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Bubble Diagrams in Architecture & Interior Design

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  • 0:03 Definition of a Bubble Diagram
  • 1:00 Program and Spaces
  • 1:40 Function and Spatial…
  • 2:48 Examples of Spatial…
  • 4:19 Graphical Language
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ela Poursani

Ela has taught college Architecture, Interior Design, and Culinary Design and has a doctorate degree in architecture.

This lesson will help you understand what bubble diagram means in architecture and interior design. Why, when, and how bubble diagrams are used are explained, and you can test your understanding with brief quiz at the end.

Definition of a Bubble Diagram

Bubble diagrams are like wedding seating charts; you make a list categorizing all the invitees and sort the list into a table placement diagram. You select where and with whom they should sit according to the kinds of relationships they have. In architecture and interior design, you use bubble diagrams for arrangement and placement, too, with a focus on a list and relationships, like in wedding planning.

By definition, the bubble diagram is a freehand diagrammatic drawing made by architects and interior designers to be used for space planning and organization at the preliminary phase of the design process. The bubble diagram is important because later phases of the design process are based on them.

Basically, a bubble diagram conveys information. This information tells you the spaces of the building, their functions, relationships, and the circulation patterns. Let's go over these factors together.

Program & Spaces

In architecture and interior design, you begin with the program. The program is a list that itemizes the spaces that must take place in the building. The program serves as an outline of the requirements of your building and describes spaces with assigned square footage and description of function, use, or activities.

The main purpose of a bubble diagram is to help you to translate the program into a strategy or form. Bubble diagrams simplify this step by graphically depicting the program and allowing for quick expressions, multiple layouts, and revisions. Like the seating chart does with the wedding guest list, a bubble diagram illustrates the program.

Function & Spatial Relationships

Bubble diagrams depict the program in the form of circles and ovals shown in a floor plan format. Each circle, or bubble, represents the space needed to carry out a function, such as dining, sleeping, and studying. Those circles get you involved in functional aspects of design, such as privacy, circulation, noise, daylight.

Bubble diagrams express not only the spaces within the building but also the relationships between spaces. They indicate what functions/spaces (circles) should be near each other in order for your building to offer functionality.

Let's go back to the wedding reception venue for an example. Where would you place the kitchen in the building? You would probably want to place it next to the dining hall because food preparation and eating are compatible functions; your bubble diagram would illustrate this functional relationship with adjoining or intersecting circles for kitchen and dining hall.

How about the restrooms at the reception venue? Where could the restrooms be placed in relation to the lobby and dining hall? A good plan would put the restrooms adjacent to the lobby and in immediate proximity to the dining hall.

Examples of Spatial Relationships

Here, we have expressed the relationships of your spaces with two related terms: adjacency and proximity. Adjacency defines the common needs, working spatial relationships, and their relative importance, such as near or close to. In bubble diagrams, adjacency is expressed graphically and written with keywords, such as primary, mandatory, secondary, desirable, or undesirable.

Adjacency identifies the proximity requirements, too. Proximity is the closeness of one space to another. A bubble diagram allows you to arrange proximity relationships between spaces and communicate it with keywords, such as immediate proximity and convenient proximity.

When you work on relationships of spaces, you also get involved in the flow of movement from one space to another. Circulation is concerned with spaces that relate directly or indirectly to each other along with the entry and exit points and patterns of movement. Circulation (corridors, stairs, aisles, etc.) is another must in the development of the bubble diagram. It should include indications about the desired circulation and connections between the various spaces expressed as must have, should have, or nice to have.

At the wedding venue, for instance, the dining hall and kitchen have a direct relationship for food service. In the bubble diagram, you can indicate this circulation with an arrow. Or, you can express the movement to and from the dining hall with lines connecting the circles of dining hall, kitchen, and restrooms.

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