Archive for July, 2012


More Points of Architecture.

July 27, 2012

Japanese House by Naf Architect and Design Inc., Tokyo

Suburban New Jersey House

These two examples, though geographically and culturally far apart, may have more in common than would first appear.  If considered independently, they each look “weird.”  In context we see a highly designed Japanese house (top) set on an urban infill lot, and a home made remodel job (bottom) in a New Jersey suburb, both standing out by dint of contrast with their surroundings;  resulting mainly  from the strong visual statement made by another example of the here often discussed pointed roof. Then imagine the New Jersey house without the gable and the arched windows.  Does it start to appear a bit cool, more like its Japanese counterpart?  Now think what would happen if they were switched;  if we send the Japanese house to the suburban location or vise versa?  This scenario actually showed up in a previous post as well.

Finally, consider the houses as they appear in the photos here?  Does not the NJ house start to look a little less strange?  Clearly setting them next to each other here has a moderating affect, demonstrating the point, sorry for the pun, of this discussion which must be the importance of context.  Extremes in architecture are not easy to pull off.  They often show up in high design and high design “wana a bees.”  The difference between them is often contextual.


Never too small to be great.

July 23, 2012

Bunk Bed Room

With a little careful planning an architect can squeeze one of these bunk bed rooms into a really tight space.  The payoff for anyone having a lot of company, especially kids, is big.  With some extra planning it can be “Mruphied” up to convert into storage space when not in use, or it can go the other way and actually be retrofitted into an already existing closet.  This is especially practical when the closet is adjacent to hallway.  However one chooses to do it, this is one of those “never to small to be great” type of projects that are a whole lot of fun.

Find more bunk bed rooms here.


Rethinking what a house ought to be.

July 19, 2012

Heating, Cooling and Day Lighting in a House by Nakae Architects, Kanaishi, Japan

If we were really energy and environmentally conscious, newly built American suburbs would consist of house that looked more like this one, and I don’t mean stylistically.  Many architects wait patiently to be handed a project with energy efficient heating, cooling and day lighting as main programmatic drivers, often cringing when asked to design with the likes of expansive south facing glass in a Texas development or rows of houses with rooms over unheated garages in a New Jersey subdivision.  Instead our housing markets are too often driven by the likes of granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, and revivals of the revival of some historic style, and that does not even begin to mention too rigid building codes.

Is it possible that the current drop in home values is the result of more than failures in government and banking.  Is is possible that we have hit the saturation point;  that we are tired of the poor performing money pits that take more from our quality of life that they give?  If so, there is an army of architects out there waiting to help home owners rethink what exactly a house ought to be.


Reporducing an amazing body of work.

July 13, 2012

Moravian Pottery & and Tile Works Museum, Doylestown, PA, USA

This is a piece of Americana from “the Mercer Mile” consisting of  three early examples of site cast concrete building.  Ironically these building were engineering innovations by American Henry Chapman Mercer who thought that industrialization was damaging American society.  The Mercer Museum, Fonthill, his home, and the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works, house collections of American turn of the century decorative arts, especially ceramics and tile work, influenced by the “Arts & Crafts” movement. I plan to make a visit soon.

I have a more compelling reason for offering this post, though.  The tile in the photo immediately caught my attention for its artistic quality, which is what lead me to examine its source.  I found that it is barely a scratch in the surface of an amazing body of work that is actually being reproduced in the still functioning tile works.  These tiles can be purchased for installation in modern building projects.  I am not one to believe in a bucket list,  but the possibility of installing some of these tiles in a yet to be designed residential project is going a long way toward changing my mind.


Thermally Treated and Acetylated Lumber and other things architects can’t live without.

July 12, 2012

Cable Rail

I have found that many architects love lists.  I think it comes from all the years most of us have spent cranking out construction documents, which could be the mother load of all lists.  In any case, AIA  recently publish in “Residential Architect”  this very astute list of essential building products.  If you are building or remodeling a house there is a good chance that at least a few of these are going to show up in your project, and if they don’t you may want to look into why not.  My personal favorites are spray foam insulation and high performance windows.  The complete article, here, is short and worth a read for anyone thinking about building.

Thermally Treated and Acetylated Lumber
Cable Rail
Light Quartz Based Surfacing
High Performance Air Conditioning
Fiber Cement Siding
Engineered Structural Products
Low VOC Paint
Spray Foam Insulation
PolyCarbonate/Resin Panels
Energy Efficient Appliances
Tankless Water Heaters
Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures
Energy Efficient Lighting
High-Performance Windows
Radiant Heated Floors

Wish I’d a done it!

July 10, 2012

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What would you call this;  sustainable, green, high design, trendy, rustic, maybe vernacular?  Mostly I would call it beautiful.  This project is designed with utterly single minded focus around two functions.  One of them is the collection and storage of water and the other is cooling, natural or otherwise.  The fact that the building is energy efficient and serves as an outpatient health clinic becomes almost irrelevant, taken for granted in the face of such resolute purpose of design.  The place could as easily be a house, barn, shop, or school room.  Whatever the final purpose, it will be cool and have water.  Rare, indeed, is the project with a program so simple as to beget such an elegant solution, and by the way, it was commissioned by a sophisticated collaboration between government and charitable organizations, not exactly what I would term “real people.”  There must be a lesson here?

You can read about project details here.


Channeling Leoanardo

July 6, 2012

Ćlos Luce – Entrance

I thought I had exhausted discussion about how to finish this house (lower right), now under construction (upper right).  Then, as often happens to those of us who carry images around in our heads, I happened upon a reference to Clos-Lucé, final home in Amboise, France, of Leonardo da Vinci.  Suddenly the “French Chateau” I was envisioning jump out of the pages of history to express my idea about this design problem.  The brick volumes of the Chateau are framed by  smooth tufa stone rustication that has been installed in an elaborate crenelated pattern.  If there is any change in material, it is only to define and entire volume, as the rectangular box of the entryway.

Even considering the stylistically eclectic macrocosm comprising today’s building, this is a historically strong image that is likely to, on some level,  attach itself to the house under construction.   Any design, therefore, that involves horizontally breaking the volumes is bound to look contrived.  Likewise, matching horizontal elements, i.e. foundation and roof, might appear puerile in the context of a potentially sophisticated project.

To  follow the entire thread see:
 “The Last Resort”
“Taming the Tower”
Clos Lucé – Entrance | Flickr – Photo Sharing!