Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

Clarkitecture Part 2 – Being Sustainable

Small Houses

Houses where every structural slant doubles as a ramp, steps are sliding drawers and book shelves become ladders.

Nora House by Atelier Bow-Wow       &      VH R-10 gHouse by Darren Petrucci, AIA

Small Houses remind me of building small retreats in corners of my back yard, escaping into the nearby creek while visiting my grandparents in Ohio and playing house around concrete basin that had fallen into the earth.  A house is about owning shelter for yourself, acting in self-reliance toward the way you care for your life. You may bake, or garden, or sew by the window, but a house is  for bathing, eating, and sleeping.

Jane F. Kolleeny, writing for Architectural Record’s Record Houses in 2008, acknowledges Thoreau’s philosophy of self-reliance and simplicity, which lead me to search for his thoughts, a few of which are below:

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts, of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone.
Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do.
All by Henry David Thoreau
Walden, published in 1854 is Thoreau’s thoughts and experiences in his exploration of living and adventure, I think I will go to the library for lunch tomorrow.
Architecture Building Sustainably Environmental

Clarkitecture Part 1 – Being Sustainable

Building Locally, Carefully and with Relationships that Exist on site.

The Palmyra House by Studio Mumbai

(a new house)

As I read that one could only walk to this house through the forest, as it rests below the canopy of a coconut plantation, so as not to disrupt the palms, as the two-piece house alludes, I wished to visit this Indian mangrove. Prathima Manohar writes that the architect Bijoy Jain designed the house with signature louvers made from the tree’s cut, dried and locally harvested wood, setting a course of using sustainable, regional materials to guide the project. Like Louis Kahn’s Esherick House, it breathes, inhaling with the breezes, sleeping near the coconut crabs and waking with the Bulbul birds.

In Christopher Hawthorne’s opinion:  Rather than aiming for a kind of spare, Modernist universalism… it takes its formal cues from its region, landscape, and context—and then, significantly, coats it with a sheen of sophistication that reflects the challenges of building locally in a globalized world. This sensibility is illustrated by Studio Mumbai’s stunning Palmyra House on the Indian Ocean…


Passive with Natural Illumination and Ventilation

The Nora House, full of levels, light and space defined by directional walls that contain each room but do not limit them. The ceiling and roof as one plane, cinched in the preparatory flight of a butterfly that shields the branch below just before climbing the air.

The house reminds me of a book shelf, each piece of wood positioned to hold a part of life in an organized notion, each piece of life symbolising from its platform where to stand to perform daily tasks to take care, rest, clean and eat. It makes me want to hide stairs between walls, and fill the hallways with books like Frank Lloyd Wright. The floor that supports me could insulate me with warmth through winter, could be a place I store my journals.



Nora House in Sendai, Japan designed by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow

About Me Architecture

Beyond My Fascination with Legos

A good friend of mine works in Chicago at Studio Gang. Azure Magazine just ran an article on an interior project she worked on.  This is the start of the article..  Studio Gang’s Ballroom Blitz

More on Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture thoughts continued from my post a day ago, 1.5.10, Why An Architect…

Venturi’s manifesto makes the case that there are multitudes of reason and problems to figure out in architecture.  ‘Each contains within the whole contrasting scales of movement besides the complex functions.’ He states as certain ‘problems’. The complex form and building, scale and perception could be poor in relation to one scenario, but work significantly well as the whole.  So, here is his case of complexity and contradictions and examples throughout history for the case of working (great) architecture.

I believe Venturi’s reference to ‘modern’ architect means the architect now and I begin to daydream while reading of my own contradictions, tensions and fascinations…

I remember learing about Native American societies in the 3rd grade. Beyond my captivation with Legos, I had never been confronted with such great mazes, built across plains and in mountain sides. I always recalled the Mayan culture in Merida, but in researching my few leads I think I must have seen images from Mesa Verde.  Mesa Verde National Park – The First Pueblos 


Mazes and labyrinths represent a magic journey, an experience, something I enjoy tangling myself in. Looking at them from above they could be a house plan – a plan in which the space will direct the inhabitant. Like a house plan the maze leads people through in sequence to establish a rhythm, one that is parallel to their living.  Some labyrinths are used for meditation, as they were historically sought to.


 A part of architecture is establishing a set of rules which are derived from the intentions of the project. Venturi points out Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, and the structural rule of columns.  The grid is broken by elements necessary to conduct living in the Villa.

Alvar Aalto finds order from necessary elements in his work.  Look at the repetition of his Riola Parish Church. 


Venturi presents rules of structure citing Kahn’s proposal for a Philadelphia Office Tower

and Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.



I am inspired with these thoughts of rules, and breaking the rules to construct living in structures. 

What about mixing Kahn’s wind braced tower with diagonal circulation, similar to Corbusier’s ramp circulation in the Villa Savoye?


Building Inhabitable Objects

In reading past Architectural Records and  furthering my thoughts in discussions over what is an architect…

Architects are building inhabitable objects.  Look at Zaha Hadid Architects with their Wine Shop and Tasting Room in Rioja, Spain. It looks like a section of a wine decanter, and I want to live in it like a genie in a bottle.

 Then there is Morphosis Architect’s Cooper Union Aluminum Rock jutting into the urban scape of New York City.

Joann Gonchar, AIA describes it in her article for Architectural Record ‘It has a sharp and folded perforated-stainless-steel shell with an aggressive gash in its main facade. Performance is part of the rationale behind the dynamic sheath, which cloaks a poured-in-place concrete building with a standard window-wall system, helping mitigate heat gain in summer and retain heat in winter.’

Kengo Kuma & Associates creates a luminous jewel box for Tiffany Ginza in Tokyo.’


Look at how the architect treated lighting the spaces.  In two different situations the rooms are lit at where the ceiling meets the wall, as if we are getting light from the crease of jewel box lid that has been left slightly open.

About Me Architecture

Simplify your Lifestyle

Clean it out~

If you’ve lived in the same house for the past three years or longer it is likely that you have begun to fit newly acquired things in crevices, corners and newly found empty spaces.  I’ve moved about every two years for the last twelve, which has given me the chance to evaluate what I do and don’t use, and what I could get rid of for someone else to get better use of.  If I’m not moving I have to make a conscious effort to purge.

The best advice for dealing with too many things (like too many books on my bookshelf) is to imagine what it  means to be you now. Does my bookshelf define who I am and what I am interested in now? In the case of my closet, have I worn these clothes in the last eight months?  Why so or why not?  Do I use all of these blankets, dishes, these perfumes, read these magazines… I can get a little carried away with all of my things.

When I pare down what I own to what it takes to keep care of myself, to essentially what defines me and my interests, I find I have much less to worry about!

I learned this concept while traveling in Europe my junior year of college.  With only a back sack full of daily needs such as a camera, sketchbook and journal, I was able to spend three months with this bag and a small portable suitcase.  It took me a few months to determine exactly how much shampoo would get me through two weeks (there are stores in Europe!), how much detergent I would need if I were only bringing a weeks worth of socks, etc.  Again, perhaps a little overboard, but what I learned after three months of living like this, with so few things, was that I felt so free not having to be concerned with what I could not pick up and move with me.  It taught me how many things I pamper myself with during my typical daily routine and what I could do without at home.

I talked about the digestive system yesterday, which was spawned by reading an organizational book (to learn more about organizing my home) from author Karen Kingston. It was ‘Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui.’

 It was the first time I heard about Bagua, arranging a grid overtop of your house floor plan that tells you what each space in your home is related to.  I call it the Zen Grid. 

By desiring each entity in my life to be better I have in essence cleaned up most of my spaces to reflect how I utilize them the most – giving me a clearer vision of what I do and what I most enjoy.

Also, an article was featured in the NY Times yesterday about sharing experiences instead of stuff.  ‘In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less’  I learned about a young family jumping in a pink canoe to travel to small islands in the Biscayne Bay.  It was an inspiring little story.