Archive for October, 2012


Lest we harbor romantic notions of “Primitve Huts,” here is a real one.

October 30, 2012

Famous architectural academics from farther back than Vitruvius have pontificated, from places of relative warmth and comfort, on the fundamentals of architecture and its origins in the Primitive Hut.  I wonder how many of them have actually experienced a real one?


A House in a House

October 15, 2012

Kirsch House, Oak Park, IL,  1979 – 1981, by Errol Jay Kirsch Architects

The idea of a house in a house is certainly not new.  Just ask any “Carteresque” architect who has been experimenting with passive heating and cooling design since about 1976 (Top).

Recently the idea has been resurrected  in the form of protective screens that work to keep out both heat, as in the Indian house (middle), and cold, as in the Bolivian house (bottom).

What’s new is that both of these concept houses seem to have found some universal appeal, as indicated by the fact that they are being published all over the blogisphere, and leading me to ask why? How are they different?

Medical Facility Tamilnadu, IN, 2011,
Architect: Flying Elephant Studio, Bangalore

To answer, one might first consider what else they have in common. Both plans are compact rectangular boxes, shielded on the long sides and exposed on the ends. In section it is the same, both single story boxes, with the advantage of a double functioning envelope, especially in the India house.

Aesthetically these buildings are elegant in their simplicity. The message, form follows function, the former understandable and the later uncomplicated, strikes a chord with lots of people who are looking for the same things in their lives. Many think to themselves, I could do that.  Maybe it is even affordable.  This looks possible!

The Shelter, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, by KG Studio

The Shelter, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, by KG Studio


In the Interest of Moderation

October 10, 2012

1500 Square Foot House Plan, copyright © 2012 Gaddis Architect

Here, in the interest of moderation, boring though it may be, is a carefully thought out plan of a little house that meets some very big needs.  If you click on the plan, it will enlarge so you can follow the points below.

  • The main entry is into a foyer and circulation area, allowing for access to additional floors, if they are used, without the necessity of passing through the private part of the house, and allowing a home business or multifamily living arrangement.
  • The living and dining areas are exposed to the outdoors on threes sides giving ample opportunity for light, additional entries & a fireplace.
  • The galley style kitchen, including washer/dryer combination adjacent to the hallway, pantry and  counter with seating,  is open to the main living  and dining space.
  • There are two toilet rooms, one of them handicapped compliant, and a large handicapped accessible wet room with both tub and shower which is intended for use by all residents, pets included.
  • There is a single wet wall serving both kitchen and bathrooms which is a cost effective way to install plumbing.
  • The need for an office, additional sleeping space for company and part time residents, and extra storage is address by using the transition space off of the hallways on the way to the bedrooms.
  • There are two good sized bedrooms, on the same floor as the bathrooms, important for aging or handicapped residents.  Each bedroom has a good sized closet and is exposed to the outdoors on two sides for light and air circulation.

Design for the Sake of Design?

October 4, 2012

Tiny Kitchen with Platform Bed Above

I have noticed that whenever gurus of sustainability want to justify cramming 2000 square foot of living space into 100 square feet of actual space they call on Bucky Fuller.  As if such a paragon of modernity, committed as he was to “doing more with less,”  was prophetic when he said,  “Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time.  Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time.  Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time.  It’s time we gave this some thought.”  Well, I have;  and lest it appear I take important issues too lightly, I even plead guilty to occasionally quoting the master. For now, though, I say so what!

Do we need our bedrooms, living rooms and offices less for not using them 100% of the time?  Does simultaneous occupancy never occur?  Can old and young alike, happily crawl up a ladder onto a platform bed mounted above a tiny kitchen that only works for short people?  Do we really want to fold up the bed to get to the desk, to live in camper?  Of course not.  The whole issue may have more to do with design for the sake of design than it does with meeting the housing needs of real people?  After all, moderation is boring, and the challenge of designing and living in a tiny house is made so much more fun because it serves as a pointed criticism of the monster mansion.