Here’s a plan of a home. Can you tell what the home looks like by looking at the plan? No? I can’t either.
How about the elevation below? Does it help? My answer would be, “a little, but I still don’t really get it.”
Part of my job is to help clients visualize the home I designed for them before it’s built to ensure they are satisfied with my work. Plans and elevations are not enough. These two dimensional representations simply cannot convey the feeling of three dimensional spaces or the impact of the architecture on the site. Virtually walking through the home via a 3d computer model provides a much greater understanding, but does not quite paint the whole picture, either.
But a rendering… now that can capture the essence of a design in an artistic way like nothing else can.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are four thousand:
Throw in a view or two from another perspective, and now you actually understand what you are building.
To this day, it amazes me that the vast majority of homes, even very expensive ones, are built with, at best, a few elevations and a plan. No physical model. No computer model. No renderings. I don’t know how they know what they are getting. Maybe they don’t care.
I am currently designing an island home, so it only seems fitting to also create an architectural logic puzzle based on a classic conundrum:
An architect, engineer and contractor are constructing a home on an island. They are not getting along. As happens frequently on construction projects, the engineer is having an affair with the contractor’s wife. To add to the friction, the contractor has stated in no uncertain terms that his two-year old child could draw a better set of plans than the architect (this also happens frequently, but not to us 😉 ).
At the start of the workday, they arrive together at the shore. It’s a low budget project and the only way onto the island is via a small ferry that can hold two people (and one of the two must be the ferryman).
If the contractor and architect are left alone on either the island or the shore, the architect will pummel the contractor.
If the engineer and contractor are left alone, well, let’s just say the engineer will require additional structure for support.
The architect and the engineer, on the other hand, are BFF. They can safely be left alone together.
When the three are together, one of them always intervenes in the others’ dispute, thus avoiding calamity.
So, how can the ferryman bring everyone to the island without incident (alive and unbound), and save himself the extra trip of ferrying a medic across to clean up the mess?
When you build a home on a mountain, great views are par for the course. But on this mountain in Sonoma, California, you regularly find yourself on top of the world. This is a home I designed on the Gustafson Family Vineyards.
Pop the Champagne! After an extended, protracted and strung out (not to mention lengthy) approvals process, we received our final development permit for a home in Calabasas, California (near L.A.). We garnered unanimous approvals from the Planning Department, Architectural Review Committee, Planning Commission and City Council, without a single voice of opposition. Apparently this is a first for this community. If you are interested in the process, check it out here:
Peekaboos between spaces make for interesting homes, creating an alluring tease which gradually reveals what lies beyond. Trust me, it’s much more fun than showing it all at once. Yes, this applies to architecture, too. In this example, a curved wall separates the foyer from the living room, and another separates the living from the dining. Combine this idea with the concept of layering spaces (a topic for another post), and you really have something.
Cross-country flight today, seated next to a young girl, 6 1/2 years old (not 6 or 6 1/4, but 6 1/2. Very important) and her mom. She didn’t have anything to do, so I gave her my sketchbook to color in and we chatted for much of the flight. Kids like Disney World. Who knew? She left me this note.
Yet another reason to always carry a sketchbook (and multi-pencil)!
While randomly thumbing through one of my sketchbooks, I came across this little drawing. I didn’t recognize it at first, then realized it was my initial concept sketch for a mountain home in Montana. I guess it bears some resemblance.
What a difference perspective makes! These two images show the same modern, glass house in Sonoma, California photographed from vantage points only fifty feet from one another (same day, same camera, same lens). Naturally, you would think they were two similar homes on dramatically different sites – one perched on a mountaintop and the other nestled in a serene valley.
It just goes to show what a slight change of perspective can do. Interestingly, it works the same way in life.
What was the driving factor in the design of this mountain home? Context.
I designed this modern, rustic mountain home at the Yellowstone Club in Montana with an aesthetic of rugged luxury specifically to integrate with the other mountain homes in the area. In many ways it is unique, but it has underlying characteristics that allow it to blend, to fit in, yet retain its own identity.
Heavy wood timbers
Rough textured, natural materials
Hand crafted details
Solid, heavy metal connections
Large windows comprised of many smaller windows
Strong connection to the earth via stone base and walls
Why was context the driving force behind this design? Because all communities, towns, and neighborhoods have a sense of place, sometimes distinctly good, sometimes awful, but most often unremarkable. Some, however, are extraordinary, like the Cotswolds, England. We cherish these places, and for good reason. They have a fabric that ties them together which is based in large part on architecture. Most are not the children of forethought and planning, but came into being spontaneously and were nurtured over many years.
While many are resilient, some are fragile. Sometimes one thoughtless building can rip the fabric. Imagine a modern, white building in the middle of the Cotswolds. I bet it wouldn’t last a week before an angry mob with pitchforks and torches descended upon it. I’d be the one carrying the gasoline.