Dan Chitwood's Design Philosophy
The Four Levels of Experience
Dan Chitwood has developed a systematic approach to master planning.
This approach can be applied to any size project. The general idea is to
start with the broadest issues and work your way down to the details. We experience the world at four levels.
- Context is four-dimensional. Context is infinitely large and encompasses everything we know and feel. Decisions of context have the highest priority.
- Space is three-dimensional. Space is the area we inhabit. Spaces are experienced in all directions with all senses. Decisions of space have the second highest priority.
- Compositions are two-dimensional. When we walk through a space we see many compositions. Compositions are easily captured with a camera. Decisions of composition have the third priority.
- Details can be infinitely small. Try not to focus on details too early in the design process. Details are easy to decide once the other levels are worked out. Decisions of detail have the lowest priority.
- Time is generally considered the fourth dimension but
extra-sensory perception should also be considered.
- You need to determine what level of context is important to your
- Context can be as narrow as your backyard or as broad as the
- Do not take things out of context.
- A good example of context is the typical house in a
neighborhood. If you want to be in harmony with a neighborhood you
would not build a house that is out of context.
- Use trees, shrubs, fences, walls, arbors, berms, mulch beds to
reinforce the sense of space.
- Avoid cutting spaces up unintentionally.
- Choose prime vantage points and frame good windows out of a space.
Screen unattractive views out of a space.
- Incorporate smells and fragrances into your design of each space.
- Incorporate sound into your design of each space.
- Compositions consist of three major elements: Focal Point, Line,
- Each composition should have one focal point. The eye cannot focus
on more than one thing at a time.
- Lines lead the eye and foot. Lines create form. Lines should
support the theme and mood of a space whether it is formal,
informal, soothing, exciting, etc. Architecture, walls, walks,
fences, pavement edges, lawn edges, etc. create lines.
- Lines should have a well-defined beginning, meander throughout the
site, and have a well-defined end.
- The most harmonious designs occur when all lines of a composition
complement each other.
- Fill is the area between the lines, just like paint by numbers. If you haven't addressed the bigger issues above, you will have trouble applying the principles of texture, color, rhythm, balance,
- Avoid using more than three major construction materials in a
- Select details based on the words you use to describe the space.
- Look at existing architecture and study similar projects for