Great Site Design (Part 2)

How Strategic Community Designers Understand the Importance of a Site Visit in the Digital Age

Early in my career in was told that “the feet remember- the backside forgets”. Translation – if I simply sit in the car and look out the window, I will only remember a fraction of what is important about a site.

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Here’s Part 2 of my Top 10 list of why a site visit is critical, especially in the digital age.

  1. Share your Findings – Even though a Client’s time is precious, I find that most Clients are passionate about seeing the opportunities. When I can articulate priorities on site, it helps to establish a common language for the entire design process.
  2. Sunshine – Never underestimate the power of shade, especially in the Sunbelt States. After being on site for several hours, I gained a good reference of how people will use the outdoor community amenities. I also realized the need for protection from the elements, especially sunshine.
  3. Listen – What will people hear in the morning, daytime and evening? I’m a firm believer that a little water can go a long way in connecting people to the place. It’s was great to hear a trickle of stream water cascading over limestone ledges in the Hill Country.
  4. Visualize the Buyer’s Journey – A potential buyer will experience several first impressions on a site. Paper design provides a potential route, views and amenities to help “sell” the community. During my walk, I made slight adjustments in the plan that maximized impact of the design’s intent and buyer journey.
  5. Be Surprised – You never know what you will find, or what finds you. My recent visit surprised me with a variety of wildlife including lizards, deer and even a wild turkey! I was reminded that strategic preservation and enhancement of open space corridors allow a shared environment between animals and residents.

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My personal design philosophy strives to pull the best solution out of the site. This is reinforced by understanding the physical conditions of the site and then combining the opportunities with a market-driven strategy for the solution. This is always improved with a successful site visit.

While the digital age allows a better starting point for a good site plan, it should never substitute how well the feet remember the site.