Posts Tagged ‘builder house’

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“… three, two, one, lift off house.”

February 27, 2017

Authors note:  Original article is written for and posted in  Aspire Design and Home.  You might want to check them out, or just read it here.

houserocketfarm-townstreet-facade

Rocket Launch – Since I am already on the subject of houses on hilltops, I might as well take a look at this one.  Something strange happens to ones perception of space when approaching a tall house, up a hill, with pointy gables.   It starts to feel like one is approaching a rocket launch.  The flat facade of the building adds to the effect because there is no intervening element to catch the viewers attention and stop the upward motion.  This is reinforced by the driveway wall which also points, behaving like a one point perspective, drawing the viewer’s eye toward some infinite point on the horizon.

Single Visual Element – A bit of academic analysis clearly gives us to understand that, from a design standpoint, the house in the photo really starts at the street.  It is one with the driveway; a single visual element, dominated by an extremely strong profile, defined by vertical lines which terminate in arrows pointing skyward.  Have you ever driven through a farm town and seen the silos next to a railway?  The only thing missing from the photo of the house under consideration is the train.

Transformation by Decoration – Also worth considering is that rows of tall flat facades, springing directly up from sidewalks, show up in residential buildings in places like Paris, Vienna and New York.  These buildings are transformed, by dint of decoration.  Variations in the size, placement and celebration of openings, add complexity to the extent that one barely realizes they are tall, which begins to suggest that height might be something to cultivate rather than disdain, as I was at first inclined to do.

Why so Awkward – Likewise I am led to ask, if not the height, then why so awkward.  The answer, of course, is that on some level most of us understand that the unity of form and purpose evident in the row house, the silo, and even the rocket is missing in the suburban residence.  We end up with what I call a “fusion tract house,” sporting a garage door, a couple of gables, and the arched part of a “Palladian” window,  all forced into a shape that does not suit.

Architectural Form – If this home owner were my client I would, without going too far into value judgements, simply ask if this tall silhouette is one that he/she would choose to put in a typical suburban neighborhood in “any-town” USA.   If the answer was yes, then I would advise that the homeowner embrace the concept by loosing the “home depot” doors, windows, and finishes in favor of a stark functional version, organized to reinforce the architecture.  If, on the other hand, the answer was “not so much,” I would recommend either a different site or a different architectural form.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED Accredited Professionnal practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design and has a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction.  She has many years experience working for well known architects, developers and retailers.  In 2011 she started Gaddis Architect an independent practice in Alexandria, VA.  In addition, Ms. Gaddis has an interest in residential projects and is the author of “Real People Don’t Hire Architects,” a blog about houses.

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Extreme Craftsmanship Required

May 17, 2014

 

Corrugated Aluminum House in Sweden, published in Designboom, by förstberg arkitektur och formgivning. Follow the links to see the entire house.

What could be more relevant:  sleek modern design, industrial materials?   So why does our very  real everyday built environment not often share such an aesthetic?  When it does, why must it end up looking “home made” like the house in the photo below, as apposed to the polished mechanized version above?  And granted, my photo below is bad, but not bad enough to account for the difference

modern reno

The sign in front of the building says “Design Build Finance”

So why do the quality places seem only to appear in expensive trendy areas, hidden away in private retreats, alas on the pages of Dwell?  To start with, a close look at the house in Sweden reveals that is a a timber frame.  In the US the skill of cheap stick building has been refined to the level of excluding everything else.  Any other structural system ends up costing more.  But it is not just the structure that is different.  It is the quality of the finishes, which in the Swedish house are perfection; no distorted or warped trim, unfinished edges, mismatched windows, off the shelf garage doors, or unfinished wood there.  Not to mention the strangely proportioned design and very commercial need to install windows in the roof.

There is a lesson here.  Extreme craftsmanship is required if industrial materials are to be used successfully.  If funds and/or confidence are in short supply, then I say opt for tried and true methods and put your efforts into a superior design.  I know!!!  Why not hire and architect?

 

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Is “Green” a rich Man’s Concept?

June 11, 2013

I have found that many of the ostensibly sustainable building projects published these days are marginal in that  they are expiriments and very often partial as they focus on some special technology or strategy.  This is not to say that they lack value which, in my very humble opinion, is the operative word defining all things green.  In fact they render this project of special interest because it is real and as such offers insight into how the various peices and parts of what we think of as responsible building might manifest.   One has only to glance at the buzz words attached to the project for a protypical summary:  geothermal, net zero, solar, Leed.  These are all thought of as good and desirable things for the environmentally conscious homeowner.  Indeed, were it not for that tricky little concept called value,  many of the elements and strategies used to build this house are where I would have found myself starting had I been designing such a project.  Finally though it would have become necessary for me to ask, can a house costing $700,000 really be green?  If so, then to a very large percent of the world’s population “green” is a rich mans concept.

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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
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Taming the Tower

June 13, 2012

Comment on “The Last Resort”

This post is a continuation of a discussion entitled “The Last Resort” started on another blog.  I am posting it here in order to show the sketch.  The discussion is about possible finishes for this house which is under construction.  The home owner was trying to  reduce the “rocket” affect of the turret.  I thought that the house design was all about an assembly of volumes, not the least being the turret, and that adding a fake chimney in the empty space on the end gable elevation would detract from the design intent.

The sketch was to help show what I was trying to point out.  When you take the gable end elevation by itself the empty space implies that something should be there.  I actually wrote a blog post on exactly this subject:  “Something is Missing“.  In this case, though, if the trim boards frame the elevation so that it appears to be an additional large volume, then not only do the angled window support the overall shape of the elevation, but also the size and prominence of the turret is reduced by dint of the fact that now there are two large volumes instead of one.  Even the little windows angled up the elevation above the porch now contribute to the overall composition.

Further, if the foundation is finished so that it matches the color of the ground and if the basement windows are trimmed to match, the house settles down.  Also, another visual trick is to use a light color trim where the house meets the foundation.  Since our eyes are always drawn to elements of high contrast, visually we tend to see the base of the house at the top rather than the bottom of the foundation.  Sorry for the bad sketch.  Also, if I was working with this home owner I would do a number of sketches in different configurations to help them see what they like.

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Blind leading the blind.

October 21, 2011

The owners of the pink house have spent a lot of remodeling effort and money creating a phony model of the ill conceived brick builder house on the right.  I know, real people don’t hire architects.  If they did, though, maybe the public taste would venture, even a little, outside of the builder’s catalog.  Instead we are encumbered with countless instances of the blind leading the blind.