A graphic scale designates the scale of the site plan and a north arrow indicates the orientation of the plan. It may seem obvious, but non-architects can get lost very easily in one of our drawings, and this can be even worse if we don’t indicate the scale of our drawings. At least in floor plans we can visually scale things by looking at a door or a window, but in site plans it is a bit harder.

2. Contour Lines/ Topography Lines

Contour lines are your best friend. Not only will it indicate the natural terrain of the site, but it will also improve the quality of your site plan aesthetic if you do it right. Some times, contour lines can help us in the design process by indicating where the main architectural barriers or views are so we can orient our project that way!

3. Natural Site Features

Start enhancing each natural site feature of your project. Even the most minimum and mundane thing is probably worth emphasizing on. Does your project have a forest near? a lake? a hill or an abandoned park? Investigate! That way you will be able to notice new things that maybe your client or peers haven’t noticed yet.

4. Legal constraints

Although we like to imagine our projects are part of no mans land, and we start placing bridges, trees, and happy people in our renderings, it’s not always that way. In real life, our project has limits, constraints, legal issues it can be involved in if not drawn correctly. So your job is to show your client and peers where the project area ends and where it begins.

It’s also important to show existing site elements, like old buildings or existing entrances, etc.

Overall, a site plan should communicate effectively the relation of the project to it’s context. From only looking at a site plan, one can understand if your project communicated and solved correctly all of it’s requirements in relation to it’s surroundings.

Would you be interested in learning how to create a site plan in a step by step process that can improve your presentations? We currently have a premium course for creating and understanding the role of site plans! If you are interested click the image below to learn more.

If you want to learn more, check out this video we did a while ago!

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