Anderson Knight Architects


How to Architect Step Two: Schematic Design


In an effort to educate everyone on the process of architecture, we have created a video series teaching what exactly it is architects do throughout the design and construction process.

Join us in our second episode of: How To Architect!

As discussed in the video above, schematic design is all about using our artistic abilities to bring about the design of the building that we programmed in step one. Usually this involves a lot of sketching, diagrammatic layouts, adjacency matrices, as well as space planning representations and iterative computer models. This step is where we go through layers and layers of trace paper and dozens of computer models, trying to find the perfect balance between the information and requirements from step one and the construction requirements at the end of the project.

Designing a feasible building from scratch can be a difficult endeavor. You have to take into consideration not just the programmatic elements, client desires, and spatial sizes/adjacencies, but also the building code requirements, jurisdictional regulations, fire protection systems, structural and MEP systems and requirements, site layout regulations, utility of construction methodologies, as well as overall cost estimation and construction complexity. Oh, and the building has to look good too. That’s a lot of drivers, and most of the time they are driving the project in different directions all at the same time.

How do we think cohesively about every aspect of the design from every one of the requirements and demands?

We find that this step is the most mis-understood from the viewpoint of non-architects. How can we come up with artistic solutions to all of these different problems? How do we think cohesively about every aspect of the design through every one of the requirements and demands? We admit it’s not easy, but when you’ve spent years solving these same problems albeit in different ways, it can become almost second nature.

It’s like sitting down to solve a 1,000 piece puzzle. The first time you do it, it can be complicated and overwhelming. You’re unfamiliar with the how the pieces lay out, and what the overall image will be once completed. However, if you did that puzzle 10 or even 100 times, you would start to notice nuances. You would recognize specific pieces and know exactly where they go and what are adjacent to them. Your familiarity with the pieces of the puzzle would help you complete the puzzle faster and faster each time while the puzzle seemingly gets easier and easier.

Similarly, the expertise we’ve gained through years of design, allows us to look at our design problems through specific lenses that are honed to quickly know what does and does not work, while still maintaining the client’s desires for the design and overall integrity of the building. Honestly, it’s the main thing that makes good architects “good” and vice versa.

The schematic design process should be more like a conversation between the architect and the client and less like a lecture or a diatribe

At AKA, our design process is based solely on the feedback and review of our ideas and providing the opportunity to change and morph those ideas based on your input. We put you in control of your own building design, while providing all the artistic and technical knowledge to make sure your dream building can be built feasibly and efficiently.

The ultimate outcome of schematic design is the illustration drawings of the basic concepts of the building. This can include site plan layouts, floor plans, elevations, and computer renderings. These design documents convey the basic scale and form of the building while hinting at materiality and finishes (Although these are further developed and selected primarily during the next phase).

And that’s it for schematic design! If you missed our last Episode, click HERE to check it out.

Join us in our next episode to discuss Design Development.