Space Planning – For the Everyday Joe

If there is one thing about design that is the hardest to teach, it has to be space planning. Understanding how people are going to move through a space without ever actually seeing them do so is a challenge every designer faces, and what distinguishes a good designer from an exceptional one.

Over the years I have been in school, my professors have tackled this issue by beginning us all on small spaces and working our way up to the 40,000 sq. foot project I am so lucky to call my capstone. The idea is to learn how to get your head around a space and begin to walk through it, feeling the gaps between chairs and hallway lengths with your mind.

Now, at first glance that may sound a bit strange but trust me, it makes sense once you start applying it to a space that you have never been in. Take, for example, the medical office building I am currently designing. It is roughly 12,000 square feet and requires at least 16 different kinds of spaces. I am a senior and this seemed daunting to me at first too. But you just have to start somewhere, anywhere really.

This is where I like to start, bubbles!


This helps you gain a rough idea of how the space will be laid out in full, a list of spaces near by to keep you on track but really its just a ton of scribbles. When you look at this, you may not see a bustling, high efficiency medical office building but I do and this is the first step to making it a reality.

As you move on, the bubbles will turn into squares and the squares into walls and so on and so forth until you have something like this.

Steelcase floorplan


This is still in the works but it looks much more like a building, yes? The process is slow but once you know what it is you want, you’ll have to work even harder to keep up with your brain! Just remember to start. Start with one big bubble and slowly divide it till you have your spaces or with many rough bubbles like I did for this project. Either way, just start somewhere!

Happy planning!

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