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.


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.

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.