Some Help to get You Started
The main idea of all building that makes beautiful things, is that at each moment, you are making—actually shaping with your own mind and hands—beautiful strong centers, and making positive space. Every part, and every whole, and every part of every part, is done like this; this is the secret of all good building.
Making a Diagnosis
Our most fundamental reaction to all city space, is our reaction to its positiveness, our assessment of whether it is living space or not.
Simply put, in those spaces which are living, we feel alive, and we want to protect them. In those spaces which are not living, we feel more deadened, and want to improve them, or correct them or modify them, to make them more living.
Before you start trying to build something, you must start by assessing what is there on the site, so you can improve on the life which is already there. That is what we mean by a diagnosis.
To make a diagnosis you must identify the following:
- Places that are really good, and should be left alone, and nurtured and kept and protected.
- Places that have potential to become good, they inspire something, but they are not really good right now.
- Places that are really bad and need fixing.
To this list we may also add a fourth category in your diagnosis. If you see elements either conspicuously present, or conspicuously absent, you should include them in your diagnosis. Thus:
- Essential centers that are missing, and need to be strengthened.
You should identify these four kinds of places on your site, both by marking them with color on the map of your site, and by writing down what you mean.
Taking a Rough Survey
This is to save a few hundred dollars, and to get an idea of the house volume, without too much delay.
Get hold of a rough map—it can be the parcel plot, or you can pace it off, and make sure you get the angles at the corners right.
By pacing put in major landmarks—big trees, other buildings, walls, …
Now go to the bottom of the site. Stand at the lowest point. If you keep your eyes looking dead level (as if at the distant horizon, only you will not be able to see it looking up-slope) the points you see will all be about five feet higher than where you are standing (because your eyes are about five feet from the ground, and if you are looking dead level, the place your eyes land on are all five feet higher than where you are standing).
Mark these spots in some way (sticks, stones, stakes, etc).
Then repeat the process, standing at those points, and again, finding the points which are five feet higher than they are.
Following this process you can make a rough map, with five-foot interval contours. If you want 2.5 feet , you can interpolate between them.
This is not good enough for exact work, and I wouldn't recommend building from it. But it will give you a surprisingly accurate picture, certainly good enough to let you build a rough model, and to follow the house volume sequence, so you can place and shape your house successfully.