Juxtapose – verb meaning to place close together or side-by-side usually for comparison. I love that word and try to find ways to integrate it into daily conversation. “Excuse me, please pass the juxtaposed pepper.” or “Would you mind juxtaposing your vehicle so I can park?” or “If you persist with your antics, you may find your nose juxtaposed!” Hmm…maybe juxtaposed is better suited for archi-speak and in spite of my flagrant verb abusage it happens to be the inspiration behind the adjacency matrix.
Whether a house works depends on spatial arrangement, but I don’t arrange spaces until I know which ones should be together. To help us decide how spaces relate we used information from our space list, activity matrix and flow diagrams to develop an adjacency matrix. This matrix is a table that logs which spaces need access to one another. Stop rolling your eyes, I did not matrix us to death. I like studying life flow with different tools to make sure I understand how we live. We’ve lived in so many homes designed for no one that we had to learn which habits are ours or which habits we adapted because we lived in poorly designed homes.
To assemble the adjacency matrix, we studied our flow diagrams and activity matrix and asked ourselves the question, “Does the living room need access to the kitchen?” and subsequently asked the question of every space in the house, including the outside. If we answered “yes” we asked, “How frequently?” We used a solid circle to identify direct or frequent access and an outline circle for infrequent or indirect access.
The concept is simple, but spatial relation is not intuitive. Many spatial relationships are obvious such as Kitchen-to-Dining and MasterBed-to-MasterBath, but others are wrongly programmed from years of living in houses designed for no one. We don’t want to walk across the entire house to carry laundry or groceries, but we’ve lived in seven different homes with related spaces far apart. In each of them, the laundry room was near the garage and far away from the bathrooms and bedroom where most laundry is generated. So, we were programmed to carry dirty laundry all the way across the house which makes for great exercise, but lousy efficiency. Our flow diagrams proposed a more compatible relationship (Bed, Bath and Laundry together) which we captured in our adjacency matrix.
Just like a puzzle where one might gather all the edge pieces first, we grouped related spaces together into zones. We used the matrix to identify public, private, and utility zones. It is easier to layout home zones because we focus on major relationships, but don’t have to think about the connection between spaces. This didn’t immediately produce a floor plan, but we had a good idea of how the major spaces worked together and gathered invaluable juxtaposing experience for the mother of all juxtaposing exercises, the bubble diagram.