The Landscape Guide

4.7 Planning a house

Contents list

Placing a house on a plot of land deserves more attention than it generally receives (Figure 4.5). The simplest and worst solution is to dump the building in the centre of the plot, as in A. Though it may give some feeling of aggrandizement to the designer, or owner, it kills the outdoor space. Another solution, which is almost standard in housing layout, is to place the building near the road on the edge of the plot, as in B. Except when the road is to the north of the plot, this policy is in conflict with Alexander's pattern 105, South-facing outdoors:

[FIG 4.5 ] Alternatives for placing a house, responding to A. the designer’s ego, B. a desire for shade C. a designer for sun D. a desire to protect an ecological or scenic resource.

Always place buildings to the north of the outdoor spaces that go with them, and keep the outdoor spaces to the south. Never leave a deep band of shade between the building and the sunny part of the outdoors. (Alexander, 1977)

Position C satisfies this pattern which, in cool climates, has great force. If a garden is to be used for outdoor living or for growing plants, sun is the vital necessity. Even if there is a magnificent prospect to the north, the desirability of a view is nothing compared with the need for sun and warmth. However, Alexander's Pattern 104, Site repair, could militate against Pattern 105, South facing outdoors. It may rest, as in D, on ecological and/or aesthetic considerations:

On no account place buildings in the places which are most beautiful. In fact, do the opposite. Consider the site and its buildings as a single living eco-system. Leave those areas that are the most precious, beautiful, comfortable, and healthy as they are, and build new structures in those parts of the site which are the least pleasant now. (Alexander, 1977)

The most appropriate social pattern for planning a house varies with the character of the occupants. Pattern 76, House for a small family, recommends:

Give the house three distinct parts: a realm for parents, a realm for the children, and a common area. Conceive these three realms as roughly similar in size, with the commons the largest. (Alexander, 1977)

A different social pattern, which hardly suits when land is subdivided into small plots for small houses, is the Place for Living and Working. In an agricultural context the Family Farm is one of the most enduring patterns in human history. Although the layout must be closely related to the natural patterns of the environment in which it is set, the starting point in the planning of a family farm has to be the farming pattern by means of which the family will earn its living. A modern parallel to the family farm is the home office, based on the convergence of video, telephone and computer technologies. This will create a new kind of "house', in which the operational pattern will differ from that in conventional houses.