The architect absorbs images, retains thoughts and develops philosophy throughout his lifetime. Inspiration from the design pioneers before him can help shape his direction and provide clarity.
The basic needs of human beings and the subtle variation of the individual are the source of real architecture, as well as, the natural environment and the natural use of materials. Architecture creates timeless, free, joyous spaces for all activities in life. The infinite variety of these spaces can be as varied as life itself and they must be as sensible as nature in deriving from a main idea flowering into a beautiful entity. The overriding essence is bound in the intangibles—life—heart—soul—spirit—freedom enduring within the structure.
The essence of building materials are found within nature as interpreted by man—glass—logs—stone—timber—steel—as they are formed, molded and influenced by their natural surroundings. These materials are used to transform human aspirations into habitable and meaningful spaces.
The following are five examples of my perception of these philosophies and principles as influenced by the lifestyles of the individuals who inspired their creation.
House #1 | Glass
In ice there sleeps forms and styles enough for all the ages as nature’s glass. Architecture is the struggle for light. ~LeCorbusier
The sloping site and the panoramic sierra views were the inspiration to create the transparent house concept. It’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s principle of using wide roof eaves, open porches and a massive chimney to ground the building to its natural surroundings that anchor this house. Rooms open to one another without the boundaries of walls or doors to unite the spaces making the experience of the outdoor seasons a new emotion almost like sitting outside amongst the elements. It raises the feeling of life to a higher level.
The house incorporates steel roofing and eaves, stone, glass and western red cedar to blend into the environment of the surrounding hillside. The materials continue to oxidize and weather with the elements over time.
A 3500 square foot living area that feels much larger than its numbers might imply. Each level steps internally to give special variety and create changing volumes within. Interior metallic tiles, rusted metal wall panels and neutral, warm earth tones supply the canvas for featured photography that is a passion of its owner. A steel structured stairway with cable railing enhances the internal transparency of the spaces. Hardwood and cork floors maintain the natural indoor environment while adding a warm feeling to the rooms.
The house belongs to the hill and they live together as a part of nature’s domain.
House #2 | Logs
The wood, not bought but found, are used true to the rights one dares to take in gratitude from the gifts of nature. These noble and most ancient materials that in all ages inspired numerous and beautiful variations in the expression of their order here were used true to their nature with clarity and economy. ~Louis I. Kahn
A cabin may be defined in several ways and is viewed differently by each person. The “cabin” was used as the basis for this nearly 8000 square foot home. The primary living spaces (living, kitchen, dining) are “the cabin”, focused on the spectacular views of the natural Sierra landscape. These spaces transition to the outdoor terrace and thru the unique indoor/outdoor covered porch. The glass doors of this room slide into the walls to expose the users of this space to the outdoor setting while being sheltered from the sun, wind and snow. It’s a space for all seasons.
The five, bedroom/bathroom suites huddle around “the cabin” as to be circled around a campfire both dependent upon the other. The finishes in each suite were personalized by each of the extended family members. This gave creative license to bond the various design tastes to their owners desired spaces.
The lowest level of “the cabin” provides the opportunity for kids and “adult kids” to play in the recreation area. A pool table, video games and a large television are adjacent to a small kitchen to give everyone the modern day distractions that weren’t available to the pioneers. This separates the main level living spaces so two different types of activities can be enjoyed at one time.
The hand peeled logs from standing dead wood trees and the stone veneer give the impression that this “cabin” has been a part of the landscape for decades.
House #3 | Stone
Stone is the frame on which this Earth is modeled, and wherever it crops out. There the architect may sit and learn. ~Frank Lloyd Wright
Ancient Indian cultures built their shelters into and surrounding stone. It gave them strength and comfort knowing that the earth would always be there to protect them.
This concept drove the client desire to integrate a structure/shelter into the granite monolith. The 2500 square feet of space is molded around this rock and bonded to it as if the building is growing out of the stone. A contemporary southwest influence exploits the views and sun in all directions.
The natural stone intrudes into some of the spaces. Grand kids have a fun challenge using a climbing rope to scale the rocks that access beds perched on the rock face. The rock anchors the “kiva” fireplace in the living area that is surrounded by “satillo” tiles making floor cleaning easier.
Two bedrooms share a bathroom as they step up the mountain above the large volume garage and laundry levels. An elevator gives the option to forgo the hike to the vista level making it easy to bring in groceries and guests who want to enjoy the vertical ride.
There is an outdoor deck that spans over the steep downward crag on the east side of the rock below. It’s anchored to the surrounding stone. Although, the white stucco, hand trowelled walls create a statement during the summer, the white winter snow makes the house almost invisible during the winter months.
House #4 | Timber
In architecture, the end must direct the operation. The end is to build well. Building well has three conditions: Commodity, Firmness and Delight. ~Henry Walton
Man has utilized timber for centuries as a building material to create shelter in extreme environments. Chopping, scraping and cutting wood to fashion it into the shape within his imagination makes each structure unique. Large lodges were built throughout this country that brought families and friends together to enjoy the seasons.
The lodge concept for this home is focused around a forty by sixty foot great room with an overlooking balcony that provides access to the primary bedrooms. The twenty-foot tall retaining walls blend this 7500 square foot, three-story lodge into the hillside. A large kitchen and dining area are separated from the great room by a common fireplace structure. This is connected to the kid’s extension of the home.
The kid’s side has two bedroom bunkrooms with their own bathrooms for girls and boys that share their own recreation area. There are built-in desks and a loft for more friends.
The lowest level of the home houses vehicles and provides the “grown-ups” with a place for shuffleboard and table games. Many a friendly wager has been won and lost her as bragging rights are high stakes for all.
Large old world timbers were reclaimed for the interior structure and dead standing logs were used for the massive interior timber trusses, The interior and exterior railings and trim materials were crafted from dead standing materials which took over two years to assemble. The final result is a place to continue the century long traditions of enjoying family and friends in a timely mountain setting.
House #5 | Steel
Aesthetics from a building’s elemental components creates the beauty and the greatest effect with the least means. Each material is only what we make of it. ~Mies Van Der Rohe.
Organic architecture seeks a superior sense of use and is expressed in a simplistic concept. This house becomes organic on different levels from its design image and use of sustainable materials.
This house uses a metaphor that is a figure of speech in language that likens one object to another. In architecture, it likens one image to another. The image of a pine tree is the inspiration behind this contemporary version.
The house is composed of only a few basic materials: steel, copper, glass, stone and wood. The exterior materials used eliminated the need for exterior maintenance from painting or staining. The roof and eave material is green copper, the beams are steel and the base of the house is natural stone that has the texture of bark, similar to a pine tree. This use of “green construction” saves resources over the life of the building and is resistant from fire.
The complete house is 1200 square feet. The house is a round cylinder at the base like a tree and cantilevers in 13 random directions to reflect the image of branches of a tree. Inside, the small pieces of a pinecone are the inspiration for the door patterns and the shape of the railing pieces. The mesquite cabinets are hand scraped to give a “bark-like” texture. The cabinets are raised high off the floor for easy cleaning. Countertop surfaces are natural stone. The branch-like stairs project from the walls like the twigs of a tree that create a transparent effect in the large glass stairwell.
This house uses many “sustainable green” concepts. It’s maintenance free on the outside as it never needs paint of stain. The design utilizes passive solar principles for heating from the sun. All the excess materials were recycled which reduced waste. Additionally, the house is fire resistant because the outside materials are non-combustible: metal, stone and glass.
The house is set into a small grouping of native pine and fir trees seeking to disguise itself in the forest.