What is Space Planning? - Basics & Architecture

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Does your kitchen have an open plan that overlooks your living room? Did this happen by accident? In this lesson, learn what space planning is and explore how it's used in architecture.

What is Space Planning?

Do you find it easy to go from room to room in your house? Does your bedroom have a large window that lets in plenty of sunlight, and does it connect directly to a bathroom? If so, these qualities probably didn't happen by chance. Instead, they were probably the result of space planning.

Space planning is an in-depth analysis of how physical space is used in structures. It considers the purpose of spaces and who will use them. Space planning is a process that takes several steps, and it's an important component for the work of interior designers and architects.

Space planning helps ensure efficient use of floor space without wasting it. If done right, it also accounts for all possible uses of a given space. When the process is completed, it can result in a comprehensive space plan. This is a drawing that identifies the needs and required elements of spaces, including windows, doors, and even furniture within them.

While we can't cover the whole space planning process in this lesson, let's explore some basics.

Space Planning in Architecture

Architects begin space planning by gathering information. They need to know several things before they can draft a space plan. Keep in mind that these steps need to be considered for all spaces in a building, including how those spaces connect.

Purpose and Use of Spaces

First, the purpose of structures and spaces needs to be defined. How will the space be used? A building might be commercial, industrial, or residential. Structures with different purposes have very different space needs, and their use will help determine how it is allocated. Some spaces might have more than one function, and they might need to be flexible. An elementary school gym is a good example of a flexible space that can transform into a cafeteria.

Some spaces serve multiple purposes, like a library storage and work space
library space

Then there's the consideration of who will use the space. Buildings and the spaces in them are for people, after all, so the architect needs to answer some questions: how will people spend their time in the building? Is it living space, offices, work space, or storage space? How many people does the space have to hold? The architect needs to consider things like work flow and circulation, or how people will move through the spaces while doing their jobs. Such questions include exploring how offices, open work spaces, and yes, even cubicles, will be configured.

Space planning includes consideration of how rooms will be connected to each other
room with doors

Conducting space planning helps architects solve puzzles while they design a structure. Often, clients have spaces with multiple needs. Prioritizing which need comes first might not be easy, but it might be crucial to how the space is designed. So the architect needs to be aware of all the elements to come up with the best solution. And it may involve a compromise.

Other Space Planning Considerations

During space planning, the architect must also consider elements like lighting and ventilation. Another important facet is accessibility, or making the space easy to use by differently abled people, like those who use wheelchairs or have other mobility challenges. If the space is meant for offices of staff and management, issues of privacy also need to be considered.

Once the purpose and use of spaces is better defined, other elements come into play. Does the space need access to the outside, perhaps by a door or large loading bay? How should the spaces be connected? Choices like hallways, for example, create a very different traffic flow than rooms that lead directly into other rooms.

Even residential spaces like kitchens can benefit from space planning

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