A classic treatise on the art and science of site planning gets a major update and revision in a new edition. In principle, site planning has followed the same essential contours for decades, if not longer. New thought and techniques developed in the latter half of the twentieth century sustainability, suitability analysis), however, have come to fruition, and the techniques developed in that era are being combined with new technology and media. Sources of information have also evolved rapidly in recent decades, and the coalescence of various sustainability movements (Smart Growth, LEED, etc.) have necessitated an overhaul to LaGro’s guide to Site Analysis: Informing Context-Sensitive and Sustainable Site Planning and Design (2013; Wiley; 384 pp.; $85) in this third edition.
While the basic idea of predesign assessment and programming followed by conceptual design and design development remain intact, the newer Internet-based technologies and detailed emphasis on sustainability meant that a revision to the text was nigh unavoidable. For example, aerial photos which once may have required a trip to the local courthouse and a copy fee are now readily available online, including free aerials from sources such as Google, and the new text reﬂects that.
People who are new to the design process are often surprised at the amount of work that has to happen before the actual design begins. But the delayed gratiﬁcation generally means a greater satisfaction, since an in-depth predesign phase sets up the practitioner and his or her clients for a better ﬁt for the site design, and lesser chance of unforeseen and/or undesirable effects of the design intervention. Site Analysis starts out with an overall introduction to professional site design as well as the primary scenarios that prompt such activity – a client either has a site and wants to develop it or she has a need and is searching for a suitable site. Afterwards, the portion that makes up the bulk of the book, the author goes through the steps involved in assessing a given site, from physical and environmental factors to cultural and historic elements. Throughout, LaGro maintains that any given site needs to be considered within its context, and that careful analysis leads to better performance and fewer problems. The last section of the book goes a step further, taking the reader into the conceptual design and design development phases.
The main complaint the reader might have is that LaGro does not go into enough detail in much of the text. For example, there’s a section covering shade analysis that goes over some of the basics but falls short of providing instructions on how they can be generated. The truth of the matter is, though, that LaGro touches on so many topics here that going in-depth into every single topic – entire volumes have been written on what he covers regarding GIS. As such, it’s a useful overview meant primarily for landscape architects and city planners – landscape architects will glean some insight into zoning codes, and planners will gain knowledge regarding the actual design process. Whether you’re a student who is new to the site planning process, or a professional looking for a refresher course on some of the basics, Site Analysis will serve as a solid and up-to-date overview of the topic.