Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Concepts in Pictures


After going through the Q&A process that I detailed in my last post, my brother put together a packet of pictures of different spaces to add a visual aspect to our discussions. The packet was divided up into multiple areas of focus: Interior/Exterior Spaces, Interior Spaces, Exterior Spaces, and Sacred Spaces. My brother put a lot of work into gather lots of images for us to consider, wanting not only to know what we liked, but also what we specifically did not like. I'll go through some of the images in each category and point out the best examples we liked (and I'll point out some that we disliked at the end).

Interior/Exterior Spaces
The key with these examples for us is that they do a great job of integrating, almost seamlessly, the indoors and outdoors.

We liked the space above because a "sitting room" is very important to us, and this seemed to be a great place to read a book or just look outside, and the patio is integrated almost as an extension of the room. The windows, floor to ceiling, are also very appealing and give that sense that the outdoors is integrated with the home (this of course is disregarding any thought of what such windows might cost!).

This is just another example of making the transition to the outdoors seamless.

Interior Spaces
Our general theme with interior spaces that we liked was the ability to see into multiple areas at once, which is a plus for a large family like we hope to have (we have 4 children now, and we say we hope to have a "large" family in that we think the Lord has many more for us, what blessings!). One always needs to keep track of which child is spilling what where, and what other child is drawing on their arm with a marker in a different place. Good sitelines to time-out corners are also a plus. At any rate, we like a balance between an "open" flow of rooms and enough "closed" areas for some privacy in conversation or reading.

Here we liked that there is a connection between all of the spaces, but not necessarily a totally open and disorganized space. You almost get a "preview" of other areas when you look in any direction, but not the whole thing. Also, it's nice to be able to look outside from the kitchen to keep tabs on which child is whacking which other child with a long stick, and which other child is skinning whatever body part.

Here was a room that we liked mostly because it has a view of trees that will probably be very similar to our own with the amount of trees we have on the buildable portion of our land. The floor-to-ceiling windows are again a nice touch.

This space is obviously pretty simplistic due to lack of furnishings, but we felt that the trees adjacent to the home were almost part of the design of the room.

Exterior Spaces
It's not always intuitive to think of an "exterior space," but good architectural design will incorporate external spaces, whether physical or implied, in the overall design plan. The outdoors areas of our site are important to us since the views of the wetlands and the surrounding trees and vegetation are quite striking. And plus, hey, we don't want to spend all of our time indoors.

This design is really quite well done, including a series of outdoor spaces and views beyond. I requested that the ocean be included in our view, and so I think my brother is working on that.

I really liked this because it shows that the structure blurs the indoor/outdoor lines. I also like the simple and organized landscaping. Our current home has WAY too much landscaping (probably another post in itself) and I don't want to continue to be a slave to my yard.

As far as spaces we did not like in all of these categories, the next image sums it up best.

In a word, minimalism. I'm sure I don't know if that's a misuse of an official architectural term, but you get the point by looking at this image. Use of exposed concrete, an industrial-type feel, a cold functionalism, these are things that don't mirror or communicate the reality of our family in any way. It's good that a variety of spaces were included in this packet of pictures so that we could clarify what we wouldn't like.

Sacred Spaces
Here, we didn't really see much that we thought was moving in the very specific direction we want our chapel to go. Focusing on the five essential elements of a good, Catholic sacred space is certainly the starting point of any design of the chapel, and so we didn't see any spaces that were included that met the majority of these elements. Here's a few spaces that we did not like.

Verticality, yes. Iconography, transcendence, formality, hierarchy... no. This does conjure up images of alien spaceships for some reason though.

This I guess is a Quaker chapel or meeting room, but I think in general the seating arrangement is not what we want (we would like seating in the chapel to be oriented towards an altar area - i.e hierarchy), and this, to me, kind of seemed like an experimentation in architectural novelty.

This is "cold" in feeling, and kind of bland and minimalistic (as were the previous two spaces).

It's certainly not that we want the chapel to be totally disconnected in feel from the rest of the home; in fact, that's the opposite of what we want. However, the essential elements need to be there.

Going through the images and giving feedback really started us thinking about the more detailed aspects of home design, and provided a great foundation for my brother to start conceptual schematics of the home. Soon to come!

Any thoughts or comments are welcome!


Brian Crane said...

Regarding floor-to-ceiling windows: with kids you are going to be cleaning those constantly. Also, there is the problem of people walking/running into them (e.g. guests that you have over), not seeing that there is a window there. I have seen people do this before (walk right into a window), and it looks very painful. On the one hand, they should know that there is a window there; on the other, folks sometimes focus on something (e.g. the beautiful scene outside) and forget that there is a barrier there, and walk right into it with their eyes on the goal.

You could still accomplish the large outdoor views with large picture windows, even ones that go down close to the floor but not all the way -- so that they have a clear sill and obviously are not something one could mistake for an open passage to the outdoors.

You mentioned the cost of floor-to-ceiling windows also. I would imagine that they will be incredibly expensive if you are going to get anything that is sufficiently insulated against the cold weather that you have up that way in the winter time.

Brendan Koop said...

Fantastic comments, thanks for your insight! I never thought of the kids smearing their hands all over the windows (though I might be willing to be a windex professional if we really liked them - my wife will roll her eyes as I'm sure she knows she would be the one who ended up cleaning the windows). As far as cost, I have a feeling they'll be expensive, and maybe cost prohibitive. Insulation is definitely my biggest concern (it regularly goes below -10 degrees F here in the winter), though that might be solved by some seldom-used-unless-necessary curtains that kept heat inside. Interesting, you got me thinking!

Molly Koop said...

Okay. So from the beginning I understood the potential consequences of integrating many floor-to-ceiling windows in our home. And, of course, the first thing I thought of when I read Brendan's post was, "I can't believe he's never thought of that! We'll be washing windows constantly!" (Another example of Brendan's not being the practical half of our union, at least in this case) Sure, there would be finger prints everywhere, not to mention water spots and dirt from the outside. Just two days ago when we ate our lunch on the deck and I corralled everyone inside because there was a bee buzzing around (see my profile) Eleanor took her ranch-dressing-covered hands and smeared them ALL OVER the sliding glass door. Obviously, we do like the feeling of a room that continues it's openness to the outdoors, but I also like the idea of a more practical way of doing this. (And Brendan, have you EVER used Windex?)

Father Jeremiah said...

Interesting post, as usual. You may not be able to incorporate floor-to-ceiling windows in the home proper because of the aformentioned reasons--yet you may be able to cosider a version of them for the chapel. In gothic architecture, the windows were narrower, and went from almost the floor to almost the ceiling to create a greater feeling of height. Not sure how that would work--but you might get some "verticality" in the chapel with that idea.

Paul said...

The idea of having visually integrated rooms is important, especially vis a vis the kitchen. Large families mean lots of cooking, and it's very helpful to have a kitchen constructed in such a way as that the person/people doing the cooking aren't completely cut off from the eating and sitting areas. You want delineations so everyone isn't in mom's way, but you also don't want her shut up in a box. On the other hand, be wary of houses with a "round" floor plan that allows children to tear round and round the house in circles -- this can create odd difficulties.

Debbie (Nana) Koop said...

I have been in the room which you posted as the first picture. It is in the St. John's Abbey Guesthouse in Collegeville. It is an amazing space in which to read a book or have a hot cup of tea in silence. What I liked about it was the absence of any technology in the room, just books and chairs. Whether this would work in a home I'm not sure, but it was very inviting.
You could probably incorporate this type of architecture into an office/libray which would have to include a computer, but you would always have the option of shutting down just to read. As always, offices should always be off limits to children under 12 or unless they are invited in.
In fact, this room stimulated me into thinking how much I liked floor to ceiling windows and want to have some in the home that he designs for Papa and I, after your house is done of course. So we know that he'll be busy for a while with family home construction,