Tuesday, November 20, 2007

At last... the final conceptual scheme!

This will be the mother of all posts, definitely the longest I'll ever do on this blog. It's finally here! Hot off the presses as of two days ago (Sunday), the final conceptual scheme (Scheme D) of the future home of the Koop family has arrived, and it's definitely worth the wait. I say that this is the "final" scheme because it really is just that. My brother delivered on a design that basically resolves any main issues we had with previous schemes (e.g. kitchen located far from the garage, bedroom and laundry arrangements), adds orthogonality to the design to reduce cost, and combines the best elements of Scheme C (our previously chosen favorite) with those of Scheme A and even some of Scheme B. Even better, I think there are some striking new conceptual additions that make Scheme D a slam dunk for us. So, where to begin? I'll probably just go through my brother's presentation to us, as it makes the most sense in that order.

Just as a pictorial reminder, here are the previous three conceptual schemes overlaid on to the elevation of our land (click to enlarge):
Just for reference, upward is East in the pic above. Most times upward is North when I show the site plans.

Here are a comparison of Scheme A and C in regard to their overall concept and how the main views to the wetlands, depicted by the blue triangles, were integrated (click to enlarge):

Using the image below, my brother noted that though he spent a lot of time integrating views of the wetland into the schemes, upon reflection he felt there was some views of the wooded areas that were being ignored, and these views are also valuable. His new direction was to integrate views of both the wetlands and the wooded areas, and to lay out the home to follow the red line denoting the separation between wooded area (on the left) and wetland (on the right). Essentially, the home would follow this natural boundary. (click to enlarge)

So, my brother spent some time generating a new concept sketch for Scheme D that encompasses the overall idea of the home as it follows this natural boundary:
So there you have it, that's Scheme D, hope you like it! Okay, if the above pic is not self-explanatory enough, I suppose we can get into the details.

Here's the site plan of Scheme D from above, with upwards being North (click to enlarge):
One detail in regard to the site plan that I'd like to point out is that there is a boardwalk leading out to the small grove of trees to the East, where we'd like to put a playset for the kids. It would be a cool play area and the trees would hide the playset. We also have a covenant in our neighborhood that states that any playset must be located behind the home to be hidden from the street view, and so this design accomplishes that and allows the home to still be located all the up against the wetland without having to make room for a back yard area.
An example of how a boardwalk might look...
Ours would actually traverse a narrow strip of buildable (i.e. not wetland) out to the grove of trees, which is also solid land, so we wouldn't need to get permission from the city to build the boardwalk. Still, it would likely be surrounded by tall grasses in the Summer like the above pic. I was toying with the idea of a boardwalk since far before my brother proposed it in this design, and was thinking that it would go into the wetland (needing permission from the city) and would potentially also have the stations of the cross. But I like this plan to start out and we can evaluate if we would like to extend the boardwalk into the wetland at a later date.

Alright, now for more important details, the actual ground floor plan (click to enlarge):
This is where this scheme really presents itself as a great design for our family. The kitchen is right by the garage, and a large mud room is now a piece of the design. Another development, which was actually a point of feedback from some of our readers with our previous schemes, is that we no longer have separate informal and formal dining areas. There is only one dining area, but separated from the kitchen by a partial wall so that it can be used for formal dining when necessary. This definitely saves some space, and is definitely a better solution. There's also still going to be a breakfast-type barstool area in the island in the kitchen, so this can still be used for dining in the kitchen.

Also, one can see some of the best elements of schemes A and C in this design. For instance, there is a view straight through the home and out to the wetland as one approaches the front entrance, like in Scheme C. The chapel requires a journey through the home to get to and is in a secluded area, which I liked best about Scheme A. The orthogonality of Scheme A is also evident here, which will definitely save us some money. And I love the extensive outer patio areas!

But, certainly the aspect of the ground floor plan that I like the most is the theology of the home layout. As I already noted, the chapel requires a defined movement through the home to get to, and is secluded to promote a sense of prayer. But, that movement through the home is very specifically thought out in the following way (click to enlarge)...

So the sitting room/library serves an important theological purpose in leading to the chapel.

Okay, now for the upper floor layout (click to enlarge)...
Here again, all of our feedback was taken into account brilliantly. First, there's a laundry room upstairs and all of the bedrooms are on the same level, which we desired to be close to the kids. But, our bedroom is still secluded somewhat by using a small hallway to lead to the bedroom, and by placing it on a separate "wing". This design also promotes the sacramentality of the master bedroom, as Sara Freund spoke of in her thesis, and gives the feeling that the master bedroom is a special and sacred place in the home. Another point of feedback that was implemented is that the boys' and girls' bedrooms are now laid out in a more reconfigurable manner. There are no small walls separating beds, which would prevent configuring the room as needed for the number of boys and girls we have. And check out the exterior walkway, definitely a new addition to the concept of the home. It's hard to picture how this is integrated into the home, so I'll leave that discussion to the exterior of the home. Suffice it to say, we have some new lines of attack available when checking up on kids when they are supposed to be asleep (but aren't).

There are also alternate ground floor and upper floor plans that my brother also presented, which I think I'll leave for another post. The one's I have presented above are my brother's primary choices and the one's we liked the best as well.

So let's get into the exterior of the home, starting with sketches that my brother did, developing the materiality on the exterior. This is looking Northwest from the street (click to enlarge):
It's hard to see, but the front face of the garage area is brick, connecting through to the lower part of the front of the home via the small wall containing the landscaping area in the front. So the lower half of the front of the home is brick, which then continues to cover the South face of the main volume. The exterior of the Southern "wing" of the home would be all wood. One thing to note here is that the upper floor completely overlaps the ground floor, as with Scheme B, which should save money in roof costs and exterior surface area.

Here's a sketch of the back of the home, looking Southeast (click to enlarge):
Here you can see the exterior of the chapel, as well as some of the windows on the home. Most notably, my floor-to-ceiling windows are still in there (!), though in a more limited fashion (hopefully making it possible for us to include those, as they are certainly expensive). Notably missing from the sketch is the exterior covered walkway that I've been alluding to. My brother did some renderings which represent a more finished view of the home, which is next.

Here's some exterior renderings that my brother did, starting with a top view of the site (click to enlarge):
You can already see how the home follows the natural boundary between the woods and wetlands and how it will take advantage of this aspect of the site. The windows on the South of the home (family room) will offer a view of the woods, which is a new addition to the concept. Also, I believe the home position itself is further back from the street (further East, to the right) than any of the other schemes, and I like that because it means more privacy from the street.

Here's a diagonal view looking Southeast (click to enlarge):
This is the first view of what I think is the most major addition to this scheme as compared to schemes A-C, the exterior covered walkway (which also serves as the upper floor exterior walkway on top). Here's some more renderings for better views, and note that one items not yet depicted is a hand-rail on the upper floor exterior walkway (click to enlarge)...
I can't tell you how excited I am about this addition to the concept, as it adds a distinctive feature of the home while also adding yet another very Catholic aspect to the design. This exterior covered walkway echoes what I posted about some weeks ago, the monastic cloister.
I love this echo in design. Family life truly can be monastic, both in terms of a regular order of our days, regular times of prayer, moderation in all things, etc., and this will be a cool design aspect that will be a physical sign of this reality. And we may be able to incorporate a cloister garden next to this covered walkway, or at least flowers that are typical of those gardens.

So that's it (for now). We do have a few minor tweaks we discussed with my brother that he will add in any future revision, but we can discuss those in another post. I was shocked at the lack of changes that will be needed, the design is really a home run for us. It's all a little overwhelming for Molly and I, as previously we reviewed concepts with my brother not really knowing what our final home design would look like, and in that sense the home still seemed a figment of our imagination and not something tangible. Now, we have that final picture, and it's certainly been a realization for both of us that this is basically what our home will look like. In the same breath I think we can say "yikes!" and "praise the Lord!" We have a lot of work ahead of us.


John Curran said...

Inspired! Love the design, particularly the covered walkway, boardwalk, and of course the path to the chapel. Like your idea of a cloister-style garden. Congratulations to you, your family, and your brother on a brilliant home design. God bless you all!

Brian Crane said...

I haven't been able to follow the blog too closely in the past few weeks, so forgive me if you've already talked about this --

But why wouldn't the roof lines connect? It looks to me like there are two houses stuck together with the way the rooflines are portrayed.

Brendan Koop said...

Hey, I just posted like 20 minutes ago, are you guys living on the internet!!! :-)


A couple points on the rooflines. First, the design is still for the building to communicate from the exterior that there are differing volumes to the home, echoing the different aspects of our family life. In this sense, I like it. Even more so, I like it because it's different, and I think it's distinctive and even cleaner this way. Lastly, is less expensive. All of the roof trusses will be pre-fabricated and essentially the same, reducing cost. There will be no funny roof connection angles for the builders to have to figure out.

Anonymous said...

I love the design. One idea - extend the covered walkway across the family room/library and tie it into the chapel. This would closely duplicate one of the cloister photos. If there were an exterior door from the chapel, you could then depart the chapel and have a procession along the cloister walk to the boardwalk with the stations of the cross, without having to walk through the house.

Also, it could give you a balcony from your master bedroom, from which you could sit on a rocker and enjoy the view, while being able to listen to sounds from the children's bedrooms.

Keith R

Brendan Koop said...


Good ideas. One of your ideas in particular we actually discussed when my brother presented the concept, the door on the outside of the chapel. In the end, I am really opposed to doing that as I think the chapel would become a "pass-through" for the kids to get from the outside to the inside and vice versa, and we definitely don't want the chapel to be a pass-through. Also, I really can't see us going from the chapel to the outside except in the rarest of occasions, and a door would use up wall space for artwork, or a potential spot for a sculpture. I think we'll have some sort of sliding door or opening in one of the big windows in the family room, so this would be a better way to get outside. The extension of the covered walkway is definitely something I hadn't thought of, though I think it would darken the family room and library too much in terms of light. Thanks for the ideas! It's always good for us to reassess.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Phenomenal. Your home design looks just beautiful and homey and faith-filled. I'm envious. Really.

Brendan Koop said...

Thanks Cathy! I subscribe to your blog, you are an excellent writer! I always like to get the Catholic scoop from fellow Minnesotans.

Anonymous said...

Where do your guests go to the bathroom?

What are the stairs at the back of the garage for?

Brendan Koop said...

Guests would use the master bathroom, and the stairs at the back of the garage go down to an unfinished basement below.