How to develop an architectural program?


I understand that the purpose of an architectural program design is 1) to define a problem and 2) to optimize the building's size/organizational layout that solves the problem addressed in part 1, however, I'm having trouble distinguishing the difference between the programming and conceptual design phase. It's clear to me that the site analysis and zoning obviously come first, but I do not understand how the architectural programming phase differs from the conceptual design phase. Are they to be completed in unison? 

Oct 19, 19 3:52 pm

Also, I thought I should add that this is referring to an undergraduate studio project, so there is no client involved. However, we have been given a layout of each space and the square footage required.

Oct 19, 19 3:57 pm
Jacq Arch

“Problem Seeking”

Oct 19, 19 4:04 pm

Thank you for the book reference.


  Programming is the process of defining what the space needs are: what use(s) the space needs to accommodate, approximately how big each program space needs to be (based on how many people are expected to use it, and what activities are to take place in it), and basic requirements for what needs to be close or adjacent to what else.   

In a real-world project the architect doesn't always participate in programming - and when the architect is involved it's usually additional services - i.e. not one of the standard phases.  Programming is often mostly completed by the client before they approach an architect, but an architect can participate in programming.  For the most part programming isn't drawings - though whether something like a bubble diagram to determine adjacencies is considered programming or schematic design is fairly arbitrary, and is the transition point between phases.  In your studio project some of the programming has been handed to you already (the basic layout and the square footage requirements).  There may or may not be additional programming that you need to do - for instance you may need to make some choices about which program spaces logically should be adjacent to which others, and how circulation will work within the building(s).

Schematic design is the phase in which basic plan and sectional diagrams begin,  as explorations of how to meet the program spatially.  

Site analysis and zoning can start before programming is complete, but need to continue through programming and SD, to help to define the design parameters and confirm that the design iterations can work with the site constraints.

Oct 19, 19 9:10 pm

Thank you!

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: