Storing Architectural Samples in the Studio

I'm limited in the studio by the amount of space available to store things and material samples can take up a lot of room. I've seen many types of storage racks used in studios where I’ve worked and tried a number of things myself here in the studio – from metro shelving, to archival folios and wooden, felt and cardboard boxes and bookcases. The problem: they all keep the materials hidden. So although they’re great from an organizational standpoint from a creative standpoint they're stifling. I’m much less likely to grab a material while designing to help me solve a problem or during a meeting if I have to dig through boxes to find what I’m looking for.

Watch the video to see exactly what I chose and why I think it makes a great storage solution for spaces with organization needs similar to those we find in the design studio.

How to Choose Architectural Materials

Architecture can’t exist on a page it must be built. Transforming drawings and tiny cardboard models into physical reality means choosing materials to represent our ideas. In part four of the architecture short course I discuss materials – how architects choose them, how we know what’s right, how they can shape how we feel in a space, how they influence our designs, and a rubric you can use when selecting your own.

Instead of an abstract exercise, I walk through the precise process I used to choose the materials for the case study project we’ve been following throughout the course.

Links to all my favorite material resources.

Drawing Like an Architect

In this video I share my essential tips for better architectural drawings. It's easy to forget that architectural delineation is part of our craft and - I believe - beautiful drawings communicate more clearly. 
Important concepts discussed:

Making a Short Architecture Film | Behind-the-Scenes

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of a short architecture film. I commissioned this project - a collaboration with Trent Bell Photography - to introduce a little creative friction in my life and architecture practice. I've been thinking about making a documentary film for a long time and this was the year I decided it was time to stop talking about it and make it happen.
Along the way I learned the importance of story and script, how to craft an emotional narrative, how to collect and compose stunning visuals and I expect there's even more ahead as we edit and turn our ideas into reality.

This short vlog catalogues the two-day shoot.

The process indulged my curiosity about film-making and forced me to engage and learn from other professionals with far more experience than I in story-telling and film production. 

This project was treated like everything in my architecture practice: as an experiment and it proved to be a wellspring of new ideas and approaches; exceeding my expectations.

Architecture takes a long time to make. In this way, the short film is a much more immediately gratifying creative outlet. I'd encourage all architects, students and fans of architecture to experiment with it in practice. If you ask similar things of your architecture that you do of a film you may find some surprising inspiration and outcomes.

My deepest thanks to Elise DeRosa for helping me find the story amongst a sea of ideas. To Corey for all his technical support, his keen eye for detail and for fearlessly facing the ravenous bugs here. And, special thanks to Trent for his expert vision and relentless drive to get things aesthetically perfect. I so enjoyed working with you.

I'm excited to share the finished product with all of you shortly. Stay tuned and thanks as always for sharing and supporting my work.

Drones and Architecture | How Creatives Are Using Technology

An in-depth gear review of - what I think - is the best drone on the market today for architects, architectural photographers, and creatives. I discuss the factors that influenced my decision to purchase the Mavic Pro from DJI, unbox it, and describe the use cases and features architects and creatives will care most about.

Factors influencing my decision to purchase the Mavic: cost, portability, camera quality, ease of use, and flight time. The Mavic Pro managed to come out on top in each category almost every time. 

I purchased the Fly More Combo which included extra batteries, a four-hub charger, a car charger, extra propellers, carrying case and a power hub. See the video for the entire unboxing.

I'm using the Mavic Pro as a portable drone for:
- Project documentation
- Presentation + marketing
- Architectural cinematography
- Site analysis
- Topographic mapping
- Construction observation
- Educational tool
- Lead generation (working with Realtors)

I also discuss the essential accessories and apps you'll need to operate the Mavic Pro: 
- ND filters by PolarPro, Airmap, DJI Go 4, UAV Forecast, SunSeeker

I close the video by reviewing current FAA regulations regarding hobby and commercial use of drones in the USA.

Essential Architecture Books

The books in an architect's library provide context for their work: history, precedent, theory, technics, best practices, fresh perspectives and creative stimuli. The ones I return to often are like harmonic frequencies, which continue to vibrate and resonate over time even as my ideology is evolving.

Is it a coincidence that some of the most emotive connections to books and architectural writings were forged in architecture school many years ago? You know how they say the music you’ll listen to the rest of your life is the music you were into when you were 18? That’s how many of these books are for me. So, these precise books may not find the same resonance with you, but as a thought exercise, consider what your library currently says about you, your interests and your blind spots or your knowledge gaps one you might want to fill in.

Books feed the intellect, and a studio full of books assures we're surrounded by the ideas of many – the masters, colleagues, artists, entrepreneurs, performers, and documentarians. They’re a great equalizer when it comes to education and at a fraction of the cost of architecture school.

Be sure to check the resource page for links to all the books I mention in the video. 

Developing the Concept: Architecture Short Course (part 2)

Developing the architectural concept into floor plans, designing the form, and refining the spatial ideas are all covered in part 2 of our architecture short course.

The first step in making the abstract concept real is to sketch a floor plan and then give that plan a three-dimensional form. A floor plan is a quick way of describing the hierarchy and relationship of spaces and it begins fixing their real physical dimensions and shapes. Throughout the design process architects must continually consider the design in both the plan, or overhead view, and the sectional, or volumetric view. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to begin by sketching a plan and then construct a three-dimensional version of that plan either in model form or by sketching.

In order to get to three dimensions, we have to make some decisions about form, space, and order. When we speak about form we’re referring not only to a building’s shape but also to its size, scale, color, and texture…basically, all the visual properties of an object. Form has a direct relationship to space in that it influences both interior and exterior rooms. And lastly, order is how we choose to orient and relate the forms and spaces to each other. This directs the inhabitant’s experience of a place.

We'll review strategies for refining the floor plan, designing meaningful building forms, editing, and converting two-dimensional abstract concepts into three-dimensional buildings.

Architectural Model Making Techniques + Tutorial

One of the driving forces behind my desire to become an architect from a very young age, was model making. Architecture was one of the few professions where sketching and constructing scale models out of cardboard and balsa – what I viewed as playing – was not only acceptable but encouraged.

Although many architects have abandoned physical modeling in favor of computer modeling I've kept it alive in my daily practice. In this video tutorial, I share the techniques I use to make models in hopes that the craft persists as not only a design tool but so we all can experience the pleasure of seeing the world from a different perspective.

 

Architecture Short Course - How Architects Begin the Design Process

All architecture begins with a concept. If you’re struggling to find one, curious as to what one is, or simply wondering how architects begin their projects, this short video course will walk you through the process I use and some of the techniques I rely on to develop architectural concepts all illustrated with one of my residential projects.

Very simply stated, a concept is an idea that underpins your project. To an architect, the concept is what distinguishes a work of architecture from a mere building. At its core, architecture seeks to solve problems. It’s the questions we ask that will determine which problems our architecture will solve. Developing a concept allows us to frame the questions we’re asking and it guides the design process. Choosing the starting point for your design can be intimidating and an early stumbling block for designers of any skill level. But it doesn’t have to be.  

A concept shouldn’t be rigorous; the more malleable it is, the better. In fact, most architecture can’t be reduced to one singular concept diagram rather it’s informed by many concepts working in concert. There may be organizational concepts, material concepts, functional, or structural or formal concepts. Don’t fret if your design idea isn’t reducible to a single elegant black stroke on the page. It’s best to illustrate concept development with a real project as I said. So, we’ll use our Squid Cove Residence as an example. Before we can develop the concept, we have to first understand the practical constraints.

My design process begins only after gathering and assessing all the given parameters for a project. Now, this primarily consists of three types of information. There’s information derived from the site - things like: local climate, the prevailing winds, the solar aspect, vegetation, neighboring structures, the site’s history, and any unique liabilities or opportunities. The site of course also comes along with legal frameworks for development, which describe where and what we can and can’t build. The second type of information we’ll gather is from the client. Every client has a set of cultural beliefs and preconceptions, preferences and agendas. Of course, we’ll want to determine their budget, and understand the personality traits and organizational politics which might also shape the design. The client and the building type together determine what architects call, “the program” which is essentially a detailed accounting of all the spaces the building will contain.

And, the third type of information I gather is related to the building typology – is it a museum, a home…or a school for example? To learn about a building typology we often conduct an analysis of notable or relevant historical precedents. We want to know the essential problems these types of structures grapple with. Understanding the history of the archetype allows us to approach a problem from a fresh perspective. All of this is necessary information that we collect for every project. This inventory can also serve as the progenitor for the design concept – our seed idea. Rather than shunting creativity, these constraints often incite the creative process.

As with a good film, the setting, the characters, the cinematography, and the plot all conspire to make it what it is. It’s the experience you’ll recall rather than the concept per se. Sure, the concept sets the film in motion and it’s the starting point for all that follows. But this concept – the one or two-line description – can’t possible capture the richness and depth of the finished film…or in our case the architecture. Yet without it, the work is unfulfilling and so it should be clear that the concept is necessary for all our work as architects.

Be sure to watch the video for an inside look at how I craft an abstract idea into a home.

Exterior Lighting Concepts

There are two fundamental points to understand about outdoor lighting. The first is that we actually require much less light in outdoor living situations than indoors, which means the overall lighting can generally be more theatrical and less focused on tasks. 

The second is that in lower ambient light situations, we actually prefer lower color temperature light (warmer); it’s actually visually more comfortable. Whether it’s our primal draw to the flickering flame of fire or the fact that warm light renders the skin so naturally, our outdoor design objective is to aim for low, warmly toned lighting levels.

In this video we'll review the general concepts pros think about when considering how to light outdoor spaces. Specific topics covered are:

  1. The Lantern Effect - using a structure's glazed walls to provide ambient light to nearby exterior spaces.
  2. Layering of light - ambient, task and accent light tips.
  3. Path lighting
  4. Color (and) temperature
  5. Object or sentinel lighting
  6. Fire
  7. Wall washing
  8. Dynamic range and dimming
  9. Uplighting
  10. Light pollution

Simplicity - An Architectural Manifesto

A short musing on simplicity; illustrated with residential architecture. Simplicity builds no more than necessary. Simplicity makes room for living rather than things. Simplicity is rational. Simplicity values craft... and material. Simplicity rejects excess. Simplicity invites reflection. Simplicity appears effortless. Simplicity is efficient. Simplicity lends small gestures... great importance.

Translucency (An Architect's Guide)

“Light is to architecture what sound is to music.” (Steven Holl) At the two ends of the spectrum of light control and transmission stand transparency and opacity. Translucency inhabits the broad middle ground between those two. The word “translucent” is derived from the Latin “trans“ ("through") and “lucere“ ("to shine"). Translucent surfaces permit the passage of light while visually obscuring what’s behind it. Historical examples of the use of translucency in architecture abound: the poetic sliced alabaster window above the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the shoji (screens) at the Katsura Villa in Kyoto, the stained glass rose windows at the great Chartres Cathedral in France. And there are countless others.

Translucency promotes ambiguity, a sense of mystery and a complexity that allows for multiple understandings of what a space can be. In the video I review examples which illustrate the power of this ambiguity as well as the practical things you need to know when employing translucent materials in your project.

Other topics covered: - How iron impacts the color of glass - Walls, floors, stairs - Material properties and options - Using transparency to imbue a design with meaning (be sure to catch the last project in the video)

How a site can shape a home

Good design is the result of strong, simple concepts that give meaning to a home's shape, form and materials. When you look to your site for inspiration, these ideas often arise very naturally. A site is composed of many things: topography, plants, trees, regional and local climate, surrounding structures, water bodies and zoning and code regulations. Each site has very specific solar orientations, views (good and bad) and often a very explicit character. Each one of these areas is an opportunity to generate a meaningful conceptual approach for your home design — a way to devise its shape, layout, form and materials. In this video I discuss the strategies architects use to find design inspiration and derive meaningful architecture from a home's site.

Designing a Long Kitchen Island

In this video I discuss design considerations for extra-long kitchen islands. We dig in to the benefits: added prep, seating, counter and storage space - among others. I also highlight special considerations: traffic flow, seams and more you'll want to pay attention to when designing a long island. As our kitchens have become more and more connected to our living spaces, they’ve changed from being solely utilitarian to being social gathering hubs. The island is often a central player in having a whole host of functions now, and the longer it is, the more function you can pack into it.

Typical kitchen islands range between 7 and 10 feet; the long islands in this video begin at 12 feet and they have definite advantages; however, they're not without a few special planning challenges.

Specifics covered: - Circulation - Clearances - Flexibility - Focus - Function - Spatial definition - Seating + dining - Materials

Modern Barn Doors

In this video we continue our look at the studio project as we construct and install our modern barn doors. Want the details? Download here

Materials: aluminum tube subframe, vertical wood intermediate supports, Hardiepanel siding, barn door track and accessories. Alum. frame fabrication by: Lyman Morse

Studio Project: Plywood (as a wall finish)

My design studio acts a lab for experimentation, in this video I discuss lessons learned from installing plywood as a finished wall surface. The four main discussion points covered are:

1) Material thickness: 1/2" - 3/4" typical range. NOTE: if you're using sprayed foam insulation in your walls, the plywood covering must act as an ignition barrier for the foam - thickness will be critical. Thickness also affects: translation of framing inconsistencies to the finished surface, stability and price.

2) Panel cores and veneer faces. Steer clear of the Chinese Plywoods. Choose panels from the same lot and age if possible. Veneer plywood has a front and back side; the less banded side is the finished face. Take care when cutting to avoid material blow-out.

3) Attachment. Concealed versus exposed fastener. I recommend a concealed clip as well as a tip for aligning the finished face of the panels (it's a special fastener).

4) Finishing. Determine the project goals first, then select the finish. Mine were: - Low sheen - Preserve natural wood appearance - Easy to apply - Non-yellowing

I review oil-based and water-based finishes, Danish oil, spar varnish, paste wax, natural soap (Hans Wenger furniture), and finally WOCA oil + lye.

For a broader material discussion please see the video for part 1...

As always I welcome questions and feedback; you can reach me at: eric (at) thirtybyforty.com

Studio Project: Concrete Slab (as finished floor)

In this video I discuss five important considerations with a concrete slab that will act as a finished floor:1) Installer / subcontractor 2) Color 3) Consistency 4) Control joints 5) Reinforcing

You might also consider building a mock-up especially for large floor areas to ensure you’re getting the finish you expect.

I finish the video reviewing progress with a timelapse video of the slab placement and finishing. Framing is up next...

As always I welcome questions and feedback; you can reach me at: eric (at) thirtybyforty.com

Flat roofs and snow: 5 myths (busted)

In this video I dispel 5 common myths surrounding the use of flat roofs in snowy climates. The very notion of shelter is linked to the image of a roof above our heads. And while the elements of snow and rain may shape our living habits, advances in material technology and application now afford us a broad range of choice when it comes to the shape of the roofs over our heads. Contrary to popular belief, even those of us living in extremely snowy, wet environments are able to live beneath a flat roof. 

 

Designing a Small Studio - Lighting Plan (Part 7)

In this video I discuss the development of the lighting plan for our small studio project. I begin by discussed the (3) elements every professional lighting plan includes: ambient, task, & accent lights. I also describe a useful guideline for figuring out the amount of light required in a space as well as how I've applied the building concept to the lighting plan.I end the video by discussing a simple affordable fixture, why I chose not to use exposed conduit in spite of the aesthetics, and how to think about the location of your electrical panel (stay until the end for a cool little trick I employed).

Thanks for watching...