Residential Project – The 20-30-40 House


This week I wanted to delve a little into the design process and how one formulates a project. Generally I start with a brief sketch or parti that distills the general idea or massing of the project to a minimal number of lines. For this week’s project the parti had 2 lines, a straight line and a curving line. I interpreted this as a snake leaving its den. I then went about exploring shapes to use in the massing of the project. Manipulating these shapes created voids between my chosen shapes that I found had potential. I then placed rooms within my oriented shapes to plan out the flow and location of the individual rooms. Finally I opted to add a grid system that was laid over my shapes to organize the structural members supporting the roof structure. My grid used a spacing of 20ft as the min separation distance between columns and that grid was widened to 30 ft and finally 40ft, hence the name of this design, the 20-30-40 house. Historically grid-based plans tend to generate very successful outcomes, no matter what scale they are used at. A grid can be used to lay out a city (such a NYC) or can be used to divide a small space like a room (using tatami mats in Japan for example); the grid gives order and clarity to a project.

Bringing the parti, the grid and the shapes together resulted in a house with 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths with a 2 car garage, a workshop, and a swimming pool and spa. This house was sited on a hill overlooking the ocean and manages to evoke a Miami beach art deco vibe. The snake theme was expressed through the roofs and columns with pairs of columns indicating the snake’s fangs and the pointed roof the snake’s head. Look for the 3 snake heads in the North Elevation and in the entry gate that I designed for the property. I painted 2 pairs of columns red to indicate that the visitor might miss being bitten by the first snake, but the remaining 2 snakes heads manage to draw blood from the victim as one traverses the property.

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Take Away Lesson
On reflection, this design demonstrated the many ways one can use a column and a curve in a project. Mastering curves and columns is one of the more difficult concepts to master and execute successfully. Few if any design professors will ever be this clear or direct in grad school, so I am going to give you a list of rules for how to use a column and the curve. Below is a summary of the different ways a column can be used in a project. Each of these 6 uses was employed in this project.

Uses for the Column
1. as a door hinge
2. as a center point
3. in a series forming a colonnade (porch)
4. as a support
5. to demark an entrance
6. as a guide post

Rules for Using Curves in a Project
1. Use against or adjacent to straight lines (as in the parti for this project)
2. Use to conceal objects lying behind the curve (example elliptical colonnade at Vatican City in Rome hiding the less attractive buildings in Vatican city adjacent to St. Peters)
3. Use to draw people in (an embrace) (example elliptical colonnade at Vatican City in Rome to draw people into the church)
4 Use in the middle of an open space to divide an area.
5. Use to soften a straight line
6. Use to form a ramp.

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