Step 9 – Organization

Step 9 – Organization (PDF)
Step 9 – Organization (Page 1)
Step 9 – Organization (Page 2)
Step 9 – Organization (Page 3)

  • Li-Na

    Hello John,

    I hope you have a great trip!

    I thought this section was straightforward and clearly written. I really liked it! :-) It addresses a topic that not many people tend to think about until they’ve experienced living in a place with poor organization.

    You’ve mentioned Pitfall #1 (Hallway is too long) before on the site and I’ve always had questions about it: What are the things to keep in mind if you want to avoid creating a long hallway? Are there any tricks of the trade that help you keep hallways to a minimum?

    Also, if you added another use to the hallway (e.g. adding bookshelves along the length of it) would this reduce the negative aspect of a long hallway?

  • BradW


    Overall, a good section.

    Pitfall 5 looks a little contrived as the dining table could be located closer to the kitchen and away from the bathroom.

    Pitfall 7 on redundant spaces is weak. You have a study, a formal dining room, a family room and a kitchen with an island. I know you do not like a formal/separate dining room but this is not that bad for a house of this size. Not everyone wants to have the kitchen/dining/living in one large room (except maybe the builder) and not having this does not mean the house has poor orientation or flow. Another example might prove your point better than this one.

  • John Brown

    A good question about hallways. A long hallway is usually a good indicator that a house has been designed as a series of individual rooms and not as a whole. The hallway is like a string along which the “pearls” of individual rooms are strung. This can result in a house that is awkward to live in and has a lot of wasted space. Most architects try to minimize or even eliminate space that is dedicated solely to circulation preferring to incorporate the space for movement into the side of a principal room. This makes the main room feel bigger and the house feel more open. Care must be taken, however, so that this “incorporated” circulation does not interfere with the furniture layout or use of the principal room.

    A bookcase can sometimes help an existing hallway as long as it doesn’t reduce the width too much. Giving the hall a use (gallery, library, etc.) can be a nice idea if done in moderation.

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the comments on the two pitfalls. I agree with you about the need to find better examples.

  • Terri


    Overall I found these examples to be good. On my edited version I point out a couple of times where circulation could be emphasized (or in these cases, lack of circulation).

    Note, I’m also late to posting to yesterday’s comments.

    My son will also be in Barcelona on Thursday, on board the Grand Princess (work term). Maybe you could give a wave at the docks if you see him. ;)
    I hope you have a great trip!

  • John Brown

    Thanks as always for the precise comments. Your points about circulation are well taken.

    I pass by the Passenger Ship Docks on my way to/from the airport so I look out for the Grand Princess.

  • Elizabeth


    Hi John and Matthew, I thought this was a pretty good section. The examples are great!

    Again, I’m suggesting reorganizing the Intro page. I think that the definition, fast-house description and slow home pointers get mixed up, which dilutes your message. In general, I’d suggest:
    1. Start with an intro sentence or definition if required.
    2. Briefly describe the fast-house issues.
    3. Knock it out of the park with the slow home concepts!

    Here’s a rework of paragraph 1 (if I may be so bold!):
    Organization describes how various rooms come together to create a whole home. Most fast houses are poorly organized: a bunch of rooms haphazardly placed together, making the house inefficient, awkward, and often larger than they need to be. To maximize livability, private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms should be grouped together and the more public living areas should be consolidated into one or two larger open rooms. This kind of layout makes the overall house feel larger and more open. Adjacent rooms should also be compatible in order to avoid privacy concerns or disruptions from noise or vibration.

    I’d also suggest that your entire response to Li-Na about hallways is full of great stuff and I could easily see that as a “Box” providing details about a specific concept, as in other sections.

    Thanks again!

  • jim baer



    another trip overseas!!… this architect, teacher, video personality life is tough!

    this section is difficult. organization can be a complex, subtle thing to do and maybe even harder to explain. can it even be broken down into pieces? or is it more of a whole thing? i don’t know.

    i also pointed out that in some of our design studies or case studies we advocated some of what is now being pointed out as a problem. this wasn’t to be a pain… more because i saw the contradiction…and because it shows the subtlety and ultimately the difficulty when the same or similar thing is good in one instance and bad in another.

    travel safe. return soon and in one piece.

  • Grace

    John–If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest getting a taxi to Gaudi’s Crypta Colonia Güell, about 15 km outside Barcelona. The taxi will wait while you enter the crypt. A very different, naturalistic Gaudi is here. I found the stone work gorgeous–so like the bark of surrounding trees that it’s difficult to tell the difference.

  • Murray


    Like shape/size I am late to posting, but here goes anyway.

    This section is about poor layout and design in fast houses – I think that using these simple terms throughout will make the point much more clearly than using the term “organization”.

    I think your response to Li-Na about long hallways as an indicator of a series of rooms placed in a row rather than the house being conceived as a whole is a very good point and should be included within the introduction to this section.

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the suggestion about simplifying the wording in this section. I also agree that a concrete example, like the one about the hallway and rooms is good to include.

  • Matt


    After looking at the condos, one thing you might consider adding to the organization check list is sight lines and light sources/windows at the end of sight lines. You allude to it in the discussion about the open public areas. It is one of those things people respond to without realizing it.