The second in our series of houses for the new year I entitled the Popup Camera House. I fashioned it after an 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
The month of March is dedicated to the 18th century architect Etienne Boullee who was known for has literal use of planar solids in his design output. Very few of Boullee’s designs were ever built, as the scale of his projects tended towards the monumental and achieving the pure shapes he drew was somewhat beyond the construction capabilities of his time period. Boullee is most famous for his cenotaph projects, all of which were never built. His spherical cenotaph dedicated to Newton is probably the most familiar of all of his projects. You can see photos of that in the slideshow running at the homepage of this site. It is interesting to note that today’s architects will often return to the simple shapes that Boullee employed so successfully such as the doughnut shaped Apple campus designed by Foster & Partners or the Buckminster Fuller sphere.
I decided to design something in the vein of Boullee that uses his simple shapes and monumental scale to great effect. My eyebrow house takes a typical eyebrow dormer and transforms that element into a 3-dimensional curtain wall roof. The shape of the eyebrow is repeated on the rear deck mimicking the shape in the roof-line. The side roofs also echo that dormer shape. H.H. Richardson popularized the use of the eyebrow dormer on his masonry clad libraries around New England (as seen below).
My eyebrow house also employs the circle (as seen in the garage door and windows) as well as the use of a pyramid which houses the owner’s study. This house is sited over an ocean vista which I included in the photo from the study. The house itself has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 lavs, 2 elevators, parking for 6 cars, as well as an infinity edge swimming pool & hot tub. Other spaces include a grand formal foyer, a home gym, a formal dining room with its own wine cellar, and a boat dock to allow sea visitors a place to dock. This house is complete fantasy, and most of the elements utilized would never be found in a traditional home. In fact the house is in some ways almost set like. One enters at the ground floor into this surreal columned hall covered with checkerboard tile on the floor and walls. You ascend the stairs inside a hollow large column and arrive upstairs in what appears like an outdoor environment outside of your house. You are inside but seemingly outside at the house’s “front door”. This indoor garden area looks out onto a pond that cascades into a waterfall all of which can be taken in from the gym or before you enter the house. Once past the front door you enter a grand foyer with its own fireplace. You get your first glimpses of the eyebrow roof structure in this room. Beyond the foyer is the main living area. At its center hovering above the seating area is a pyramid supported by 4 columns. The pyramid houses the study but it also serves as a sun shade diffusing the light that comes in from the glass roof. Moving outside, you face a massive sun deck also in the shape of eyebrow. The deck has a water feature that runs around the outside edge reaching out to the sea below. Two shaded pergolas emanate from the side roofs to create shaded area for the master bedroom and the gym. The house is highly symmetrical which contributes to its overall pleasing proportions. Like Boullee’s projects, this eyebrow house would be very complex and very expensive to build despite its spare lines.
This week I designed a house based on the exterior shots of the home used on the ABC family tv show the Fosters, a show about the trials of raising children in the foster care system. Television architecture tends to glorify the exaggerated and often unrealistic lifestyles of the fictional characters created for our tv screens. The typical tv home tends to be much more elaborate and much more costly then what the average person could ever afford and is often much more costly then even what the fictional characters could possibly afford to live in, given their circumstances and backstories. Television by design tends to shy away from the subject of money/jobs or financial status in any detail in the stories, (to keep it light) but our consumer driven culture makes sure that those details aren’t forgotten when the design of space is concerned. Tv homes are stocked with all of the latest wears/fads and fancies that corporate America pushes on us. The Friends NYC loft apartment being the quintessential tv pad that everyone living in NYC would love to inhabit, yet no one could realistically afford.
The Foster’s home is in that rich tradition of grandiose living. The Adams-Fosters family live in a period Craftsman style home with lots of wood paneling, detail and custom touches. Although it is an older home built at the turn of the last century, it manages to exude comfort and livability. Using just the exterior shots taken from a real Craftsman house in the LA area, I designed a similarly ornate Craftsman home that would fit right in in the tv set universe. The house has 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 lavs, a library, a study with its own entrance, a kitchen, dining room, tea room, butler’s pantry, screened porch with garden and outdoor spaces and a 1-car garage to stage all of that tv drama. Even the colors used on the walls are consistent with the Craftsman period making it look authentic.
From time to time I like to revisit previously created work to see if it could be improved or altered for better use and functionality. I created this villa back in 2014 (see post) and this past week revisited it for the first time. I ended up significantly reworking the villa by adding a porte-cochére, removing a couple fireplaces in the foyer/kitchen, eliminating levels in the living area, adding an additional bedroom and bath upstairs bringing the total to a 4 bedroom 4.5 bath house as well as creating outside basement access and housing for the pool equipment. I also eliminated an entire structure, the architect’s office and incorporated it into a home office with its own entrance within the main house. Additional changes might include adding a 3rd bay onto the garage as well, but I opted not to do that. Hope you like it.
Hello again readers,
A belated welcome to the new year. My latest design represents a fusion of styles with elements taken from the Craftsman style, the Shingle style and even elements from a Lutyens English manor. I would say that it is my favorite house design to date. The house has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 lavs and a guest bedroom and bath over the carriage house for visitors. A porte-cochére allows guests to arrive in style without being exposed to the elements. They enter into a mudroom with its own fireplace watched over by the lady of the house cast in stone who sits at the foot of the staircase. Other rooms on the first floor include a dining room, breakfast room, the great hall and the kitchen. The second floor is devoted to the sleeping quarters as well as a library found at the top of the stairs. From the master bedroom access to a third floor study and music room round out the space. The study was designed with a secret panic room as well complete with a concealed door. Look at the photo, can you find it? I bet you can’t. The house has 4 fireplaces and garage space for 1 car. Outside the kitchen is a vegetable garden, a formal garden path as well as a frog pond directly off the patio.