The Role of Site Analysis

Site analysis sounds self explanatory, but how does this inform a design and what should be analysed?

One of the most important lessons for architecture students is to study the site. ‘What about the context?’, is a consistent comment imparted by architecture tutors to their students, but what does this mean?


Context may apply to many aspects of a site with equally numerous methods of study. Below are just a few examples:

    • Maps. What is the pattern of development in relation to the geology of the area? How dense is this development? Are there any important historical features on the site?
    • Orientation. What does the sunrise and sunset, which are the best views, do they correspond with the best sunlight?
    • Is there any important planting on the site, or large trees in proximity to the site?
    • How is a site accessed, by vehicle, on foot or by cycle? What are the qualities of sequences of approach spaces?
    • Which areas of the site are in the public realm and which are more secluded and private?
    • Which is the public elevation of the site?
    • Is there an established pattern of scale?
    • Is there a local vernacular in the area or any materials that are distinctive?
    • What are the building types in proximity to the site and how are they used?
  • Even if at first view a building seems to contrast with its site, all good designs are strongly rooted to their context, be this physical, cultural or topographical. The site analysis process is fundamental to a project and should not be rushed.