Monday, March 31, 2008

0751 Suburban House - first scheme

Today we'll look at one the schematic design ideas for this project site. This is the scheme described in the original posting as gathering the rooms around a high ceilinged living space. Today we will look at more views of the rough massing model, and a very rough floor plan of the house. The image we saw in the first post. click the link below to continue reading. This scheme made an effort to "gather" the living spaces around the living room, making it a central hub of the house. Here is the ground floor plan: You note from the massing model that the bedroom wing which is opposite the driveway side of the house is a half level or so down from the living room level. The intention was to put the master bedroom on this lower level, increasing its apparent distance from the living spaces. The entry to the house from the ceremonial front was on this same half level below living, and the entry from the garage deposited you at the same place. So looking at the plan, the entry hall across the front of the house narrows where it turns towards the master bedroom, a door to the suite not shown on this plan. If heading up from the entry you come to a corner where the door from the garage would be, while you were offered views into the living space through a screen wall of some sort. The stair up to the living level brings you to the corner of the kitchen work space under a lower ceiling. The higher ceiling in the living space ends in a large windowed wall with a terrace beyond. The splayed geometry of the house is generated by the site, and has a nice effect of opening the house to the landscape. At the far end of the living room is the stair going up to the bedroom level. Now here on the second floor plan you can see how the secondary bedrooms overlook the living room. The idea would be that they could have sliding panels, or internal openings that made them like a loft overlooking the living space - remember the master bedroom below is a half level down, so these bedrooms are only a half level above the living room. A bridge like connection spans over the entry hall below bringing you to the studio space which sits above the garage. The circulation in this scheme is deliberately circuitous - it wraps around the living space like embracing arms. This was part of this effort to gather around the living space, expressed in another dimension, through the circulation and motion through the space. Several other views follow. Fill that would be required is not shown in these masssing studies, so the floor level can be strangely off of what would be the final grade. The rear terrace here would create an outdoor place at the level of the living room floor, which is not reflected in this rough mock-up. So that was the first design idea. Ultimately it was abandoned for a number of reasons, but I still find the central living space and its relationship to the surrounding rooms compelling. The lower level master bedroom is also a great adaptation to a sloping site, but a site that slopes side to side rather than front to back.

Technorati Tags: ,

Continue reading "0751 Suburban House - first scheme"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Letters from Sweden - wiring zen

Wiring is perhaps not one of the most exciting things to talk about if you are a house design junky. Getting power and lights to where you need them is unglamorous and underappreciated. But wiring is probably the biggest factor that determines whether a prefab house can arrive at the site finished on the inside, or empty - just a shell.

Why is that? The reason is that wiring is like the nervous system of your house. It runs in every wall, reaching out to switch locations, and lighting locations. It reaches every corner of the house without regard for whether or not those walls want to come out to the site in one piece or not. If a room can not come out to the site in one piece as it does in a modular house, then its likely it will come without the wiring. If walls come without wiring, then that means they are going to come without finishes because the wiring has to go in first.

click the link below to continue reading.

Continue reading "Letters from Sweden - wiring zen"

0751 Suburban House - project background

In a departure from the usual blog topics here I'm going to be starting a series of posts about local project, a custom home, that I've designed for a client here in the Delaware Valley region. While this is not a stock plan or a prefab several of the design schemes that we abandoned during the design process may ultimately find a second life as a house design in our stock plan catalog. So, while we will eventually arrive at what was the final design, its going to be more about the journey and looking at the sketches of the house designs we left behind, and seeing if any of them generate some enthusiasm and longing! Lets begin with some background on the project so you can understand some of the influences, pressures, and limitations imposed on the design. The site is a parcel of 3 acres in a low density suburban zone outside of a small college town. The proportion of the property is a narrow rectangle with the rear closing to a point. A good deal of the front end of the site is consumed by wetlands, and its wetland transition zone, which can not be disturbed. This moves the home site towards the center of the lot, a good distance from the road making for a fairly private setting. This influences issues about how the house presents itself upon approach. Does it want to have a prominent "front" door when it really does not have a street life, or should it focus on the inevitable vehicle arrival? click the link below to continue reading. Another strong site influence oddly enough is the septic system. The septic design called for it to be located on the highest spot on the site, gaining the most distance from the relatively high water table. That meant that the home site was actually pushed down slope from the septic site, but if to remain on gravity feed to the septic then the house had to be at higher elevation. This put the first floor level of the house a good distance above the natural grade. So where the natural inclination would be to meet the landscape casually we were at a height above it, as you might be in an urban townhouse, except it was not driven by a need for privacy, but rather from the technical demands of the site. We were facing a contradiction that we would have to attempt to resolve. The house program consists of 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, in about 2400 sqft plus a home office/studio space and a two car garage. Ample area for what is a very common program of space. Tempering it was a desire for an open plan living, dining, kitchen and "gathering" of the two secondary bedrooms around the living space - encouraging their casual use for other functions for exercise and home office and the occasional guest. An interesting condition, yet it could not undermine the use of the rooms in a more conventional mode by a family with children. We explored several different alternatives which I will briefly introduce here. In entries to follow we will look at each design more closely. Some of these were developed only very roughly, and some not even worth showing here won't make an appearance. Gathering the rooms around a high ceilinged living space. Creating an entry forecourt between the garage and house. Living spaces on top of the remainder as plinth. A mulit-level interior space within a simple geometric volume. An inhabited wall defines the living space.

Technorati Tags: ,

Continue reading "0751 Suburban House - project background"

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Virgina Plat House - windows in

The windows have been delvered and installed at the Virginia Plat House. Closed in, if not completely weather tight, they are in the clear to begin HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work inside. You might notice that the windows are green (as in color, not sustainability). Nothing remarkable, but these are Andersen 400 series windows. Since like the beginning of time these windows were available in only 3 colors - white, tan, dark brown. Bleah! Nothing wrong with those colors, but Andersen offered no options for using the windows to introduce some color into your house. Meanwhile other manufacturers have been expanding their color offerings. I don't know if Andersen is experiencing competitive pressure because of this, but they have started offering a dark green now as one of their standards. Its a great thing, especially if you want to use a different color for the operable windows as the house designs show in our illustrations. There are three more photos of the house with the windows installed posted at the flickr set for this project. Also remember to look at the LamiDesign Flickr photo pool to see all the photos from customers documenting the house designs under construction.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Continue reading "Virgina Plat House - windows in"