Posts Tagged ‘open above’

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Happily Ignoring the Open Plan

June 30, 2016
for sale

© Gaddis Architect 2016

Visual elements are important to consumers, often to the exclusion of everything else.  Does this seem like a reasonable statement to you?  “No,” you say?  “I check ‘Consumer Report,’ read reviews, make list of features, produce spread sheets comparing quality and cost.  I’m the definition of an informed buyer!”  Really?  Tell that to the car salesmen as you pass up the best deal on the lot because the color doesn’t suit.

tall room

© Gaddis Architect 2016

 There are, of course, in the world of residential architecture, multifarious examples of this behavior, most yielding irksome consequences.  Consider, for example, the unavoidable appeal created by the drama of a two story room,  the particular bane of social interaction, intimate conversation, and acoustic excellence, not to mention disappearing light, receding walls and ceilings that appear grey no matter what their actual color.

party

© Gaddis Architect 2016

Well okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit, although most of these homes are finished in drywall with nothing else to moderate the effects.

Anyone looking for verification has only to observe the behavior of party goers in such an environment.  I stopped counting the times I have found all of the guest crowded into the low ceiling kitchen, happily ignoring the open plan to avoid the soaring space.  I try to warn clients, telling them that what looks good does not always feel/function the same.  They always go for the looks anyway.

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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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“…where relevance is irrelevant,”

January 9, 2013

House in Hiyoshi’ by EANA, Kanagawa, Japan
image © koichi torimura
all images courtesy of EANA

I always look longingly at projects like this one in Kanagawa, Japan.  What could be more relevant for today’s life styles than a Modernist Box squeezed onto a tiny infill lot, positioned to take advantage of hillside views, and exactly the right size for commuting residents of first ring suburbs in metropolitan areas.  Unfortunately, getting a project like this past US building and zoning departments, where relevance is irrelevant, is usually a major challenge.  There are many architects that can do it, though.  One only needs to ask?

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“Open everything” hits critial mass.

December 18, 2011

Way back in 1976 I opened the attic space of  a single story wing under a gabled roof.  The new ceiling was finished with tongue and groove that matched the old wood cross ties that were exposed in the process.  The wood absorbed sound and the cross ties maintained the human scale of the the room. The affect was dramatic but subtle.  At that exact moment in time the idea of,  not only “open above”, but of  “open everything”  hit critical mass and took off, until now it drives whole building projects.

Here, as in almost all builder dwellings,  the soaring ceiling is achieved at the expense of human interaction and sense of place.  Did you ever eat dinner in a restaurant when you were the only customer?   The feeling of exposure is the same.  A good architect can design an open ceiling that avoids this pitfall.