My first comments on the 1.0 design as shown in the 3D CAD view are
- We would like to extend the deck around most of the
south side of the house, rather than have separate decks.
- Currently the glass goes straight up, flush against the inside edge of
the angled columns. We would like to push the glass out at least
half a column to form recessed nooks for reading couches on the inside.
It could, in fact be an angled pane of glass, parallel to the outside slanted edge
of the stone column. This would create a much stronger sense of separate
“living centers” as Christopher Alexander would say. It also createst a
stronger definition for Gigi’s studio on the southwest corner of the house. For the
same reason, we also would not want the glass to go all the way to the outside
edge, but allow the column to form recessed area on the deck.
- The tall windows are beautiful, but at present it almost feels like too
much exposure. We’d like to keep the “lean-to” style of the southern part
of the house, but would like to think of a way to someway provide more
deep shade /privacy for the deck that would now extend around the south.
One possibility that has occurred to me for item #3 is to add a set of hinged
“eaves” to the upward-sloping roof, that when deployed drop down from the
roof edge, parallel to the outside column line. Here is a sketch of the idea:
Another idea for #3 that I’m no longer enthusiastic about was to add a
downward sloping roof on part of the house, forming a sort of clerestory
window in between. Here is an example from an interior of
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West House
(taken on the roadtrip following our wedding in Sedona):
Note the tilting window and that the downward-sloping roof forms a space
for a clerestory window at the top. Kind of a neat effect, I think. You can
even see a strong resemblance to the stone column of the Taliesin room
and our columns. If you were to move the lower roof up about a foot or two
it would still provide a nice framing for the moutain views, but still creating
a much more sheltered feel for the deck.
I don’t like this approach as much as the “deployable eave” concept, because
it destroys Ray’s roof line, which I like, and requires a lot more engineering
to support that big second roof. The eaves idea doesn’t tweak the structure
at all, and is simple.
Ray Gardner just sent us some screenshots of a 3D CAD model
of the current (version 1.0) floorplan
(click to enlarge):
He also sent us the actual SKP format cad file that you can look at, walk-through etc
using a free Viewer. You can either download it directly from Sketchup.com
(they want your email address and blood type etc), or else here are the free viewer
installers I already downloaded for Windows and Mac OS X (Classic macs and linux systems are out of luck).
Looking at the 3D cad model and spinning it around has already helped us figure out some
of the things we need to change. By the way, don’t take the size of the people in the
model too seriously for a sense of vertical scale: we’ve figured out that at this scale those people are almost 7 feet tall !
Our architect Ray has sent us an aerial photo of the site, together with an
overlay of his first draft of the floorplan:
The floorplan itself is available as a PDF file, which you can dowload here.
Here is a mosaic of a set of shots at the center of our property,
done by our architect:
(click to enlarge)
Gigi is looking due south, at Eagle Crags, while to the far right is Mount Kinesawa,
part of Zion National Park.
We met with Ray Gardner on Monday and worked out our first real bubble diagrams.
Here is what we came up with (south is down):
(click to enlarge)
The interesting thing about this is that it is very similar to the “version zero” diagram, in spite of
the fact that this one was drawn freehand by Ray, and we did not show him the first diagram, nor
did we tell him where to put things. All he did was ask a few questions, and the thing just unfolded
from his own knowledge about views, light, room placement and the like.
I’ve never really liked these things that Frank Lloyd Wright did
that have all the circles in them. It’s pretty in an abstract sort of
way, but I wouldn’t want to live there:
One of the things that Christopher Alexander says about all this is that the
architect allowed an abstract image or idea take precedence over the life
of the site, and the people that were to be using it. In Wright’s case, he was
at war with “The Box” at the time, and using circles seemed like a good idea
at the time. It just doesn’t look like a friendly place to sit around in and read
Another one we like is Fallingwater. This place seems very alive, and appears to grow out of the site, made out of the same rock and earth (click to enlarge). The horizontal planes and vertical stone walls look like features that would fit well in our own site.
We’ve heard that the engineering in the place was faulty, however, and there have been some heroic efforts lately to keep the cantilevered concrete slabs in one piece. The lesson there is to know your materials, and to not sacrifice good structural integrity to artistic imagery.
This is a first attempt to get down on paper a bubble diagram of all the stuff that
we want to go into the house (click to enlarge):
Clearly this thing needs work. There is a sort of clam-shell appearance right now, which
comes from the vague idea that we want to take advantage of the panoramic views in
the south-facing direction, and that we are on a slight slope heading south, towards
the bottom of the page. Consequently, the bubbles at the top of the page are not actually
at the same level as the lower ones, but about a half or quarter of a floor up.
I took a couple of digital photos of the site and combined them
into a single red/blue (or red-cyan) color 3D anaglyph photos,
which you you view below (click to enlarge):
If you look closely, you can see Gigi and Ray Gardner, our architect, in the middle
right portion of the picture. This gives you a sense of the scale.
If you do not have 3d red-blue or red-cyan glasses (JPL recommends cyan),
you can get a couple of pairs (or 50) from here.
Wish List: (aka Ask for the Moon, and maybe you’ll get half):
Ideally, when walking into the house you should feel a sense of relaxing, of coming home, the pressure off. Here is where you can be yourself and enjoy life.
Rustic beauty. Should come from the natural way that it expresses the life of the people that live in it, and not from any preconceived notion of “style”.
- Stone, Glass and Wood.
Niles grew up with stucco. That was enough. We see stone floors, lots of glass for the views of Zion, and some interior and exterior wood accents, such as cedar, which is common in the area.
- Books, Books, Books:
We read. A lot. Bookshelves by the kitchen for cookbooks, bookshelves underneath window-seats for something to read while
enjoying the view, bookshelves in the bedroom.
- The Deck:
Barbeque on one side, Jacuzzi on the other. The deck is at least partly covered by a long shading roof extending out from the great room. At one place along the shaded part of the deck, there should be at least hooks for a hammock. Another possibility is to have a mist generator on the eaves for hot days, which are many.
- Views and Light:
Our lot has almost 360 degree views. We see the deck growing out of the Navaho sandstone with a south-facing view, skylights.
- Great Room:
Old houses have all these claustrophobic little boxes called formal dining rooms. We do our own cooking and would like to see and talk to people while we’re cooking. Ideally, it will open out to the deck with the view. The kitchen will have an island which will have the main burners, with suspended hangers for various pots and pans.
- Master Bedroom with fireplace:
ideally the fireplace is shared in the stone wall between the bedroom and the great room.
- Guest Room / library:
We should be able to accomodate one couple and their kids.
- Entertainment area
Occasionally we watch TV or DVD movies. We admit it. Never during the day, though so the best thing would be to have a suspended projection TV with a screen that retracts. Probably can be integrated with the great room.
Nothing fancy. It is probably a good idea to have a simple base on the hard bedrock to avoid vibration of the telescope, with some kind of retractable cover. Could be integrated with the separated studio by the garage.
A studio for getting away and studying, reading, writing and what not. A place for Gigi to get away and read, such as a loft.
- Storage Room / Pantry/ Cellar
A place to store long-term food, wine and the like. Ideally it would be in an earth-cooled cellar.
- Laundry/Utility/Mud Room:
With shower, allowing you to come in after hiking the Zion narrows and not get
the rest of the house muddied up.
Ray Gardner emailed to let us know that he was able to get the topo
data from the property management and has rendered our site in 3D to
get an idea of what an 1800 sq. foot square looks like (in white):
Just ordered a couple of books on the “reality” of actually
trying to build your own home. One of the titles is,
“Houses are Designed by Geniuses and Built by Gorillas”.
We can only hope that won’t be the case with our house…
We bought a Garmin eTrex Vista GPS receiver the last time
we went up to the Utah, and got the exact location of the site for our house. It
is located at 37d 09.881′ N, 113d 01.320’W, which you can click on to
see it on the TopoZone website. The squiggly line is Anasazi Way,
but the map is too old to show Hopi Circle.
Useful to know if you want to geocache something there…
Started reading Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order,
in which the architect/philosopher describes his ideas about what makes
a (building | place | town | anything) alive in a real sense. I have found it
to be very illuminating, and in particular it has helped me understand why I very
much like some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, but not others.
Alexander is the founder of the “pattern” concept in architecture, which has gone on to
be used (or misused) in software development, design processes, and even dating. He
has catalogued dozens of patterns that may be used to solve a particular problem, in
such a way that has been found to enhance the “living” nature of the place. For example,
the pattern “ROOMS LIT ON TWO SIDES”, Alexander observes that you should design
rooms so that at least two sides have light coming in, to accomodate the movement of the
sun and avoid having the room too dark at any one time of the day.
In one of his earlier works, The Timeless Way of Building, Alexander
talks about “The Quality That Has No Name”, that refers to any building or place,
in which you feel more alive.
Some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work emphasizes the idea of a building
growing out of its local environment. His Taliesin West house is a good
example of the kind of natural, rustic beauty that we are looking for in
our own house (click to enlarge):
Determined to take the pieces of my novel “The Pythagorean Concerto” (TPC) and start
putting them together. Have not had much success with this to date, and I have been
working on the bloody thing now for well over ten years, since the characters first insinuated
themselves into my waking consciousness.
I’ve decided to try establishing a morning ritual, getting up a bit early and writing at
least something every single day. One thing that Stephen King once recommended
is to simply make the time for writing, but not feel like you actually have to write.
That takes the “gun” away from your head, so you can relax. Maybe you wont write
anything one day, or a single sentence the next. Wait long enough and the flow will
happen (assuming you have anything to say).
Ah, there’s the rub.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same
— “Little Boxes” Words and music by Malvina Reynolds.
I had just gotten back from a business trip when Gigi announced that
she had “made a decision”, as she is known to do. She had decided that
we should look into taking a trip out to Utah to see about buying or building
a get-away home.
It made perfect sense to me. We had been spending the last two years exploring the
borderline psychotic world that the inhabitants call “Southern California Real Estate”,
with its $700,000.00 closets and garish MacMansions. We have often wondered just
what the hell all the people that can afford these things actually do.
The simple fact is that we can’t afford to buy our first home here, so following simple
Alice-in-Wonderland logic, we might as well start out by buying our second home first,
and then working our way up to a first home.