Thursday, February 28, 2013

Inspiration for the PLUShouse, or how Laurie came to love her roof

It's always wonderful and exciting to get a new project. Then you think - where do I begin? What will be the inspiration for this particular project?

Inspiration has no logic, and can be pulled from a variety of resources. In architecture and design, I generally troll for inspiration from:
• The Site: relatively small at 6500 s.f., facing due south, with views of everything.
• The Client: extraordinarily bright, talented, interesting, and forward looking (a self-described geek). A musician, a pilot (both fixed wing and rotating), a cook and a dog owner. 
• The Inspiration: client, site, sun, and the act of listening.

The site is always instrumental in siting a house. Sun angles, views, exterior space, and topography need to be taken into account, along with the requisite building codes. But designing a house goes beyond these considerations. The question becomes - what will the inspiration be to make this project embody the spirit of the client, as well as the spirit of the site?   

Initially, two things inspired me about Laurie - she is a musician (something I can personally understand, being a musician myself), and that she is a pilot (no personal connection with this). These two interests were something I saw as unique to Laurie, and that could inform the design as well as the spirit of the house. I began by putting some thoughts and words on paper:

• Inspired by music - lyrical, sculptural
• Quality of light orchestrated over time  - winter to summer
• Choreography of views
• Spaces flow gracefully into one another
• Everything is considered - everything is crafted

These words and thoughts, and Laurie's interests, became a springboard for the design. The image of air currents, and the roof of the house as a wing (both fixed and rotating) became essential to the design, as did the practice and acoustics of music. 

The location of a concert piano was of primary importance. Practically, the piano would be located away from direct sun and glare. Logistically, space was needed not only for the piano, but for a clarinet and cello player, and a small audience during recitals.

I began by adding a 'salon' into the program. This salon did not add a room, but became a shared space with the living room (which will provide seating during performances), the library, (bookshelves will surround the salon on 3 sides), and a private, but open, reading area, referred to as the Turkish Lounge (Turkish lamps will be hung over this area). 

The northwest end of the house was an ideal location for the salon. The roof could be kicked up to admit high north light, and protected light could come in from high windows facing east. The west wall of the salon would have no windows, but the expansive west and south views of the S.F.Bay and Bridges would be visible through the living and dining rooms. 

Acoustics is a critical component in a space for music. Although acoustics is not an exact science (many concert halls have been redesigned to correct poor acoustics, including Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Davies Hall, among others), a simple rule is that surfaces should not be parallel to each other, and materials should be varied. 

In considering the roof, an airplane wing image blew in, and it's opportunity to slowly rotate and create differing roof planes conducive to soft acoustics. Asymmetricaly above the salon, the roof rises towards the north at a 3:12 complex slope (the roof slopes in two directions); the main roof of the house slopes at a consistent 1:12 upslope towards the south view; and a wedge of roof slopes 1.5:12 towards the west view. The ceiling will be finished in 4'x10' wood panels, which will extend to the underside of the deep eaves (roof overhangs). The eaves will be convex is shape, and built much like the wing of an airplane is built. 

As Laurie declares: "I never thought I could love a roof."

Lindy Small

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