Monday, November 16, 2009

A work in progress

I would be disingenuous if I didn't admit that, while criticizing other architects and would-be architects, I am also engaged in the treacherous practice of amateur architecture myself.

Here's the current state of one project, a four-square pavilion house, that I'm working on. The final design, of course, will evolve over time and will eventually be determined by the size and topography of the lot on which the house is built.

For a closer look, click here. Constructive criticism welcome.

As in the case of that other amateur architect from Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, this house is meant for me and me alone (no slaves in mine), which explains some of its idiosyncrasies . . . the direct door from bedroom to kitchen for midnight snacks, for example.

Jefferson's masterpiece, Monticello, is also quirky, personal, and as provincial as it is universal. It breaks a lot of rules, as well as creating a few new ones.


I only hope my own essay will be at least a fraction as successful and livable if it ever gets constructed.


  1. Why the full bath in the back when you have a master bath for you and a powder room for the guests? Do you have a lot of people who are not staying over needing to take a bath. Have you condsidered a moveable wall between the living room and the library? You might also consider moving the master bath on to an outside wall for more light and windows and putting the laundry, and linen closet on the atrium wall. Other wise it's a great formal one bedroom manse.


    PS. I love reading your stuff from San Francisco.

  2. The sitting room doubles as a guest bedroom, hence the full bath. The plan is still evolving, so thanks for your input. I lived in San Francisco for many years, BTW.

  3. Since this is an "on-going" exploration, I'll post at this late date, and anything I say below is meant in the most constructive, helpful manner. Think first, "form". Second, "composition", and third "materials".
    "Pavilion House". Lovely concept - speaks of light and air and garden - and strong forms. I would hope for an articulated pavilion at each corner, connected by subservient halls, with utility/functions cleverly worked in between or on another level. Palladio and his many centuries of followers do this in their purest work. You've started on a "rational" house, so don't let your interior spaces "ramble". An atrium that's truly sizable - reimagined as in interior courtyard? Perhaps simple columns ringing a circular aperture within a square form? Or no columns or overhang, wide open to the sky and air. No second level - no stairs - no view? A bit limiting on the drama, and nixes opportunity for verticality. Chimney - stubby and sort of ignored - must fix that.
    Composition: what elements to use, and how to place them? Well, you have triple height windows that seem Jeffersonian, and the door... hmm, Spanish? Really analyze your precedents, and see that they fit together. You may see this treatment in Movieland, (that's the danger of living in this city) but it's not rigorous enough for your taste, I think.
    Materials: I'm assuming a Southern California location/context. I think I have a visceral negative response to quoin work in any context where european royalty have never been present. ;-) And also implies, if a purist, that similar style detailing will follow across the facade - keystones over the doors and windows, a scale of at least 2-3 stories, large-scale dressed-stone field, or maybe more Villa Medici Palazzo in expression. But in simpler Southern California, it seems unnecessary - save your design statement for something really precious and special.
    No-nos: Do not include a garage if it doesn't relate to the building in any meaningful way. Best to add out-buildings in a landscape plan, which you'd probably have enormous fun developing here. Also, no vegetation on your facade - save that for the picturesque rendering - it'll just hinder you from seeing what you really have. (Coach lanterns - also very Movieland. Look at some historic architectural ironwork for something really tasty.)

  4. I just discovered your blog while searching for some images of craftsman foursquares, and I must say I'm pretty impressed! Being from the Washington, DC metro, Jefferson's Monticello touches near to home and heart. (Thanks for the positive critique on our roads too)

    As far as your plan goes, it actually inspired me to draft it out with some revisions and possibly some ideas for you to consider. I imagine it on a sloped incline at the back, cantilevering the rear portion about 8 feet, and shed roofing it to break the roofline from the side elevations and rear.

  5. Here's a crude 3D rend:

  6. Thomas Jefferson would role over in his grave. This form of contextualism has no place in any sort of progressive architectural discourse. The plan of this house leads me to believe that you have had no formal training in architecture.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. @Joey

    Thanks for the sensitive adjustments and your 3D rendering. I really appreciate your feedback.

  9. @ Anonymous

    I *don't* have any formal training in architecture, and neither did Jefferson. I'm not interested in "progressive architectural discourse" of the sort advocated by SCI-Arc or other contemporary schools of architecture.

    Jefferson would not "role" (or even roll) over in his grave. He would consider the design and give me some positive feedback.

  10. Have you made more progress on this?

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