Residential Project – The Ulm Stool Estate

South Elevation

The fourth house in this week’s new houses for 2018 is a design that I created after pondering Max Bill’s Ulm Stool. The stool, a project Bill created at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany was unique for its simplicity. Despite having only 4 pieces, the stool could be transformed into multiple objects depending on how it was positioned.

The Ulm Stool
Using the bracket shape of the stool, I created a house with wings and walls that mimicked that shape. The house was aligned on two parallel central axis both passing through the chimneys in the design, resulting in a highly symmetrical and ordered layout. The house has a strong German influence echoing the work of both Mies and Spear. Features include an in-ground pool with pool house, an outdoor pergola covered dining area with firepit, a master suite with his and hers dressing rooms, a guest bedroom with bath, a separate staff apartment with its own entrance, a 3-car garage, his and hers offices, a kitchen with pantry and a Miesian tea house situated at the end of mall.

Ground Floor & Site Plan

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Residential Project – The Cellini House

The third house in on our series to start the new year is a 3-floor art deco town house. I was inspired by this Rolex wristwatch, the Cellini Prince and its art deco styling.

The Rolex Cellini Prince Ref 5441-9
The Rolex Prince was originally produced in the 1930s and kept with the styling of that era. Rolex created a re-issue of their Prince line in 2005 which remained in production until 2015. While the watch was never a best seller it was a standout for its design qualities. In addition to its deco lines, the watch’s concentric circles on the dial reminded me of the lines created in the sand in many Japanese zen gardens.

Fusing both the Japanese and art deco influences I was able to create a 3-story townhouse befitting a stylish city family. The ground floor has a 1-car garage plus additional off-street parking for guests. Upon entering the glass block lined foyer you are greeted by a hall that leads to the kitchen and dining room. The kitchen/dr open onto the rear yard with its own patio and a small yard. Floor 2 has a study/library, the main 2-story living room, a billiards room with its own wet bar, and a lav. The top floor contain the master suite, 2 bedrooms, a laundry, and an additional bath. An elevator was also installed to ferry food from the kitchen to the entertaining spaces on the second floor. See the image gallery for photos and plans.

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Residential Project – The Popup Camera House

The second in our series of houses for the new year I entitled the Popup Camera House. I fashioned it after a early 90s Polaroid instant camera where the 2nd floor would appear to be able to fold down into the 1st floor similar to a traveling camper roof.
An alternate name for this property is the not so simple house. Although the house’s footprint is a simple box with few lines and even fewer fenestration details, it makes up for this simplicity by being very complicated to construct. Unlike most houses, the second story walls don’t align with the walls below it on two of the house’s four sides, so the upper story must be supported by beams and columns that runs the length of the house to properly support the second story. Reducing the footprint of the upper floor allows for strip roof lighting to be installed above the first floor running the length of the living room as well as in the 1st floor lav. Light washes down the 1st floor walls providing a soft and indirect lighting to the home’s inhabitants. (see photo below)

I opted for this indirect lighting approach as this house was designed for a high density locale where houses may have minimal or no setbacks between a neighbor’s property and the owner would prefer to keep windows facing the neighbors to a minimum. Another key feature is the inclusion of a walled garden. The garden provides a visual focal point for the home’s interior when exterior views are absent. The house has 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths with the option of a 3rd bedroom on the second floor if desired. Other spaces include a sunken hearth, a dining room, library, separate office, mud room, eat-in kitchen with pantry, 2nd floor laundry, and a one car garage. I also designed a small shed for bike storage or tools. There is a small patio off the living room which descends to a sunken firepit with a water feature. These outdoor spaces make the most of limited yard space. Given the urban environment, I also designed a neighborhood park on the adjacent property to create some recreation space for the neighborhood’s children.

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Residential Project – The Record Player House

Hello readers,
To start 2018 on the right foot I am planing a week’s worth of updates featuring brand new designs for you to enjoy. The first project in the series fuses my interest in mechanics/watchmaking with architecture resulting in this modernist masterpiece which I am entitling the Record Player House. Looking at the elevation one will recognize different elements from a record player: from the speed control dial, to the toner arm, the stylus, and even the central spindle represented by the circular study. The above mentioned study rotates on an axis just like a record and even has its own deck that serves the dual purpose of a entry portico. The study’s deck will jump into action when the glass study door is opened traveling into position and then locking into place allowing the owner to leave the safety of the study and re-live that iconic scene from Titanic. In addition to the rotating study, the record player house has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and 2 lavs along with fireplaces in the great room and on the screen porch. Other features include a shallow lap pool accessible from all of the bedrooms and an enclosed tennis court that the master bedroom overlooks. The fun continues on the 3rd floor with a home theater, tap room and wine cellar (or wine attic in this case). Parking for 2 cars is available in the garage located underneath the pool.

What was really memorable about this design was the engineering required to make the different mechanical elements come alive. I designed the drive train mechanism for the rotating study based on my interest in mechanical watches. The way that the study rotated perfectly mimicked the functional spec for a mechanical chronograph (start, stop,and reset). I wanted the study to rotate smoothly with no jerkiness upon engaging the drive train, so I opted to follow the design used in many high-end mechanical chronographs which use a column wheel with a vertical clutch system. The vertical clutch and column wheel design was 1st implemented in the Pierce chronograph in the 1940s, but was later improved and incorporated into the Venus 178 movements used in the 1960s era Breitling chronographs. The vertical clutch and column wheel provide very precise and tactile engagement of the chronograph feature on a wristwatch (as there is no meshing of gears in this design) and I wanted that fluidity for my study drive train as well. A recent visit to the American Clock and Watch Museum in New Briton, CT also informed my understanding of how clocks and clock gearing worked. Studying photos from the Pierce chronograph, the Venus movement and the current Breitling B01 chronograph caliber I was able to create a gear systems to turn the study and make the deck travel. Below is an exploded axon of the different parts in the study’s drive train so you can better understand how it all works together.

Exploded Axon of Rotating Study

I also designed a retractable sunshade for the pooldeck that drops down into the garage when not in use. The mechanics for the sunshade was even more complicated then the study involving 3 pages of notes and diagramming required before I even attempted to model it.

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Commercial Project – Mystic Community Rowing Center

The town of Stonington, CT recently acquired land adjacent to historic Mystic Seaport and on that site plan to construct a boathouse to serve as the permanent training facilities for the local high school’s crew team, as well as meeting the needs of local boating enthusiasts. I submitted this boathouse design for the design committee’s consideration. The program called for locker rooms, boat storage facilities, and a training space/event space to be available for the crew team’s needs. The design needed to fit in with the historic buildings found on the Mystic Seaport property as well as look appropriate for the community at large. Below are photos of my final design. I offered two material options for cladding the boathouse, a horizontal clapboard design as well as a shingle style design. The clapboard option while traditional was actually executed in a very modern way by spacing the individual clapboards an inch apart leaving gaps between the individual boards. (see photo below)

Music Studio designed by 30X40 Design Workshop
I borrowed this technique after first seeing it executed on a small music studio project in Maine.1 From a distance, there is no perceivable difference between a normally clapboard clad structure, but up close the building takes on a very modern aesthetic.

IMAGE GALLERY


Footnotes


1. Long Studio/30×40 Design. 6 Aug 2017. ArchDaily website. Accessed Aug 6, 2017 http://www.archdaily.com/877088/long-studio-30×40-design-workshop

Residential Project – The Tree Crotch House

This house’s plan came from a totally random place. I was taking a walk and noticed the branching of a tree and had the idea to use the V shape formed from the crotch of the tree. When I got home I started by laying out this V shape in different patterns. By overlapping the Vs and creating inclusions within other Vs I was able to create a compelling floor plan. The resulting design is a house with 4 bedrooms and 3 full baths with 2 lavs in addition to a separate home gym/spa building that has a yoga studio, weight room, sauna, and another full bath. The main house boasts numerous entertaining spaces; a large outdoor patio overlooking the swimming pool as well as a large living/dining room space and a second floor rec room with its own wine bar. Of particular note is a unique conversation pit built into the swimming pool which is part of the living room.

Sunken Conversation Pit
You can be in the pool without getting wet. This sunken pit has operable glass walls that drop into the basement to open up the space to the outside. A crank on the adjacent wall allows one to raise or lower those glass plates. The house is built around a central stone wall that spans the full length of the house from the front door to the rear of the house. This wall acts as the dividing line between the public and private spaces in the house. The warmth of the stone also contrasts well against the coldness of the columns and the house’s glass curtain walls. The swimming pool is a focal point of the house and it overflows into a water garden visable from the master bath and yoga studio. This house is also unique in that it uses a ramp system to move between the floors. There are a total of 3 fireplaces in the house and space for 2 cars in the attached garage. Images and plans are shown below.

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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.

Residential Design – Extruded Staircase

Hello viewers,
The idea for this house came from taking a modern detail and applying it to traditional design. I wanted to create a house where the staircase was pulled out from inside the shell of the house and put on display. This type of detail is common in modern houses where you have a stair tower enclosed by a curtain system, but it is almost never done in traditional design. A large window is at most the attention a staircase would receive if you were designing a colonial or shingle style house. I took cues from the work of McKim Mead & White, the masters of neoclassical revival in their treatment of chimneys in particular as a source of inspiration. Stamford White’s design of the chimney on the James Hampden Robb house (1885) weaves the chimney in and out of the facade to great effect.

Chimney detail on the James Hampden Robb house
I ended up using this weaving technique with my staircase. My showcased stairwell was further highlighted by patina copper paneling making it the focal-point of the facade.

My stair detail also subtly references even older architectural traditions mimicking the appearance of the triglyphs in a Doric order entablature. Notice the negative space between the windows in the stair tower and the pattern of the lower windows at the stair landing.

The Doric Order

While the staircase may have been the primary focus, other spaces in the house are also noteworthy. I created a sunken courtyard between the 3-car garage and main house with its own outdoor fireplace. It makes a great place to have an outdoor meal. The house also has a dramatic in-ground pool and spa with its own pool house. There are 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bath with each bedroom having its own deck. There are a total of 4 fireplaces in the house as well as a 3-season porch. Below are photos of the individual spaces.

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Residential Project Update – The Artist’s Home & Gallery

Hello again readers,
This week I decided to continue my review of older projects, giving them a second look to improve the overall design and functionality. I chose to update this project that I created back in 2012 and posted on my blog(see post). The original design was captivating, but it lacked good flow between the spaces and contained a lot of wasted space particularly in the kitchen. I revamped the floor plan completely and added a lav to the gallery space as well as giving each of the 3 bedrooms its own bath. I eliminated the library area on the second floor, relocated the stairs and eliminated the basement. I also added a pool and pool house to the program. I feel that the kitchen is by far the most improved space in the new design with its own pantry area and desk space. This design was always about the circle but this iteration manages to take the circles and fuse them into a more complex and polished design. Below is a new gallery of images with the new floor plans.

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Commentary/Reviews – Revit 2018 Review

Hello again readers,
It is time for my annual review of the Revit software, the most commonly used BIM software by architecture students and professionals. The 2018 version was released on April 14 of this month and it contains a lot of minor fixes. They moved the print button to the quick launch ribbon, so you don’t have to go through the Revit R pull-down anymore to print something. The Revit R pull-down has also undergone a transformation. The big R has been reduced to screen minimization/maximization and closing the app now and does nothing else with its core functionality moved to a new file tab in the UI. (see below) My question is why keep the R at all?

The New File Tab

Another cosmetic change is the addition of stretchable dialogs for sheet names. In prior versions you had to go through some gymnastics to see the entire name of the sheet if it possessed a long title. Below is a photo of the new stretchable dialog box.

Variable Size Dialog Box

The Revit app also added more robust support for reference planes within families. In prior versions, you could always align a family off of the centerline reference plane within the family (useful for aligning or measuring from the centerpoint to the centerpoint of multiple windows for example). The app now picks up all reference planes within the family and allows you to see the name assigned to that plane if you named it within the family so you can know what plane you are aligning to. The photo below shows the prompts that you get from attempting an align with a family based reference plane.

Notice the little dialog that indicated the plane & its type (strong or weak reference)

They also added support for adding common architectural symbols to text inserts. In prior releases you had to open Microsoft’s Character Map and then copy and paste the character to get the symbol you wanted. Now you can just right click, select symbol and select from a list of symbol options. I know I used to have to go poking around for the diameter symbol a lot, so that is a nice addition.

All of this sounds like small potatoes, which it is, and if this were all we were getting I would recommend not bothering with the upgrade and sticking with the current version, however they did make some important changes to this release as well. The biggest change which has been a long, long time coming is the ability to host a railing to a topo surface. You can now create a fence that follows the terrain without going through the pain of creating an adaptive family for each fence post to do it. This is huge.

The developers also upgraded railing support and multi-story support to make it actually adaptable. In prior versions anytime you altered a previously created stair, you always ran the risk that any alterations made after the fact would hose the railing attached to it. There was always railing cleanup after changing the stair configuration. Extending the railing off the stair would bring the entire railing to ground level or you would get a railing that wasn’t parallel to the stair, or most often you would get the annoying please split the railing dialog to tell the application where the stair run should end. Railings and the railing editor have always been a weakpoint of the Revit application; the addition of actual adaptable railings should help minimize the pain of creating stairs. These railing upgrades are an important first step, but the railing editor still isn’t completely fixed and still needs a complete overhaul. The user still lacks the ability to create a complex railing where you can independently set the distance between different balusters without using that god awful railing dialog.

Multi-story stairs systems now will work even if you have uneven heights between levels. That is a nice time saver.

You can have varying heights between levels now

Other nice upgrades include more robust support of imported Rino models. You can dimension off of the imported elements as well as Revit seeing them as their own family (without embedding them in a mass family/generic model first) as well as being able to place Revit families on the surfaces of those imported objects (see below).

A light fixture family was affixed to this imported Rino object
Check out this video for a demonstration of the workflow for importing non-Revit native objects.

For further details on the new features in Revit 2018, check out Revitpure’s blog post.