Programing entails discovering the client’s needs and goals and getting them down on paper. For example, a client may need a new home designed to accommodate their growing family or have a Kitchen remodeled or expanded to accommodate modern appliances and concepts related to more open home design.
The architect together with the client discus the client needs and document them in terms of number of rooms and size of rooms from a quantitative perspective.
More qualitative requirements are discussed as well to understand how the client envisions these rooms. The qualitative discussion might center on issues of natural light, views to the outdoors, noise concerns, or proximity to other rooms in the house.
The balance of quantitative and qualitative components allows the architect to understand the client’s needs in terms of hard numbers (square feet) and emotional expectations for how the space will feel and function.
Some desires or needs may be in direct conflict with the client’s budget or other goals. Talking about the types of materials to be used in the design, the size of the project, and the way the current home meets or fails to meet needs will give insight as to how the project will come together.
On the surface it seems easy to come up with a list of rooms and general sizes required for each. However, effective programming will also seek the reasons behind each requirement so that if two requirements are in conflict with one another, the architect can make the best decision to achieve the intended outcome. There is often a need to ‘translate’ perceived needs into actual needs.
As an example, a client requesting a new house may say they need a walk-in pantry. They may also say that they need a 20′x20′ bedroom. During the programming process, it is important to ask ‘why?’ for each need or goal. While the client may request a walk-in pantry, what they actually need is a pantry that is easily accessible. An easily accessible pantry does not always translate into a separate room with a door. In fact, a designer who understands the clients true needs will be able to come up with a better design than if they are limited by perceived needs that are narrowly defined. Likewise, a 20′x20′ bedroom may be a ‘need’ simply because the client wants to accommodate a sizable collection of furniture in the room. Talking about how the furniture is used, when it is accessed and the preferences for where it is located can free the designer to reduce the size of the bedroom and accommodate the furniture in other places.
These freedoms will provide the designer with more opportunity to create a space that is not only beautiful, but will meet the true needs of the client. It is important to be honest about whether needs are true requirements or if they are preferences. The difference can determine whether a designer is allowed the freedom to create an effective and efficient design solution
A large part of programming investigates the proximity of spaces while considering whether their proximity will meet the goals laid out for each space.
For example, a client may request that their kitchen be close to the dining room and that both spaces have views to the outdoors. For the architect or designer, this means the spaces could be immediately adjacent and share a single, common view to the outside.
Alternatively, these same spaces could be visually separated from one another and each have their own view to the outdoors. As with any other goal or need laid out during programming, it is important to understand the ‘why’ behind each decision. Is it important the kitchen has windows so that herbs are easily accessed, or are the views mainly for the enjoyment of the chef? A single question such as this will help determine where the windows are placed. For proximity studies, it is important to recognize the difference between adjacency and absolute positioning. It is wise to approach the design in terms of adjacency, which stipulates relationship of spaces with terms such as “near”, or “close to”. Absolute positioning severely limits the design solutions with terms of “must be to the right” or “in the center”. While some elements can be designated in absolutes, it is rare to create a successful design with more than a few absolute requirements. Absolute space positioning can result in budget concerns, inefficient spaces and failure to meet multiple goals. This is why it is important to think critically and analytically about why spaces will be located next to one another.
Finally, effective programming will not only examine the current needs of the client, but will seek to anticipate and prepare for future needs. A talented professional will recognize areas that may pose a problem for the execution of goals and will recommend solutions to accommodate future needs. This facet of programming can often be difficult, as it is the most abstract and unknown.
Balancing unknowns with set budgets or property locations can be a true challenge. Often, a solution to future needs can be achieved through flexible spaces (spaces that serve more than a single purpose) and allowing room on the site for expansion.
Bubble Diagram- A tool that architects use for representing programs visually is a bubble diagram. A bubble diagram represents spaces with simple circles or squares that are sized relative to one another. Lines can connect the spaces to represent corridors or hallways, and the shapes can be grouped together quickly in multiple arrangements to see which layouts achieve the needs and goals of the client. In addition to bubble diagrams, lists of spaces with quantitative and qualitative notes will be provided as a basis for the design solution and as a metric for success.
Adapted from a blog post by Brinn Miracle