Design Process

Accomplishing the Unimaginable Takes a Process

When designing the world’s largest swimming pool, anticipating obstacles starts your day. When you plan urban core spaces to nurture a sense of community, your day ends by solving challenges you couldn’t have imagined facing. With our proven process as a foundation, you can accomplish the improbable and overcome the unimaginable. The result is bold and buzz-worthy, and sometimes even award winning.


It’s all brains and hands on deck for the “charrette,” a high-speed, intense and creative mind meld to concentrate on a specific design problem and create alternative solutions. Typically, it’s a three-day on-site workshop, culminating in a consensus that wows everyone involved. The wow factor is truly what separates us from other firms. Charettes are our forte as we identify and draw design alternatives quickly, often on the spot, right in front of your eyes.

The result: Our ability to think visually quickly advances the project with higher design quality and fewer changes down the road.


Fresh off the creative charrette, a more detailed conceptual master plan is produced – it is a plan that responds to both the physical characteristics of the site and the economic realities of the market.
The master plan will:

  • – Create buzz surrounding the project among potential investors
  • – Be used as an exhibit at regulatory hearings
  • – Be used as reference for additional design studies by other consultant groups

Components of a conceptual master plan package may include:

  • – Overall illustrative plan (in color)
  • – Site enlargement plans (in color)
  • – Conceptual site sections (if necessary)
  • – Perspective illustrations


Once the conceptual masterplan is approved, and all alternatives are thoroughly vetted, SKS Studio may move forward with Schematic Design. In Schematic Design, we dig into how to conquer existing site conditions, architecture, circulation, and access issues. Client-mandated operational program information, pertinent code restrictions, and budget realities are incorporated into the design.

Schematic design drawings are typically hand drawn on a CAD survey base and may include:

  • – Design narrative
  • – Color illustrative plan
  • – Plan enlargements showing conceptual and landscape materials
  • – Illustrative site sections
  • – Preliminary site grading concepts
  • – Additional sketches and drawings necessary to convey overall design intent
  • – Image boards indicating hardscape and landscape materials palette
  • – Project area takeoffs showing overall areas of hardscape and landscape treatments


Building upon the information in the schematic design phase, Design Development begins to move a project towards a more implementable stage of design. Coordination between various consultants further refine the character of the site, as well as the shape and location of all major design elements. Design Development documents act as a “first pass” at construction documents and are usually drawn at the same scale and format as construction

Design Development drawings are usually prepared in CAD and may also include hand drawn sketches. A typical Design Development drawing set includes:

  • – Hardscape plan which identifies basic dimensions and materials
  • – Grading plans which show contouring and spot elevations
  • – Hardscape and landscape details which describe materials and installation methods
  • – Landscape plan which identifies location and specifies types of all landscape material
  • – Site lighting plans and details, which identify site lighting fixtures and locations along with a written design brief
  • – Irrigation plans and details

For some international projects, drawings may be turned over to local architects, engineers, and contract for permitting and production of final construction documents at the end of Design Development. In these cases, SKS Studio highly recommends a peer review of final documents prior to construction to ensure that the integrity of the design intent is maintained.


Now, the focus is laser sharp to ensure all client, technical and regulatory concerns are addressed and approved. Design is finalized in compliance with budget, local codes and constructability issues. Drawing coordination is critical, and all disciplines (architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering and mechanical engineering) respond to current drawings so any conflicts are resolved before they become expensive problems and delays.

Drawings, typically prepared in CAD and/or REVIT and may include:

  • – Layout and dimensioning plans, which fix the size and location of all site elements, structures, roads, utilities, etc.
  • – Hardscape plans that identify all hardscape material
  • – Hardscape details to identify materials, construction methods, structural requirements, etc.
  • – Final grading plan with contours, spot elevations, inlet locations and elevations, and flow lines
  • – Landscape plans with location, species, and quantity of all landscape material
  • – Landscape details and specifications schedule
  • – Site lighting and details, which identify all fixture types, locations, electrical requirements, and
    associated photometric information
  • – Irrigation plans and details, including materials lists, water requirements, pumping equipment specifications and connection details
  • – Written project specifications

Final cost estimates may be prepared at the end of this phase. We may also work with the client to solicit qualified contractors and provide bidding assistance.


Often, clients want our expertise on site, observing construction, especially at critical points, to ensure that the craftsmanship and installation are consistent with the overall design intent. It is an opportunity to collaborate with the contractor, resolving any design conflicts which may arise.


SKS Studio takes the unimaginable and transforms it into your vision. We see every client and project as unique and approach each one with an open mind, agility and confidence that comes from a portfolio of challenging projects turned successful – sometimes beyond the client’s original vision thanks to our expertise, foresight and process.