Design, Education, Preliminary Design Stage Series

Episode 2: Case Studies and Literature Review

Case studies and literature review in architecture are extremely important before conducting any design. An architect is required to be a good observer and have the ability to examine and analyze buildings. These abilities are necessary when conducting case studies.

From the term “case study”, it simply means studying an existing case (i.e. building, area etc.) which is similar to your design project. Literature review simply means the review of existing literature on a particular topic through books, articles, building codes, etc. Conducting a case study and review of literature helps you in understanding what is required in the design project.

How to conduct a case study

The first step before visiting any building for a case study is conducting a literature review. It gives you the first idea of what to expect in any building. For example, before designing a house, a simple google search will provide you with basic information of what a house comprises of. You become familiar with the functions in a house, names of the spaces, what they are used for, and other information. However, reading alone does not give you full knowledge of the house, users, user-space relationship, cultural values, and the rest. For example, you are designing a house for a Hausa family, the information online will not give the way a Hausa family lives, how they interact with the space, or the form and function of the spaces.

Next, you conduct a live case study, which means visiting an existing building. You need at least two local case studies and an international case study (through online research). You will also require an introductory letter from your school before heading to the case study location. Before choosing the two buildings, you need to make sure that they have the following in common with your project:
• Occupants of the existing buildings and the intended users of your design are of the same background.
• Location of your case study and the proposed location for your design have similar features (e.g. climate).
• One case study should have the minimum basics while the other should have the maximum i.e. case studies can be from a lower-class family, middle-class family, and a high-class family home to have an overall view of what a house can have.

During the visit, there are some elements that need to be analyzed which are as follows:
• The environment and the micro-climate
• Behavior of the occupants/users
• User-space relationship
• The form and function of the building
• Circulation patterns
• Materials and construction methods
• Merits and demerits of the building

Proper documentation of the case studies during the visit and after is required. You will need pictures, sketches (if possible), questions for interviews with the users and the rest. After the case study visit has been completed, it is now time to present and document your findings for your presentation. Below are some of my case studies from my time in school:

Case studies for a transit hotel
Literature review for transit hotel
Case studies for a Flour Mill Industry
Literature on Flour Mill Industry
Literature on Flour Mill Industry

The documentation of your case studies are not limited to these examples. You can make several sheets on a single case study giving full details on it.

(NOTE: My designs were done before the establishing of Quif Studio. These current blog posts are written in line with research, my experience and through consultations. Any mistakes, omissions etc. that have been noticed in my designs, were made a few years ago. The sole purpose of sharing them is to give you an idea of what each and every step should look like.)

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next episode!