At MJARC Arquitetos, we believe that the success of a project is intrinsically linked to the quality of the preliminary planning and design phases. Among these phases, the preliminary program stands out as the first fundamental pillar. In this article, we explore the importance of the preliminary program in architectural design, its main stages and the benefits for the development of architectural projects.


What does the preliminary architectural program consist of?

It is the initial phase of any project in which the program is defined, for example, the number of rooms, living areas and other programmatic requirements as well as budgetary constraints. An analysis is made of the urban framework and applicable regulations and decrees for the area of intervention. It is also at this stage that the client must submit a complete topographical and/or geological survey, as well as an architectural survey of the existing building, the general concept, the client’s needs and the constraints of the site. It is at this stage that the architect submits a fee proposal and concludes a written contract.


Preliminary Study

In the preliminary study phase, the architect develops the preliminary concept of the project, according to the assumptions approved in the previous phase. Drawings at different scales are presented, as well as models or 3D images to help analyze the proposal. It is also at this stage that the specialty projects begin.

The Legal Regime for Urbanization and Building (RJUE), established by Decree-Law no. 555/99, of December 16, with its subsequent amendments, regulates the procedures for licensing and prior notification of urban operations in Portugal.


Importance of the Preliminary Study

Article 4 of the RJUE provides the basis for understanding the various phases of an urbanization and building project. Article 20 of the RJUE describes the procedures and documents required for licensing urban planning operations. At this stage, the basic idea of the project, which corresponds to the preliminary study, is essential for defining the concept of the intervention to be carried out. This study consists of drawings, sketches and descriptions that allow for an initial assessment of the proposal.

A good preliminary study can identify potential problems and opportunities, allowing for creative and efficient solutions. It serves as a guide for all phases of the project, ensuring that the client’s vision is maintained and that the objectives are achieved.

At MJARC Arquitetos, we follow a detailed process to ensure that the preliminary study provides a solid foundation for the success of the project.


Stages of the process

Phase 1 _ Preliminary Program

The initial meeting is the vital phase where MJARC Architects meets with the client to discuss the project’s vision, objectives and specific requirements. This interaction allows us to understand the client’s expectations and establishes a basis of trust and open communication.

  • Site visit

During the site visit, MJARC assesses the physical conditions of the land, including topography, solar orientation, existing vegetation and infrastructure. This step is essential to identify the opportunities and constraints that the site offers, directly influencing the design of the project.

  • Viability analysis

The feasibility analysis considers various factors, such as legal restrictions, regulations and technical limitations. This study ensures that the project can be carried out within the defined parameters, avoiding surprises during subsequent phases.


Phase 2 _ Preliminary Study  

The conceptual proposal is where creativity and functionality meet. The architects develop drawings that reflect the meetings held with the client, incorporating the information gathered in the previous phases. This proposal serves as a starting point for discussions and adjustments.

  • Review of the Preliminary Study

Once the proposal has been drawn up, it is presented to the client for review. In order to ensure that the final project reflects exactly what the client wants, MJARC takes their feedback and suggestions into consideration. Approval at this stage is crucial before moving on to the project’s licensing application _ stage 3.


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NOTE: Reading this information does not dispense with consulting the legislation in force.