a hillside elevation

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Most often, architects design with ‘plan as generator’, that is we begin designing a building with the floor plan, and derive all the elevations, sections, and even details from it.

Today, though, is something different.  This began as an elevation – what you see above.  I was thinking something between Adolf Loos and Irving Gill, with a Richardsonian picturesque quality – a ‘character study’ if you will.  A rectangular volume makes up the center with a cubic one stepped down to the right and a smaller cube to the left, with a stair tower at the ‘rear’.

The plan – below – came after, trying to work out precisely how the different squares and modules worked together, playing localized symmetries and forms against one another, and eventually placing a formal parterre garden on the upper level with a pool deck on the lower, while a gravel auto court fleshes out the public side of the property.

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a studio, hillside

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Small (often illegal) studios riddle the Hollywood Hills, where all ilk of entertainment-oriented folk hash out their hits and edit down their next Oscar-worthy performances. . . or so the stereotype goes.

This is such a studio – a miniature white cube set deep into the hillside with a service shed and private garden adjacent.  Upon approach, only the pyramidal skylight is visible, slowly revealing the tall archways underneath upon descending a spiral stair.  The form itself owes much to both Irving Gill and O.M. Ungers, with a few picturesque moments from Wallace Neff’s Spanish Colonial Revivalism thrown in for good measure.  Upcoming posts will feature the interior of the studio, with that large skylight and intricate trusswork above.

a tale of two long, ‘low’, gables

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What we have today is a study in similarities and contrasts – two houses, separated by a continent in distance (and climate), two distinct architectural styles (and building materials), and about fifty or so years of time (and appreciation.

The first (up top), is McKim Mead & White’s iconic Low House of 1886 at Bristol, Rhode Island, a long shallow gable of shingles, punctured by a subtle staccato of windows and oriels, all subsumed into the larger singular gable form.  The second, Cary Grant’s Spanish Colonial Palm Springs residence of 1930, a shallow stuccoed gable punctured by deep-set windows and shaded by deep eaves and wood porches (now partially obscured by a later Wallace Neff designed addition).*

So naturally, why not try to bang ’em together?  My initial reaction (below) is probably more Low than Grant, with protruding bays and banded windows, but is coated in white stucco like its Californian pedigree.  I suppose a few more deep-set singular casement windows might just do the trick.

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* Apparently, the home was originally constructed by Santa Monica based architect John Byers for one Julian Noles, a recent west coast transplant from Chicago – more info here.

eccentrically braced mies

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While studying for my last licensing exam, I found some simple and elegant diagrams of different steel frame systems (something like this or this).  While the concentrically braced frame has been a hallmark of certain strains of Miesian modernism (Craig Ellwood, anyone? or here), I couldn’t think of an instance where the eccentrically braced frame had made its feature debut.  So I drew one.  I’ll admit that I had recently had octagon houses on the brain, so that same geometry surfaced here, where the eccentric braces on the four principal facades curve back in on each other to form an interior octagonal form, obscured by the square glazed exterior.

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neo-rationalism in the basque country

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In 1980, Jose Ignacio Linazasoro designed a deceptively simple renovation of a town hall at Segura in the Basque region of Guipuzcoa.  While Linazasoro’s current work is of a decidedly modernist vocabulary, his earliest work was more neo-rationalist, taking heavy cues from Rossi and Krier (he even worked in the office of Venturi Scott Brown for a time).  The town hall renovation in question reorganized the historic palacio to front an adjacent garden, adding a deep Syrian arch off of a square brick patio, and a long brick-columned pergola overlooking a deep valley and river beyond.

The top drawing outlines the new garden with an idealized ground floor plan of the palacio, while the drawing below is of the square patio itself, complete with herringbone brickwork, stone jointing, and a partial elevation of the archway.

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a quonset. a barn. a home.

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As any casual observer of this ‘drawg’ will note, I have quite an affinity for the vernacular architectures of the Americas.  My family’s winter trips to rural Oklahoma have offered me a greater opportunity to acquaint myself with the seemingly endless variety that the vernacular languages offord.

This is yet another home in a barn – yet this time a quonset-roofed barn, where the structural rigidity of the expansive roof comes from its circular geometry rather than the elaborate king-post trusses typical of agrarian structures.  The top variation uses shed roof lean-to’s to house ancillary spaces, while placing main living areas under the quonset proper, while the section and plan below explore formal variations on the quonset itself.

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making pj pomo, before he himself was

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The plan above is a direct take on Philip Johnson’s Hodgson House of 1951, at New Canaan, CT.  The original is of the same mid-century modernist vein as his own storied Glass House of 1949, also in New Canaan.  My version keeps the same U-shaped floor plan, but filled out to take up an entire square, and replaces the focal fireplace wall with a half-round bay.  Most dramatically, though, the entire exterior is rendered in brick, including the window openings, which in Johnson’s were a black steel and glass system, no doubt in deep homage to Mies’ contemporary work at IIT, Chicago.  A shallow shingled roof completes the traditional restylization, and makes the whole more reminiscent of the earlier Chicago traditions of Richardson & Burnham.

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greek shingles

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This small home is a take on the shingled row houses of southern New England, particularly by a number of homes I visited on the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border while in graduate school.  The volume is a simple cube, wrapped in shingles for three stories, reflected by a nine-square breakdown in floor plan.  While the precedent is more humble in its vernacular porch, I’ve given it a more deliberately Grecian portico, with a deliberately pedimented end gable at top.  A small ocular window hints at the circular central staircase inside, played against the otherwise rectangular language of the whole.

mid century modernism goes traditional

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Having begun my architectural education in Southern California, Mid-Century Modernism (and especially Richard Neutra*) has always held a place of honor in my personal canon – MadMen be damned.  Among the Eastern variants of that style, the Harvard Five are most likely the most influential.

Today’s work is a variation on Eliot Noyes’ own home at New Canaan, CT.  Effectively, I’ve taken the iconic low-slung, masonry-clad, flat-roofed house and swapped its stylistic elements for more traditional, vernacular ones: an arched entry opens to a colonnaded patio; hip roofs with exposed trusswork sit over the living rooms and bedrooms; and double glass doors replace the sliding panels that so often fail.  A brick variation is below, with jack arches in place of the wood trabeation found above.

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*Growing up around his buildings at the Crystal Cathedral didn’t hurt either. . .

a hillside courtyard

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I don’t know why courtyards intrigue me so much.  Perhaps it’s due to my living in the sun-drenched foothills of Southern California, where courtyard typologies have long dotted the land to provide shade in the summer and protect against winter winds.

Today’s project is yet another courtyard house.  This time stemming from a relative’s home perched atop the rolling hills of San Diego county.  The layout is simple:  A small patio protects the front door (to the left on the drawing), with a living room just beyond, a dining room to the right, and the kitchen and family room further yet; to the left are bedrooms and baths, with a stair down to a lower level tucked into the hillside below; a central courtyard is flanked by a covered patio which opens onto tiered terraces and stairs beyond.

Formally, my initial studies (below) were rather rectangular, with only one oriel window at the family room.  However, I couldn’t resist the fun a pinwheel-ed series of oriels would provide, lending one each to the family room, the master bedroom, a guest bedroom, and the dining room.  Here the plan takes cues from McKim Mead & White’s two casinos at Newport (also here) and Narragansett, with a dash of the Bell House (also here).  The bottom sketch further investigates a circular series of stairs at the patio, referencing the predominance of half-round oriel figures in the remainder of the plan.

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