Architecture News – Australian Home of the Year Selected

In news from Down Under, the Australian annual Home of the Year award was awarded to the Shearer’s Quarters, a property located on the island of Tasmania. The project was designed by John Wardle Architects and features a linear open plan concept with a minimal building footprint. Below are photos of the property. The house is designed with sustainability in mind using many recycled materials from the area. I love the living room in this design, but I don’t care for the all wood paneling featured in the sleeping quarters and hallways. That reminds me too much of 1970’s ski lodges, but I completely understand how the wood paneling would be aesthetically appropriate in a camp setting.

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Note: All photos courtesy of John Wardle Architects

Click here to visit the contest’s website for details on the other winning entries in the home of the year contest.

John Wardle Architects Website

Residential Design – The Artist’s Home & Gallery

Hello again readers,

This week a house created using circles. Throughout history there have only been a handful of circle based designs that achieved notoriety. The pithy of circle homes comes from the fact that the shape is difficult to construct and costly to build. The most famous circle building in Architectural history being the Pantheon in Rome, Italy. I designed this circle house for a successful artist who wanted a home and a place to exhibit his work. Along with the gallery space, the main house has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths with a 2 car garage. My design joins the 2 circles with an octagonal foyer so that the footprint resembles a pair of glasses.

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Residential Project – Mitre House

This design was heavily influenced by a retreat in Spain, called the Cordoba House. The retreat was designed by Emilio Ambasz as a place of meditation and reflection. The signature element of the house being two tall walls that create enclosure as well as supporting an observation deck at the top of twin staircases. This simple design decision created arguably one of the best architectural projects that I have seen to date. Even more remarkable is the fact that the house was designed in the 1975, yet this still looks amazingly timeless and fresh.

The Cordoba House, Cordoba, Spain

The creation of a corner is so basic yet so powerful. Inspired by the corner and its enclosing effect, I opted to create the opposite effect by opening up the corner which created an entry point while at the same time articulating a mortise and tenon effect in the walls which created windows for my design. The two corner walls resulted in a building footprint similar to a piece of pie.

Arriving at the house, one descends a short flight of stairs to the basement entrance. Once inside you begin your ascent up into the house via a grand stairwell or if you are lazy you can take the elevator. All living spaces are on the second floor with bedrooms on the third floor. The house has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths with a basement garage. All of the bedrooms are placed around a central rotunda, with an occulus opening onto the living room below.

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Residential Design – Climbing the Mountain

To celebrate Independence Day here is my latest design. This modern house shaped like the Price is Right game Cliffhangers is a 3 bedroom 2.5 bath home with a 2-car garage and attached screen porch. Cool features include a Juliet balcony looking down on the living room and an expansive deck off of the master bedroom. I will often sketch out a plan and then model it if I feel it has potential. Below you can see the original sketch and compare it with the final product. Happy climbing.

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Residential Project – Waterwheel House

This design was based around the desire to incorporate a water wheel, ramp, and a skylight into a house. The skylight and water wheel made it in, the ramp got chucked. This design is sited adjacent to a fast flowing brook making hydo-power generation possible. This 3 bedroom 2.5 bath house with attached 2 car garage features soaring ceilings in the main living spaces and views of the water wheel from the dining room. An adjacent bluestone patio off the living room offers plenty of outdoor living opportunities with its built-in grill. Another added bonus is the inclusion of a laundry chute to eliminate carrying clothes downstairs to the laundry facilities. Below are photos and plans for this watery design.

Design Gallery

Architect Profiles – Voysey & Lutyens

Deanery Gardens - Home designed by Lutyens

Hello again readers,

I came across this lecture from 2010 presented by the Essex Library and Centerbrook Architects, a well-known firm based in Essex, CT that gave a talk on the life and work of Edwin Lutyens and Charles Voysey. It was interesting and worth seeing. I learned a bit about where they got their inspiration for their designs and some of the background behind their work. The sound on the clip is a little scratchy but is still tolerable. The lecturer is Charles Bensen, an architectural history professor from Bolder, Colorado. He has also given lectures on Antoni Guadi at the same series. The lecture is 1 hour. Click here to take you to the download site for the lecture. Press the download button and right click SD .MP4 file selecting save link. The lecture should download to your desktop for viewing. Enjoy.

Photo Of Lutyens
Photo of Voysey

Residential Project – Fun in Finland

Hello again readers,
It has been a while since I created a new design, so without further adieu here it is. I titled this project Fun in Finland as the house uses many of the design principles and forms of Finish architect Alvar Aalto, whose work was recently featured in the rotating photo album on the site. Aalto was best known for his libraries, municipal buildings (i.e. town halls) and concert halls. In his later years he was a professor at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. This brick complex is a 4 bedroom 3.5 bath residence with a 2 car garage and a separate home office adjacent to the house complete with separate entrance and guest parking for customers. The design reflects the pulling apart of two forms that could have been previously joined. In between the 2 forms is a rock garden that forms a contemplative courtyard for arriving guest to the house or the office. In true architectural form, the window pattern mimics the symbol for a pocket door. In addition to the office space, the house also features a green roof above the garage. Access to the roof garden is through the kitchen or the living area making the green roof the ideal location for a home vegetable garden. There is also a special meditation space above the master bedroom that could be used as a study or just a place to relax and unwind. This house uses a series of ramps to traverse the 3 floors of the house instead of traditional staircases. Feel free to comment as usual.

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Architecture News – Finalist Selected for National Mall Projects

Wining Design

Hello again readers,
It has been almost a month since my last post, due in part to the lack of anything noteworthy to post about the industry in general. The architecture profession remains mired in recession still reeling from the residential housing collapse combined with the fact that the top 1% (the primary client base for architecture services) has been hording all of their funds keeping future projects unrealized. This deadly combination of factors has all but killed the industry. The prospect of further economic trouble in Europe will likely result in more job losses and further consolidation to an already crippled profession. On a personal note, I have been busy with other work so I have not had time to design anything new of late, however I will be posting again shortly.

Recently the wining design for the National Mall was announced. The project called for proposals to redesign Constitution Gardens shown below as it exists today.

Constitution Gardens Today

Many radical designs were submitted by many big name firms, but the committee opted to select the most restrained and conservative option. The winning design submitted by Roger Marvel Architects & PWP Landscape Architecture features a restaurant pavilion with a skating pond integrated into the existing lake. I feel the committee made a good choice. Some of the other options were a bit too wonky and cutting edge for the sedate and traditional monument lined streets of DC. Below are renderings of the wining design. For further info see the following article.

Software Review – Revit 2013 Architecture

It is April and time for my annual review of the new release of the Revit Architecture software. With each passing year the software seems to become more and more bloated (or robust depending on your view of things). The Revit families and material libraries that are downloaded from Autodesk during the install of 2013 are up to 800MB now, so you need a machine with lots of free space and memory for it to run. But enough on the install process, lets get right to the good, the bad, and the ugly for this year’s release of Revit Architecture.

First the Good
Revit has finally allowed for the creation of a legitimate T-based stair like the one shown in the photo below. Prior to this release, the best you could do is make a 2 run stair and then make another separate stair starting at the landing of the first stair to create the right side of the T. This was awkward and required determining the height of the landing of the first stair among other things. Given the robustness of the program and just how common a T stair is, it is amazing that it took this long to finally get that feature into the program.

Creating a T stair is a bit complex using Revit 2013, but it least it possible now. I was surprised that they (Autodesk) bothered to create a single button based option for winder stairs (considering these are rarely used today and against code in all commercial/civic buildings) but they opted to skip a single button option for the much more common T stair.

Here is a link to a video demonstrating how to create a T Stair in Revit 2013.

The whole stair tool user interface was also given a huge upgrade which was very much needed. Stairs and railings now are automatically created and dynamically adjust to meet the levels in your project. No more editing railings post stair creation to reflect landings and stopping points after the fact. You can also specify where you want the railing to attach to the stair; at the tread or the stringer which is really nice.

Option for selecting tread or stringer circled in red in UI

I also liked that they now number the risers so you don’t have to count stairs anymore, which is nice.

UI indicates riser number at beginning and end of run

Spiral stair logic was also upgraded. Prior to this release you could never create a true spiral stair that had more than 16 risers to reach a level without exceeding the 360 degrees radius within the run command, so using the run command for a spiral stair was not only confusing but kind of pointless. Also creating a fully code compliant spiral stair involved guesswork trying to figure out how the angle between risers shown in Revit correlated with what code dictated for min tread depth on the outer edge of the stair. The new stair UI makes things much easier.

Other nice additions
For those users with the latest and greatest video cards, a new interactive ray-trace feature was added. This allows users to instantly see a 3D view rendered without going through the hassle and downtime of waiting for a rendering session to complete. My video card was too old for that feature to work properly but I like that it is now available.

Screen Capture of raytrace session

They also added Bentley modeling import capability for users of that program.

The Bad
Material libraries still continue to be a huge headache. Every year they add more complexity, data fields and bloat to the dialogs. In Revit 2013 you now create individual custom libraries for each project. You can then specify a storage location (i.e. on your computer or a remote server) for those libraries. This feature was designed to dovetail with server-based and cloud-based support utilized in very large architecture firms. For the single seat user whose projects all reside on their local machine it is just unnecessary. In my mind, the old Accustudio static library (found in Revit 2008) approach to material management worked best. The library is created once and all the materials you created over your lifetime of using Revit are always available for every new project, no maintenance or yearly upgrade process. I understand the need for project and file portability, but you spend more time upgrading your old libraries to meet the ever changing standards that Autodesk creates that it easily requires a full time person to maintain and upgrade these ‘floating’ libraries with every new release of the product. When will Autodesk realize that this is a huge and I mean huge productivity drain for an office.

The Ugly (The Microsoft Mentality towards UI Design)
Autodesk has unfortunately opted to follow Microsoft’s practice of burying functionality under countless dialog boxes and buttons just to execute a specific function. Lets compare the old UI (Revit 2009) versus the new UI (Ribbon) to illustrate. In the photos below I chose to execute the stair command within Revit and these two screen captures illustrate what the user experiences for both UIs. With the old UI, all the options for a command were clearly visible for the user to choose and select. Encapsulating the options for a command within the function dialog was more concise and logical instead of searching for the button on the ribbon that does the same function within the new UI. Put another way, there is no wayfinding with the Ribbon user interface.

The Stair Function with the Ribbon UI

To a new user of the product, you are left wondering what button on the ribbon do I select. Only after scrolling the mouse over the draw button do you see the same options that were all clearly visible in the old UI. Making the user read the labels of all the tabs in the ribbon and then having them decide which button they should press is not terribly intuitive and creates an unnecessarily steep learning curve for new and existing users of the product.

Many would argue rightly that the new UI is better in that you aren’t switching between the tabs to access functionality. The old UI only allowed you to access sections under the basic and drafting tabs which made for unnecessary mouse clicks to access that particular function. A software developer would also point out that the tab architecture is more associated with early Microsoft apps then the Ribbon, yet it executes the command much faster. The ideal outcome would have been to integrate the customized quick launch toolbar and retain the command structure associated with the tabs, but the likelihood of that happening now seems pretty slim as Autodesk has fully embraced the ribbon and it is now in its 3rd year of use.

Overall Assessment of Revit 2013
The stair improvements in Revit 2013 are great, but it is not enough to make me upgrade from the far superior Revit 2011 version that still supports the old UI without the server bloat or the fussy dialogs and configuration settings. That is my take, I welcome other opinions so feel free to comment on this article.

Residential Project – Rocky Mountain High

This week I present a house set in Colorado. The house is clad in a rusting steel that matches the rust colored plains that lead into the Rocky Mountains while the front windows are covered with a series of punched holed steel panels that diffuse the light into the house and provide privacy. The views are what this house is all about. The master bedroom looks out over the mountain range while one of the smaller bedrooms offers views from an expansive deck. A tread only stair leads up to the roof deck for the greatest view of all. The house has 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, along with a swimming pool with outdoor shower and an enclosed carport. The house also has a separate study and home gym. If that wasn’t enough, the house uses ramps to facilitate circulation through the different levels on the ground floor so it would work for someone who has difficulty with stairs.

Image Gallery with Plans