When students begin studying Architecture at a University, the first thing that they are supposed to become excellent at, is doing a documentation or a case study. It could be a case study of a small village, town, a villa, a bus-stop, or a high-rise commercial or residential building. A case study is an in-depth investigation of a single individual, group, incident, or community. Other ways include experiments, surveys, or analysis of archival information
What is the purpose of conducting a Case Study?
As the term Case Study suggests, it is the study of a particular case that is similar to your topic of design project. Doing a case study will help you understand the various aspects that you have to consider while designing.
Literature Case study
Before you start with your live case studies, first of all do a complete literature case study. Literature case study consists of reading everything you can find on the subject. You can refer books in a library, use Google to look up research papers, check out Standard Code books and statutory laws or from technical journals.
A literature case study would give you a vague idea about your topic. There will be various questions arising in your mind after you are done with your literature case study. To find the answers to those questions, you will have to go for minimum two live case studies….
Always possibly go for more than two different case studies, because a comparative case study of two or more different cases is very important and helpful.
- While you are doing your first case study, say a Villa, go for a smaller Villa first so that you can figure out the basic minimum requirements.
- In your second case study, go for an extremely lavish Villa so that you are aware of the maximum requirements you could give.
(Being able to provide maximum or minimum requirements in your design is very important)
If there are some requirements that you haven’t come across while doing your case studies but you went through it while you were doing a literature case study, then try implementing those requirements in your design.
Eleven most important things to analyze in any Case Study
- Environment and micro-climate
Analyzing the surrounding environment and the micro-climate of that place will help understand the reason of the orientation of the structure, the kind of roof chosen and the materials used in its construction.
- User behavior and requirementsStudying the functioning of a particular place, say a Hospital, is very important; without which you will not be able to figure out the requirements and the area that should be allotted for each of the requirements.Talking to people working at that place (Hospital), will help you figure out if the requirements that are provided are adequate and he area that is allotted is sufficient for its efficient working.
- Utility and space enhancement
Study of Utilitarian facilities of a particular case is also important. Various measures taken to enhance a particular space should be analyzed.
- Form and Function
Analyzing the reason behind the form of that particular building…and how it merges with the surrounding environment. Form and Function go hand in hand. The form of the building should be able to convey the function of the building. A lot of Architects say “Form follows Function”.As an example, an institutional building should not end up looking like a museum or a disco.Some other Architects might disagree with that philosophy. They’d say that the function of a structure keeps changing but changing the form of the building everytime its function changes is not possible. They say, Adopt a “Universal Design Scheme”.
- Horizontal and vertical circulation
Horizontal circulation consists of elements such as the corridors and lobbies. Vertical circulation includes elevators, staircases, ramps etc. The efficiency of the placement of these services should be analyzed.
- Site Planning and Landscape detailing
Refer to the Article on the blog “A Guide to Site Planning“, which deals with different aspects considered in site planning in greater detail.
- Structural details such as Column and Beam Design, Steel and Composite structures
Understanding and analyzing the structural details is also important. For example, large span structures such as Auditoriums use trusses or heavy I-section steel beams and sometimes shell-roofing that involve construction of Ring beams whereas in small span structures, RCC construction is used.
- Building Services such as Fire Alarm system, HVAC, Water supply systems
The working of Fire Alarm system, HVAC and Water supply systems should be examined and their space requirements are to be analyzed.
- Design detailing considering the Barrier-free environment
Implementation of the Barrier-free architecture for comfortable access to disabled people. Most public buildings have mandatory accessibility systems for the disabled. Check out Guidelines to the Disability Standards for Access to Premises 200X. (Australian law)
- Socio-economic profile of user group
It might also be important to find out the socio-economic profile of the people using the services so as to determine their requirements and available resources.
- Parking details and standards
Measure the allotted parking area on site, say for ten cars, then calculate the average area for each car and compare it with the areas specified in TSS (Time Savers Standards).
Conducting a case study is hard work. Sometimes, it is so small, it could be done in days, but on other occasions, it takes weeks to document and compile all the data. It involves going on-site, meeting and taking to people, lots of traveling, plenty of photography, and some fun. It is the most important of assignments you might get as an architectural students.
This is where you learn from reality, actual stuff, as opposed to only theoretical knowledge. Looking at places first hand and documenting information would give you many insights and ideas and let you peek into the minds of professional architects and designers who have used years of experience and improvisation to design and create incredible structures.