Interpretation of the site

Is the Design Thesis basically about interpreting the Site?

The answer is Yes.

Inevitably, if we are to design a building or even landscape, we need to interpret the site. The site represents something that we wish to explore and our design tells the story of our exploration.

The Site embodies all the characteristics of human endeavour that shaped and formed a microcosm of the human world. A piece of Life, so to speak.

Design involves research and drawing out the processes of Life by using and exploring an architectural project (Vidler). Life is that project itself. And it deals with either a ‘milieu’, “genius loci,” “place,” ‘”space,” “environment,” “surroundings,” “context,” or “ecology.” (says Vidler) ( I took the liberty to state the definitions of these terms below).

Does the site draw out possibilities of what this human endeavour could be?

Surely, it does. For example:

Thinking about ecology is second nature when designing, dealing with what architecture and all its constituents and parts can do. Architecture has its own ecological make-up, to be thought out from the very beginning. So the site ecology could be the focus. Same as context, milieu, environment and so on (depending on the project).

Students come up with issues pertaining to the topic and together with the interpretation of the site, sketch ideas and concepts that would resolve the problem architecturally.

A great deal of introspection goes into understanding the topic, together with the identification and justification of the site to assist in fulfilling the topic and is thus one of the biggest exercise.

However at the end of the day we need to know the building type and function:
School, office, hospital, clinic, museum, gallery, factory, institutional building, research centre, etc

But interpreting the site along with the building’s function is fundamental.


“….we thought about how architects research and draw PROCESSES, how they DRAW LIFE, and how in relation to the LIFE of an architectural project the “site” could be interpreted as “milieu,” “genius loci,” “place,” ‘”space,” “environment,” “surroundings,” “context,” or “ecology.” Part of the semester was devoted to exploring when and how and in what way these notions emerged, in for example the “biosphere” in the 1920s, ecology in the 50s, and again in the 70s, etc., and how they were represented or “embodied” in architecture, to introduce a way of understanding “green” as more than a pop buzz word and ecologically thinking as obligatory… ( Vidler).”

mi·lieu n
the surroundings or environment that somebody lives in and is influenced by (formal)

ge·ni·us lo·ci n
1.    the atmosphere that characterizes a place
2.    the guardian spirit of a place

place n
1.    an area, position, or portion of space that somebody or something can be in
2.    a particular geographical locality such as a town, country, or region
3.    a relatively open area in a town, for example, a public square or a short street
4.    the house or other type of accommodation where somebody lives
5.    a building or area where something in particular happens or is located
6.    a particular point in something, for example, a book, film, or story
7.    the position or location where somebody or something belongs

e·col·o·gy n
1.    the study of the relationships and interactions between living organisms and their natural or developed environment
2.    the relationships between individual organisms and between organisms and their environment
3.    See human ecology  (below)
hu·man e·col·o·gy n
a branch of sociology that studies the relationships between human beings and their natural and social environments

space n
1.    the region that lies beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, and all that it contains
2.    the region, usually of negligible density, between all celestial bodies in the universe
3.    the unbounded three-dimensional expanse in which all matter exists
4.    a period or interval of time
5.    an area set apart or available for use
6.    a blank area between characters, words, or lines of type, or an interval the width of a single character
7.    an interval between the lines of the musical staff
8.    broadcast time or an area in a publication available for specific use, for example, by advertisers
9.    a collection of points that have geometric properties in that they obey set rules (axioms), for example, a Euclidian space that is governed by Euclidian geometry.
10.    a piece of type used to create a blank interval in printing
11.    the freedom or opportunity to assert a personal identity or fulfill personal needs (informal)
12.    an interval during the transmission of a telegraphic message when the key is not in contact

1.    vt to set things some distance apart or arrange them with gaps between
2.    vti to be or become distracted, forgetful, or inattentive (slang)

en·vi·ron·ment n
1.    the natural world, within which people, animals, and plants live.
2.    all the external factors influencing the life of organisms, such as light or food supply
3.    the conditions that surround people and affect the way they live

sur·round·ings npl
the immediate environment of somebody or something, including events, circumstances, scenery, conditions, people, and objects

con·text n
1.    the words, phrases, or passages that come before and after a particular word or passage in a speech or piece of writing and help to explain its full meaning
2.    the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place

extra definition: (for my students doing church and mosque…)
sanc·tum n
1.    a sacred place inside a church, temple, or mosque
2.    a quiet private place where somebody is free from interference or interruption

sanc·tu·ar·y n
1.    a safe place, especially for people being persecuted
2.    a place or area of land where wildlife is protected from predators and from being destroyed or hunted by human beings
3.    a holy place such as a church, mosque, or temple
4.    the most sacred part of a consecrated building, for example, the area around the altar in a Christian church
5.    in medieval times, a holy place, usually a church, that provided immunity from the law
6.    the holy of holies in the Israelite temple at Jerusalem

all from:

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

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