modern architecture

Design of the Prairie Home

The owners of this home purchased a sloping pie shaped lot with access from above. There are nice views of downtown Great Falls and the Missouri river to the East. Capturing these views was a priority.  Also, this open hillside lot is exposed to the prairie wind which can make decks and outdoor spaces uninviting.  Creating some protected outdoor space for the family became an added goal for the design.

The lot is wide enough to exploration layout options.  One option is to build a simple square in the center of the lot.  Another is to build a longer L shape.  Most of the homes in the area follow these models.   But they do not help create compelling or well protected outdoor spaces.  The option chosen and shown below was to split the house into a bedroom wing and living wing creating a central protected outdoor space between them.  An outdoor deck, lower level terrace and a grove of Aspen trees now occupy this protected spot.  The Aspen grove softens the deck areas and mimics the sheltered canyons in eastern Montana. 

The overall layout plan shows the entry drive from the West, the garage and bedroom wing to the North and living wing to the South with deck and lawn to the East   

The overall layout plan shows the entry drive from the West, the garage and bedroom wing to the North and living wing to the South with deck and lawn to the East   

The southern portion of the home includes a TV area, kitchen dining and living.  The northern portion the garage laundry and master suite.   A narrow circulation hall with stair connect the two wings.  The central deck is accessed from the Master bedroom, Living room, and hallway.

The southern portion of the home includes a TV area, kitchen dining and living.  The northern portion the garage laundry and master suite.   A narrow circulation hall with stair connect the two wings.  The central deck is accessed from the Master bedroom, Living room, and hallway.

The main level deck is a central shaded and wind protected outdoor spot for the home.  The Aspen trees help provide some greenery and a bit of shade.  

The main level deck is a central shaded and wind protected outdoor spot for the home.  The Aspen trees help provide some greenery and a bit of shade.  

The deck comes to a sharp point making fun place to stand and view the river.  A lower retaining wall helps creates a manicured lawn area for play.

The deck comes to a sharp point making fun place to stand and view the river.  A lower retaining wall helps creates a manicured lawn area for play.

The lower level opens out to a terrace.  Aspen trees are planted in the beds either side of the house staircase.   A adjacent small manicured lawn extends out toward the view.  Rainwater is collected by two large cisterns.

The lower level opens out to a terrace.  Aspen trees are planted in the beds either side of the house staircase.   A adjacent small manicured lawn extends out toward the view.  Rainwater is collected by two large cisterns.

A section between the two building forms shows the connecting hallways and planting areas.  The deck and terrace are to the right.

A section between the two building forms shows the connecting hallways and planting areas.  The deck and terrace are to the right.

Low slope metal clad roofs sit atop long glulam beams.  Large gutters at the low end catch water and drop it into cisterns below.  

Low slope metal clad roofs sit atop long glulam beams.  Large gutters at the low end catch water and drop it into cisterns below.  

Large windows face the view downslope.   Large beams and dramatic roofs give the home some design power.

Large windows face the view downslope.   Large beams and dramatic roofs give the home some design power.

Colors of the home are intended to blend with the dry prairie grasslands while the forms provide a powerful presence.

Colors of the home are intended to blend with the dry prairie grasslands while the forms provide a powerful presence.

Projecting roofs, deck and beams are dramatic.  The sharp point of the deck is always a topic of conversation.  

Projecting roofs, deck and beams are dramatic.  The sharp point of the deck is always a topic of conversation.  

The home works well with the site, provides wonderful views to the river, and fits nicely with the local environment.  At the same time it has a strong presence. The central outdoor space becomes the heart of the home during the spring summer and fall with barbecue, chairs, table and benches.  The coppery color of the exterior blends well with the dry summer grasses.

Accessory Dwelling Unit for a North Seattle Lot

A view from the kitchen of the ADU.

A view from the kitchen of the ADU.

Shown here is an accessory dwelling unit for a lot in north Seattle.  In repurposing an existing back yard garage slab, we are able to reduce construction cost.  An open and airy living space is organized around a large and tall east facing window which opens out onto the lawn.  The result is an airy, open and delightful Accessory Dwelling Unit.

A view of the sitting area and dining.

A view of the sitting area and dining.

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view from the stair to the living area

view from the stair to the living area

view from the stair.  The stair is to be laminated marine plywood construction.

view from the stair.  The stair is to be laminated marine plywood construction.

Exterior Color Selection

Building exteriors are important not only to you personally but for the larger community.  Some consistency in building colors makes for a more cohesive place.  Santorini is a beautiful town marked by its whitewashed buildings.  The common use of the whitewash helps create cohesiveness as well as keeping the buildings cooler.

chad baily

In Paris there is a sense of consistency with the warm ochre of the buildings along the street.  The color makes the place more uniform and cohesive.

Here in the northwest we often have a backdrop of dark forest.  We have become advocates for somewhat darker colors for buildings to help blend with the forest backdrop especially if the building is around a treed area.    

   

When selecting colors, we try to work with what colors are nearby. 

Here we are checking colors against the existing shore pine bark.  There were several on the site.  The warmer color of the beach pebbles shifted the palate a little.

Applying large swaths of several colors and comparing them to the value of the opposite shore convinced us to darken the building color.

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Here the building blends well with the surrounding landscape. 

A Dry Climate Getaway

The design for this retreat in the desert country of Eastern Washington was formed to compliment the natural setting.   Large deep set windows between thick corners open up to the spectacular scenery while being shielded from the hot sun.    

The retreats spaces are arranged to easily flow together and open out to the landscape and views.  Private spaces, bathrooms & closets,  occupy the thick protective corners.

The outdoor covered porch is shielded from the hot sun by thick sidewalls.  Heavy beetle kill pine planks are layered up to make a thick fire resistant siding. 

The shadier side of the building is more open to the landscape.  The roof is shaped to collect rainwater to a single point and funnel that to a cistern. 

Thick beetle kill pine walls are carried inside the retreat to give it a modern camp like feel. 

As the roof projects up and out the views become larger and more dramatic.

The large banks of floor to ceiling glass with the associated terraces project rooms into the landscape making the modern camp feel.

The result is a dramatically open, modern, camp like retreat in tune with the surrounding environment.

Sketch Detailing in Architecture

General sketching is a great tool for an architect.  Also, more detailed sketching becomes a wonderful tool to help move projects along.  Every custom building requires attention to how pieces come together and communicating how they work can be facilitated with sketches.

There are often questions about exactly how pieces of trim or material interactions should work.  Shown here are examples of sketch work we use to communicate specific details.  The color helps the sketches read easily for busy construction crews.

Some more complex issues can be worked out in sketch form so the contractor on site and we, the architects, can discuss various methods to achieve a pleasant result.

Changes of window manufacturers or flooring materials, etc. can lead to rethinking of details.  These changes can be communicated quickly with all the different members using colored sketches.

Design is also helped with sketch details.  In working out a door combined with a grill and insect netting for a home in Bangalore, several options were looked at quickly.  Above is a security grill with a two step foot bolt operation fabricated out of plain steel.

Even such mundane items as a closet build out, shelves, rods, double rods, can be communicated quickly to cabinet makers and owners.

Location of paint breaks in a complex interior are made clear with a quick sketch.  This eliminates hours of arm waving!

We enjoy making sure the contractors on projects are able to keep moving.   Sketching details and desires helps make that happen.