Posts Tagged ‘primitive hut’


What’s in a name?

May 18, 2016

Name Dropping – Did you ever notice that real estate people like to insert the names of house styles into their conversations with potential buyers?  “…nice to meet you.  I have a move in ready Center Hall Colonial to show tomorrow.” or “…there is a Mid-Century Modern neighborhood that generates a lot of interest.”  The local historical committee, of course, has raised name dropping to an art form.  Here in Old Town they are the designated authority, champion and voice of all things Georgian and very present at all meetings of the local architectural review board.

Name Listing – There is a list of house styles on Wikipedia with which, truth be told, I have a lot of fun.  I can’t wait to tell some realtor that I would like to see a Dingbat house?  No kidding.  It really exists!  It is also possible to get creative and customize these terms.  I actually thought of this a few years ago when a potential client brought a fist full of photos to a meeting.  She repeatedly told me how much she like Regency style design.  The photos were of mirrored replicas made into furniture and finishes of what appeared to be every decorative cliche ever invented by Thomas Sheraton, all of it originating from some shop like Pier One.  What, I thought, would one call these?  We could say Meta Modern or Pseudo Modern ( I will let you look those up) which seem to be buzz words that include all things previous.  How about Post Modern Revival of Regency Revival?  That ought to cover it.  I think putting things into categories gives us a feeling of control.  Although not much in the way of actual control.

Name Cancelling – Does not even the lowest budget shopper have a vision or image relating to his or her expectations about where they hope to live?   Think cottage and white picket fence a là now deceased American Dream.  What guides this?  I don’t think it has anything to do with style, named or real, unless that style somehow fits into the larger world of the individual’s past residential experience, turned into a dream or not.  Anyone looking to define a future stylistic paradigm might do well to flush out what is common in places we have lived in the recent past.  No easy task in an increasingly small and populated world and further complicated by the manipulations of large scale planners defining a built environment according to their particular terms.

Name Hunting – I have a friend, raised in an urban apartment block, these days sporting a million plus house budget in a quaint suburban neighborhood and hard pressed to find an acceptable house.  She has been conditioned to think of  a house as a commodity, with stylistic taste leaning towards the McMansion, she will consider only new construction and is completely put off by a yard of any size.  Her ideas about security and building in general are still involved with her roots in the apartment block.  As a member of a larger similarly inclined shopping group, she is influencing the look of a neighborhood because developers do very good market research.  They understand and deliver the absolute minimum that must be provided in order to satisfy this customer.  Expanding a customer’s  horizons is only part of the program to the extent necessary to sell a newly built home.  More complex, better assimilated options are never offered and existing housing is mostly ignored.

Name Finding – The word “finding” may be a little misleading (it fit in the text).  It is more as if a new style, rather than directly resulting from the search, just appears, although the looking is still required, and I might add, is considered to be a high intellectual activity in the world of architectural scholars. It is the result of a dialectical process, where the tension between the dominant old style and the emerging newer style become so great that the whole conflict collapses into something else.  It is like the invisible whole, which is greater than the sum of the parts, suddenly becomes visible and Voila, a new style is there.  This line of thinking, of course, comes from the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a favorite of mine, distained by many, and begging the question, what is the emerging new style?  Is it already implemented?  Will it be defined by the spatial needs of an expanding population or the desire to be “green?”  Will it return to nature like a Hogan, or the earth like a Sod House.  Maybe it will look like my favorite Parkitecture!  Could we see a Modern Farmhouse, or how about a Star Wars version of the Rumah Gadang?  That might work.  Whatever the new name, I am pretty sure that some combination of its elements will be easy to locate in the afore mentioned list of house styles!

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Unmobile Home: Humor but No Joke

September 15, 2014

unmobile home

My Dream Home?

Would it be believable if I said this is my dream home?  Ok, maybe not.  It does though display several key elements which are the stuff of my particular architectural fantasy.  It is no secret that I have pondered  possible ways of adapting a standard “off the dealer lot,” mobile home into architecture.  Further, if the difference between art and architecture is reality, also previously concluded, then this is art.  Considered in such a light, this may contain humor but it is not a joke.  What’s more, because it is on stilts, another big area of interest opens up.  Aside from the characteristics of the piers, in this case concrete, there is all that space under the house, complete with promise and problems in similar measure.  For now, let’s leave the promise to imagination, yours and mine, and take up the problems.

Doing What Air Does.

Before I get into a discussion of how a house on stilts might easily be kept warm and toasty in Northern winters, let me risk repeating, “I have a psychological aversion to creeping things crawling around under the house.”  I like the idea of inserting some air.  The space insulates and creates an experience by conjuring all manner of pleasant spacial opportunities.  Opportunities, I think, worth pursuing, even in a cold climate.  The obvious problem of course is all that cold air lurking under the warm house all winter long and looking to do what air does in this environment which is rise.  Great in the hot summer, not so much in the winter.  The subject is bandied and hashed over to a larger extent than could possibly be considered here.  For an exhaustive discussion I happily sent the reader here.  The general idea being that in order to keep out the cold it is necessary to super seal up every path of air infiltration and super insulate the floor, in that order of priority.  To avoid freezing encapsulating the plumbing in a warm chase is also necessary.

Is There Anything New?

So what, one might ask is new here?  The answer, of course, is nothing, until another of my favorite “responsible building” technologies is introduced into the mix.  Consider what might be accomplished if the space under the house were used to store and distribute hot air, preferably but not necessarily, from a solar source, and further if the space were flexible, offering a source of cool air in summer a lot like what is done in my favorite Japanese OM Solar homes.  In the end the solution is complex but maybe not so complicated.  There are many after market products that might fit into such a system.  Transpired solar collector panels, for example, are now available for residential use.  Likewise heat storage might be provided by a prefabricated concrete slab or piers.  Devising the air handling and distribution system might require and expert, preferably one who has tried something like this before.  The house after all is quite little and the technology very big.





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! 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?


Celebrating Earth Day, Wishing for Space

May 11, 2013

A few post ago, I wrote, somewhat disparagingly, about biological concrete, leading someone to tell me that the “forests are returning to the cities!!!” A fact, presumably, based on the necessity of absorbing increased man made CO2, and one that will most certainly affect the practice of architecture. I suppose this is true, but not, I am afraid, very motivating.

A.  Not so typical middle class house.
Photo used with permission from photographer.

Jane Auel, author of the now famous, Clan of the Cave Bear, first in the Earth’s Children series, might be considered and expert on the historical choices humanity has made when it comes to shelter.  She builds an image, based not a little on actual and scholarly research, of life in a prehistoric cave, offering moments of imaginary refuge for all those over worked, over housed, over crowded individuals who happen upon her work.  She writes in compelling detail about space and everything else that has sunk in the stream of progress.  We know all about life in house B.  She tells us what it is like to live in house A.

Typical middle class houses USA

B.  Typical middle class houses USA

Perhaps we would do well to wish with care as the house in A. looks like a buried “star ship” and the sea and sky easily extend to endless space.

I’m in pursuit of a more earthly place, where A. and B. become tangibly one.  Oh wait!  Can it be?  Please tell me that it’s something in which biological concrete has no part.


Silly Architect

March 14, 2013

Architects like toys too. Sustainable Holiday Home by Tjep.

Don’t laugh!  A lot of architecture projects start out this way.  I wonder if industrial goods, like cars and cell phones, do as well?  The goal of this architect was to mimic product design.  Follow the link to read the article and you will see that he embraced sustainability and portability, not to mention, cute-ability.  Is that a word?  Interesting that the article is entitled “Sustainable Holiday Home” because the house actually looks like it should hang on a Christmas tree.   Imagine the attention it would attract while being towed down the freeway on the back of a flatbed truck?  I wonder about the livability part though, maybe not so much, but who cares when it looks like such fun.


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?


Newtons 3rd Law of Tiny Houses?

September 27, 2012

Primitive Hut, from Marc Antoine Laugier’s Essai sur l’Architecture Frontispiece, by Charles-Dominique-Joseph Eisen

Is this tiny house a modern day version of Marc Antione Laugier’s Primitive Hut?

Château de Maisons near Paris by François Mansart (1642)


Attention:   unemployed students, overworked homemakers, empty “nesters,” outdoor enthusiasts, and all economically challenged humans with/without pets and extended family!  According to numerous posts buzzing across the “blogisphere”  the answer to your housing “whoas” has arrived in the form of a tiny house;  leading me to wonder, are we returning to the Primitive Hut of Marc-Antoine Laugier’s Essay on Architecture(1753), an important work read by architecture students, and a plea for rational thought amidst late renaissance architectural excess?

I would guess that the operative word is excess, as in the ever present 4000 square foot mansions populating the the US sprawl-scape and attending my conclusion that in this case Newton’s Third Law may be the one to watch.  All photos used under Creative Commons.