The new American Dream: 100K(+ 20) | Starter Home

Small Bathrooms
October 26, 2008, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For those of you who are trying to squeeze half baths into small spaces: I was at a friends of my parents this weekend, they have an old renovated house that had no bathroom on the first floor.  So they squeezed one into an existing closet. It is about three wide by four feet deep. You kind of have to walk around the sink to get to the stool but still it’s possible without a “prison toilet”

Urban Farming
October 1, 2008, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

This guy from Milwaukee just got a MacArthur grant for his work in urban farming. His company has branches in Chicago as well. Check out this New York Times article.

September 3, 2008, 4:27 pm
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Several books in the library examine Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Houses. Wright’s ambition was too make quality designed housing affordable to the middle class. By creating a set of rules used in his designs, he was able to make houses more affordable for his clients. This rule set change and evolved over time as labor became more expensive and materials cheaper. He later made houses later in the Usonian style for wealthy clients. The basis of design remained similar but the size and materials generally made the houses much more expensive. Regardless of Wright’s style, his motives at the beginning of this phase were good. The country was going through a recession and Wright lost several commissions for large projects. He then turned to houses for work and made them affordable. Since this studio has been given a strict budget it is important that we look at wrights example not to the letter but in spirit.

Rural Studio
September 3, 2008, 4:13 pm
Filed under: precedents, Social / Cultural Issue
Glass Chapel, Rural Studio

Rural Studio provides students a Auburn the opportunity to design and build homes and community buildings for impoverished people in Mississippi. Working on extremely tight budgets (current projects include a $20k house), they find a way to make simple decent

Glass Chapel, Rural Studio

housing for those who would otherwise have very few options. Many of their materials were salvaged from previous buildings or post industrial use. For example, one house uses leftover carpet remnants staked on top of each other essentially creating a highly insulative “masonry” wall. Another project uses dozens of car windshields as rain screen for a chapel and community center. There are two books in the GRC on Rural Studio and Auburns official site can be found here.

The Eyes of the Skin
September 3, 2008, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Social / Cultural Issue | Tags: , , ,

I started this semester by reading The Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa. I have been meaning to read this book for some time now but thought that designing a single family home made the issue even more pressing. The premise of the book is that society and architecture place too much emphasis on vision, at the expense of the other senses. This creates several problems including: spaces that do not address the human interaction with a space beyond focused appearance, the commoditization of images and therefore architecture, and the shift from haptic spaces of nearness and engagement to ones of exteriority and deprivation.

Pallasmaa chooses Caravaggio’s “Incredulity of Saint Thomas” as the cover to illustrate many of the arguments in the book. The doubtful Thomas would not belive his eyes until confirmed by touch, highlighting the weakness of the eye. When designing, we should be conscious of all senses, especially in a setting as intimate as a home.

Pallasmaa furthers his claim of a overly ocular world by saying that it is focused vision that is given too much importance over peripheral vision. This is really just an extension of his prior argument, but a valid claim nonetheless. Peripheral vision integrates one with a space wheres focused sight objectifies the space as well as the viewer. When space is designed with regards to peripheral, the viewer is enveloped in the space and becomes part of the experience.

September 2, 2008, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,


Rather than the simple duality of open and solid, many projects take a less explicit approach. I think the idea of a porous building is compelling for it gives the user of the building a greater variety of experiences depending on position of the user and the time of day, season, etc. For example, Le Corbusier’s Chapel at Ronchamp has walls that are unarguably solid, they are load-bearing masonry walls. Yet they let light through in a quietly beautiful way that one begins to forget about the wall itself and focuses on the light it emits.

Le Corbusier, Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp



Beer Bricks
September 2, 2008, 10:42 pm
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I thought this was funny. Didn’t work out, but still a good idea.

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House Typology
August 31, 2008, 2:34 pm
Filed under: precedents | Tags:


“Even in a cursory study of American house types, it is important to focus on basic forms to achieve an understanding of more complex and sophisticated ones”

-Steven Holl, Pamphlet Architecture no. 9. pg 5.

Early American houses can generally be divided into several main categories, all growing from the original one room house. Houses changed over the years and were added on to, either an addition on an existing house or expanding on an earlier type. The “saddlebag” house type is a two room house on either side of a chimney. Examples of this type exist where the second room was an addition while others were planned as such from the beginning. “Dogtrot” houses were common in the South, where the hot climate made a covered breezeway between two rooms desirable on hot summer evenings. The separated rooms also had the advantage of keeping heat from the kitchen out of the bedroom. Holl’s pamphlet examines several urban house types as well from the “shotgun” houses concentrated in New Orleans to the Rowhouse and Double House found in cities everywhere.

It is interesting to compare the urban and rural houses in the book. Seemingly, the urban houses are dictated by lot size/shape and not much else. Many of the urban house designs are formed with concerns to shared wall, lot lines and street facades. Conversely, rural houses seem more concerned with conservation of materials and response to climate.

The telescoping house seems most out of place of the group, but I think in provides an interesting way of thinking about houses. Many of these houses seem haphazardly put together at first glance, but upon closer inspection follow careful rules of proportion. Many telescoping houses were planned as a “starter home” and added onto later as needed. For any of us who are planning to make a home for two or three people the concept of an expandable home is important.

Driggs Avenue Loft Renovation
August 30, 2008, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Material/Building Systems, precedents | Tags: ,

Matt Gagnon Studio renovated a loft in Brooklyn in which they attempted to completely reuse all materials already present. Sheetrock from the previous walls was cut into six inch wide strips and stacked as partition walls. The walls were then sprayed with sealant to minimize dust. His website is flash based so I cant pull a photo from it but check it out here.

Wheatsheaf Residence
August 30, 2008, 7:14 pm
Filed under: precedents | Tags: , , ,

I like this house because it manages to be open and protective at the same time. One simple ribbon folds to enclose the living space and continues to the floor of the deck. In many ways it is a simplified version of some of Endo Shuhei has done with some of his buildings. The exterior of the curve is corrugated metal while plywood covers the inside. This is a compelling use of two relatively cheap materials. Structurally, six metal “bents” were prefabricated off site and shipped to minimize site disturbance. In addition, pier foundations were used to minimize excavation.

Whaetsheaf Residence by Jesse Judd Architects

located: Wheatsheaf, New South Wales, Australia