Posts Tagged ‘home owners’

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De-Shuttering Our World

March 21, 2016
I can't look!

I can’t look!

I really wonder if I missed some important rule of architecture when I was in school, or maybe there is something in the building code, some new requirement, or could it be something in the culture, or maybe technology?  That’s it, they must be functional?  I doubt it though.  Not anymore.

No and no!

No and no!

What does that leave?  Is it honestly possible that consumer preference has demanded that every mediocre house built in the US since 1950 must have at least one set of shutters, functional or mostly not, on a window that is visible from the street?  Sometimes it seems that way.

Do you want to know something about shutters, about function, types, sizes, history?  It is stuff I am not going to talk about here because it has already been done, many, many times, so check out the Old House Guy.  Shutters, we are told, are a great way to beautify a home because they provide lots of visual impact for not much cost.  They can also, he continues, very easily ruin (and usually do) its entire appearance, a point with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Yup

Yup

 

Not so you say?  Look at this cute little house.  Think how it would look without the bright shutters and notice how nicely they are tied in by the use of equally bright accents at the door.  Bye the way, the variegated roof doesn’t hurt either.

Could be a yes!

This is a yes!

 

What about this house?  These shutters are adding design to an otherwise very ordinary house.  They set up visual rhythm, add order and interest.  I want to go inside and find all of the windows equally spaced and lined up in the same room.

 

The problem is that for every thoughtful application of shutters there are 50 that miss, or never attempt to hit, the design mark.  The materials of Mid-American single family housing, stick built in mass after the WW II, and continuing today in miles of new urbanest town houses, have remained the same.  Only the planning has changed.  There is a very unpleasant visual tension between the very old fashioned, historic kit of parts and the contemporary form of the whole.  Nowhere is that tension more evident than in the application of decoration, the most obvious being shutters.  The pervasive wood clapboarding, shingles, brick, pre-manufactured windows, doors, architectural elements and trim used everywhere today might better fit on a wing of Monticello than on a new apartment in a builder development.

This appears of little concern to much of the purchasing public, who are perhaps too uniformed to ask for better.  I would suggest that visually pleasing results may be achieved when the parts support the whole,  when the clapboarding becomes a horizontal element reinforcing the shape of a wide low ranch, when the a decorative element completes one side of a partially open gable, when a change of finish material turns a short window into a vertical element, maybe even when a shutter signals a message.  Here are a few ideas offered as inspiration in my effort to de-shutter our world.

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Images in bottom gallery are from http://www.flickr.com and used under creative commons.  Please contact us for links.

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Catching a Sense of Liberation

August 24, 2013

I was raised in a barn.  No kidding.  A common solution to the economic woes of the depression was conversion,  meaning any standing building was made into rentable living quarters, and any multistory house became multistory apartments.  Our house was converted from a civil war barn into a two family house in about 1930.  We moved in around 1955.  At the time, all I wanted was to move down the street, where there was a, still beautiful, neighborhood made up of prewar architecture on streets with curbs, sidewalks and fenced in yards.  To avoid a trip down nostalgia lane, suffice it to say that as the years have gone by, I have come to appreciate that barn to the extent that it has formed a kind of subconscious repository of my notions about what a house ought to be, and I bring it up here because the house in the photo seriously activated a few of these.

If you care to follow the link you will see that the featured house was included in an article about “Eco-Friendly Housing,”  which got me thinking about how my childhood home was the very definition of recycled.  The original post and beam structure was only visible in the attic, which was really the original hay loft.  It was huge, soaring almost 20′ from the floor framing to the ridge.  I lived in the house for almost 20 years and was never in that attic.  So how, one might wonder, did I know what it looked like?  There was an unfinished room on the second floor with no ceiling.  It offered a view of the old post and beam structure, the random width boards that formed the sheathing under the slate roof, the cavernous space replete with possibilities.  Because of the multicolored recycled wood siding, the house in the photo somehow catches that same sense of liberation, suggesting  that the real living space is outside instead of in.

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Simply Elemental

July 9, 2013

Mini House by Jonas Wagell – Dezeen.

In Sweden people are allowed to build a “Mini House,” like this one, on their property without a permit as long as it is not bigger than161 sq. ft.  (15 sq. meters)  How cool is that?  Most places in the US allow residents to put a garden shed in the back yard sans permit, but I am not at all sure that inviting our adult children to stay in the shed for a while would be very will received by the local building & zoning department!

www.crinklecrankle.com/ 4295754214_198a2e9a3d_o(1)Just think, it would only be necessary to visit the local builders supply where you can have one of these delivered completely assembled and installed for around $2000.  Well ok, I know it is not finish inside but considering that the Swedish version will run you about $15,000 without the kitchen or any heat, it is still a deal.  I have visions of of somehow combining one or two of these, a single wide and a carport into a really great country retreat.  It is simply elemental, don’t you think?

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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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“Real” Appeal

April 20, 2013

The ‘real” appeal of being house proud.

Three in a row.

Places like this are mostly excluded from the intellectualized world of architecture and design, except for – dare I say it -on  HGTV.  Those people understand that people don’t live in architecture.  They live in houses.  Whoever lives here is house proud, a term not often heard these days and in my mind somehow attached to the “American Dream.”  It means that even the most modest abode becomes alluring when it is obviously cared for.  Here the meticulously manicured yard, the fence, the porch, even the matching up and downstairs air conditioners deliver a strong subliminal message that says, “we like our house a lot and you should too.”  The thing about subliminal messages is that they are the stuff of art.  Art museums are full of ordinary objects arranged by artists against carefully chosen contexts in an effort to deliver some message often much less penetrating than the one that happens organically here.

Lest one think that there is a great deal of humanity, but really no architecture here, a closer look may be in order.  Consider how the bit of light foundation contrasts with the grass, forming a  visual perimeter around the house which doubles as a sill for the ample basement windows.  Consider how it repeats under the fist floor windows, capping the rusticated brick work and defining the top of a visual base for the entire building. Consider how the rusticated corners add substance to the structure.  Consider how the brick diapering and decorative pattern balances the heavy base and add interest to a plain facade.  Consider how repeating the house three times in a row in different colors adds humor. Perhaps this is architecture after all.

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Biological Concrete Shows Promise for Sustainable Architecture and Creeps Me Out!

February 22, 2013

I am all for sustainability and innovation, especially when they lead to practical solutions to modern day environmental problems.  Sometimes, though, the growing pains are quite literally more than I would be willing to bear.  Honestly, how is this building with yesterdays salad stuck to its elevation any better, or more sustainable than the ivy covered house in the previous post.  I am pretty sure the Ivy absorbs plenty of “atmospheric CO2” and I expect that with a little effort it could be made to grow with abandon on every building in New York City.    Unless I have been mistaken and this is not an attempt at living growing architecture, but really a vertical composting operation.  Innovation or not, it creeps me out.  Give me the Ivy any day.

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Go, go, going, gone green!

February 3, 2013

Ivy House Do 8 legged clients hire 8 legged architects?  I am pretty sure that a lot of 8 legged creatures live here.