Stillwater founder Matthew Stannard has a deep appreciation for contemporary residential architecture. In his blog, Matthew shares his thoughts on contemporary design trends and aesthesis, and also throws in a little architectural history.
As an architect, I could specify a wide variety of contemporary building materials in my homes. But only one is totally sustainable, is flexible enough to shift as structures settle, does not expand and contract with the seasons, is energy efficient, is both a structural and finishing material, is easy to work with and repair, and is totally recyclable. Of course I’m talking about wood.
It’s almost a magical material. Trees take energy from the sun, and carbon dioxide from the air and converts them into a totally natural, renewable and recyclable product. Wood building materials continue to evolve. In the last 50 years researchers have developed ways to utilize wood to make incredibly strong beams and other structural materials. Engineered wood building systems are now being used to build midrise towers. Instead of steel and concrete, the floors, ceilings, elevator shafts, and stairwells are made entirely of wood.
It is also one of the best building materials for earthquake prone areas. In 1995 an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude hit the city of Kobe, Japan. Among the devastated traditional style houses were examples of modern wood construction and wood-frame houses. Of approximately 8000 “2 by 4” framed houses, none collapsed and 70% reported no damage at all.
Personally I love building with wood. It allows me to bring to life just about any design I can imagine. It comes from the ground and will eventually return to the ground. It’s as organic as the people who will reside in the homes built with it, and there is nothing more wonderful than the smell of a freshly framed home.
Is appreciation for art and its architectural component learned, inherited or a little of both? Why do some people love specific forms of art while others don’t get it? I have always believed appreciation of beauty was, at least partially, innate. As an architect, working with hundreds of clients through the years, something about the look of a home and its setting on a site just feels “right”. Was this because of the client’s highly evolved taste or something much more basic?
Denis Dutton, in his fascinating book, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution argues that aesthetic taste, is an evolutionary trait, shaped by natural selection. In many circles this seemingly logical conclusion was rather radical. In the introduction to the book Dutton states “Charles Darwin laid the foundation for the proper study of art as not only a cultural phenomenon, but a natural one as well.” The book provides fascinating arguments to prove the point. It’s well worth reading.
Mr. Dutton grew up in Los Angeles, received a PhD from the University of California and spent his academic career as an art philosopher in the U. S. and New Zealand. He gave a terrific Ted Talk on the Darwinian theory of beauty a few years ago.
I enjoyed the dry wit and content of Bill Bryson’s “A History of Almost Everything” so much that I'm really looking forward to reading his latest book “At Home, A Short History of Private Life”. Bryson has an incredible knack for making nonfiction especially interesting and at times, painfully funny. The Seattle Times reviews Bryson’s latest publication:
'At Home': Bill Bryson Constructs a History of Private Life
By Bharti Kirchner
Special to The Seattle Times
Most people would be satisfied with a home in a village like one in the county of Norfolk, England, and simply go on enjoying it, but not Bill Bryson ("A Short History of Nearly Everything"). A chance inspection of an attic to determine the source of a drip leads him in an unexpected direction. He begins strolling from room to room, pondering domestic objects around him — a fork, a sofa, a cabinet — and also the function of each space, as well as how it might have evolved through time. The journal he keeps results in a new book, quirky but entertaining, filled with observations about the history of everyday life spanning the last 150 or so years.
"Houses aren't refuges from history," Bryson says. "They are where history ends up."
'At Home: A Short History of Private Life'
by Bill Bryson
Doubleday, 452 pp., $28.95
Read the complete review here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/books/2013091826_br10bryson.html
Modern Fan deserves to own their market segment – they came up with a series of quality contemporary fans, which are a far cry from the kitschy, faux, plantation-style product that was all you could get beforehand.
And they work really well, both for cooling the room in summer and mixing warm air into the room in the winter. Although not totally passive they use the fraction of the energy of air-conditioning.
The latest model by Modern Fan, the Pensi, is their best yet, with its axle design and a sparser feel.
I particularly like the exterior of this mobile habitat with its uncompromising simplicity. Statement making architecture in a stunning setting, featured in www.archdaily.com
The xbo is primarily a result of the Rotterdam based project ‘PARASITE’ (Prototypes for Advanced/ Ready-made/ Amphibious/ Small scale/ Individual/ Temporary/ Ecological houses). The idea of the xbo is to provide a mobile habitat for 2 young people on the move. The structure consists of two movable parts in sum twelve meters long, 3,2m wide and almost 3,5m high, the xbo is an attempt to keep things to a minimum, to stick to the basics and focus on the essential.
Today many people are economical prisoners in their homes. One way out could be to change our way of living. In a small house the focus is on what is actually needed. The house may be a tool for such a change. This means that simple and basic qualities of life is the main theme for the development of this minimal space. We want to use this tool as an object of investigation and discussion. Not only while it is created, but also when it is put into use.”
Frank Lloyd Wright once said “constraints are your friend” and although one would think that limitations of creative thinking would be counterintuitive in the design world, it actually makes a lot of sense. Constraints define the character of the solution.
Besides the obvious constraints of topography, sun, wind, budget, etc., there are also constraints imposed by the properties of materials and systems; it’s from all of these constraints one can tease out meaningful solutions that are not arbitrary or faddish but are a thoughtfully considered response.
At Stilllwater Dwellings, modular construction is integral to the aesthetic language we have developed without dominating or overpowering it. For instance, the structural expression of the roof beams at the module ”marriage lines” create a secondary scale that define individual spaces within a larger room, giving a human scale to balance the overall dimensions.
In the Living Hall, the kitchen, dining, and sitting areas are given identity by the structural expression of the exposed wood beams which are regulated by modular dimensions.