Monday, July 30, 2007

20 Questions


You may be familiar with the old game show "20 Questions," where the questioners were allowed 20 questions to try to deduce the answer, and the "answerer" could only respond "yes" or "no". It just so happens we went through a similar exercise with my brother, our architect, around Christmas of last year (2006). We essentially asked 20 questions of each other, using a helpful pamphlet put out by the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects called, "Architecturally Designed Homes and You." In the pamphlet are 20 questions that the clients should ask their architect, and likewise 20 questions the clients should respond to for their architect. As you can probably guess, we went a little beyond only "yes" or "no" answers.

The 20 questions for my brother were useful for us, because there were still some significant unknowns hanging out there for which we needed clarification. For instance, my brother lives on the East coast, so how exactly would it work to have a "remote" architect? (Answer: it's done quite frequently in the architecture world, and it wouldn't be a problem. Site visits could be scheduled with my brother's regular trips back to MN, or he could arrange to fly back specifically for site visits.). Also, as mentioned in a previous post, my brother works for a very high-profile, international architecture firm, and needless to say he is extremely busy. Would he really be able to give the attention to our project that we needed? (Answer: Yes, this would be a challenge, but as my brother he is really invested in this project, not to mention the uniqueness of it with respect to this being a radically Catholic home. He would make it happen). This Q&A provided very useful discussions, and allowed us to get a picture of how the process would work.

As far as the questions we needed to respond to as the clients, this was, I must say, an extremely fun exercise for Molly and me. Sitting down for an evening to talk about your dreams for your new house and typing them out is great fun in itself, but typing assumptions such as "We assume cost is no object in this exercise" makes it even more fun! One interesting question for which I'll post our answers was #10, "What do you think your new home should look like?" Molly and I answered this question separately, to kind of see where we were at (especially our differences). Simply cutting and pasting from our original Q&A answers, here were Molly's thoughts at the time:
  • Inviting
  • Open
  • Bright
  • Enjoy houses that are Victorian/country (dormers, etc.)
  • Traditional, yet modern
  • Organized and contiguous in design flow throughout the home
  • Versatile for all seasons
And here were my thoughts:

  • Timeless design
  • Transcendent – e.g. chapel must draw one into prayer, cultivate a feeling of awe/sacredness/etc.
  • Clean lines (the most tired cliché in the book, but I say it nonetheless)
  • Not mimimalism
  • Must reflect our faith throughout the home (chapel is focal point, but not compartmentalized)
  • Must reflect priorities – the raising of our children, not materialism
  • Light (Interesting, well thought-out interior lighting, lots of outside light)
  • Enjoy a more modern feel (e.g. how I designed my current office) but don’t subscribe to all the philosophies of modernism/post-modernism. (i.e. while I really like buildings like the new Guthrie Theater, Walker Art Center, etc., I reject most all modern/post-modern Catholic churches, which in general are not designed with a Catholic theology, do not translate the faith, and are more just meeting halls). Beauty, transcendence, etc. are important.
  • Utterly reject “cookie cutter” homes, and bland exurban developments - nauseating
Okay, I know I'm more wordy on this stuff than Molly, you can tell that from the posts on this blog.

At any rate, we really enjoyed the Q&A exercise, and it really got us started in thinking about concepts for our home. Just in case you are interested, or would simply like to dream about the future, or learn about good design, I would highly recommend checking out the other pamphlets and "best practices" articles from the American Institute of Architects. They're short, fun to read, and very informative. Enjoy!

"How to Hire the Right Architect for Your Project"

"You and Your Architect: A Guide for a Successful Partnership"

"Six Approaches to Building Your Dream House"

"Eight Pillars of Traditional Design"

"Ten Key Factors that Affect Any Design"

"Core Qualities that Make a Great American Home"

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