revisiting PPD bodies of water type questions (PA question #5)



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    Kurt Fanderclai

    David, you have my vote for Most Patient ARE 5.0 Forum Member for 2018.  

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    David Kaplan


    The problem with Lot 6 is that it is surrounded with 3 and 2 story buildings, thus it does not meet the "contextual" requirements.  The intent with that "contextual" requirement is that the size of the building should be similar to those around it.

    The key here is that the answer must meet ALL 3 requirements.  It can't meet just two of them.  Lot #1 has the following:

    1) surrounded by adjacent 5 and 6 story buildings.  Meets contextual requirements - check.

    2) Is open on three sides, thus apartments with balconies can also be maximized - check.

    3) Views on all three sides are good - you have a park to the north and the lake to the south.  Balconies that would be located on the east side would be able to view both to the north and the south in some capacity.  Check

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    Arthur Molinari

    David, very well explained and I do agree with him, Jonathan. Lot 1 is the only one that checks or three of the questions criteria which at the end of the day is what matters .

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    Kurt Fanderclai

    First off, David is spot on.

    Thinking back to the exams, this question is really a good representative example of the type of question you might expect to see.  Further,  in re-reading this question after having passed the ARE 6 months ago, I'm reminded of the extent of logic required -- and often the logic is more of a factor than the knowledge a candidate brings to the table.

    As just one example from part of the OP's post:

    "...lot 6 has a sliver of surface parking to the north and office 3 stories to the west. it has (apparently) NOTHING to the east except a street."

    Lot 6 does in fact have "surface parking to the north and office 3 stories to the west".   However, does it really have apparently have NOTHING to the east?  No more so than it has EVERYTHING to the east.  Could be a twenty story building over there.  Or a giant hole in the earth.  Or a herd of chihuahuas.  Point is, the question does not give that info, so don't make assumptions based on information that you cannot know from the given question.

    Logic is your friend on the ARE, and don't overthink anything.

    Look at David's checklist -- that is how you need to think through these questions -- check, yep, nope -- boom -- done.    

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    David Kaplan (Edited )


    You're going to hate my response to this, but it is needed, and again I hope that you consider all the help I've given you up to this point as a lens from which to read it:

    You are way, waaaaaayyyyyyyy overthinking these questions man.  This is going to be death of you on these tests if you don't take a step back and rethink your approach.  I truly want you to pass these.

    Let me please try to help here:

    1) All your questions about how to define context - you shouldn't be asking any of these, because NCARB has defined "context" in the body of the question.  "....with regards to massing, scale, and detail."  PERIOD.  That's it.  Thus, the only thing you need to consider here with respect to "context" is the massing, scale, and detail of the building.  Since the diagram they give us only provides "number of stories" as any indication of "massing" or "scale," that should be the ONLY determining factor for you when addressing the need to be "contextual" for the purposes of this question. 

    I would note further that the term “detail” can be ignored.  We are not told if these buildings are of a certain style or given any information about their exterior materials.  If we were, then you would in fact also take that into consideration.  In this case, though, you can ignore it, and you will find on MANY questions that there is something that can in fact be ignored.

    Your note about “parks being great views” and “surface parking as bad views” IS correct thinking.  There is some common sense at play here with these tests and it is safe to assume what you’re thinking.  Looking over a park would be nice, and looking over a parking lot would not be as nice.  Also with respect to views, for this question you should ask yourself “what would a person typically want to view?”  In the case of this question, obviously the lake would be first and foremost, so when you first look at this site plan, the FIRST thing that should jump out to you are lots 1, 4, and 6.  Not to mention that all three of these lots would have balconies overlooking the lake as well.  That should IMMEDIATELY tell you that Lots 2, 3, and 5 are very, very likely OUT for consideration.  Only refer back to those if for some reason you find that Lots 1, 4, and 6 definitely do not satisfy the other requirements.  Now, one could say “well if I was in New York City, I’d want a view of the skyline, so wouldn’t ANY buildings with windows technically have a view?”  Yes, but take yourself out of that thinking for a moment.  If there is a question that seems to give you something that you feel is subjective in nature – in this case, what truly defines a “good view” – you need to use and trust only the information given to you.  Look at the drawing given to you and use your common sense judgment – in this case, CLEARLY the “views” being talked about are the lake and the city park.  That’s all we’re given in this question that could possibly qualify as something that someone would want to see out their window.  Trust that and go with it.  You won’t be sorry.

    If I were to get this question on the test, the first thing I would do is notice that Lots 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 all overlook parking lots on one side.  I would immediately count those out at first and see if Lot 1 could possibly meet the other requirements asked of me, and would ONLY go back to those other lots if I found otherwise.  Lot 4 though?  That’s a maybe because it has views of the lake and has 5 story buildings around it.  Try this type of approach.  Pick the one you really think it is and test the other criteria against it.  Your initial intuition is likely the correct one.

    I would then look at Lot 1 – it has views of the lake and city park. Check.  It is open on three sides so balconies can be maximized.  Check.  And, it’s contextual with respect to massing and scale, having 5 story buildings on either side of it.  Check.  It therefore has to be right.  I’ve checked off all the criteria, there’s no way it can’t be right at this point.  There’s just no way to argue against it.  Mark that one down and move onto the next question. 

    Your note about Lot 6 having the longer façade along the lake – valid point, absolutely.  But, remember in this case that you MUST MEET ALL 3 REQUIREMENTS.  What Lot 6 does NOT have is an opportunity for maximized balconies as compared to Lot 1.  It’s 2 sides vs. 3 sides.  Both lots have lake views, but only one has three open sides for balconies, and not to mention another view of the park to the north.  Lot 6 views a parking lot to the north - another red flag.  Lot 6 also is surrounded by smaller buildings - the final nail in the coffin for Lot 6. 

    Your note about Lot 5 having the “best context” – there’s simply no way that’s true.  It’s impossible.  It’s surrounded by buildings of smaller scale and massing.  It has to be out.  Again, what you’ve missed is that NCARB defined “context” for you in the question.  You have to be careful.

    Your note about proximity of contextual buildings – I think you should assume that the buildings that are to be of “similar massing or scale” should be within immediate adjacency of the Lots in question.  So – next to the buildings or just across the street would count. 

    Hope this helps.

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    Jonathan Chertok (Edited )

    hi david, arthur.

    again really appreciate your help.

    so, not to put too fine a point on a question like this but can i just ask the following since i am sure it will be the same typology:

    1. lot 5 would have a better "context' so it would be the BEST site for this criteria. i mean, of the two criteria given - one being "context" and the other being "view" - this lot has the best context hands down. it has two five stories immediately adjacent, one 3 story building that is catty corner and the surface level parking/vacant lot directly to the north?

    2. surface parking, vacant lots etcetera are ignored for the purposes of determining "context"?

    3. east facade of lot 1 on the CORNER WOULD count towards the view criteria since it is on the corner? wouldn't? flip a coin?

    4. east facade of lot 6 WOULD NOT count toward the view criteria since you don't know what is there?

    5. are you counting the 5 story lot ACROSS the street and to the EAST of lot 1 as contributing to the "context" criteria? what about the 6 story building to the NORTHWEST that is catty-corner to lot 1? i mean, if this 6 story was a 1 story building you would rethink whether lot 1 had the best context? what about if the building ACROSS THE STREET was 1 story? i guess this would obviously count toward/against the context. and catty-corner as well would count? or basically anything ON THE BLOCK counts? sorry but i find this confusing.

    6. PARK counts as a view but vacant lots and surface parking DON'T count as views.

    7. what about the larger facade facing the LAKE for lot 6? this would count as a better view than the view of the LAKE for lot 1 (if you were to isolate it) since it is LONGER? or basically this is likely to be presented but unlikely to matter since it is likely the wrong answer. 


    so basically for these visual problems: PARKS are GREAT (good view), vacant lots and subsurface parking are BAD (no view), same sized buildings are good (ignore everything else) and no information on an adjacent lot is neither good nor bad. longer facades are sort of red alerts and will likely lead you to a wrong answer IMHO.

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