Start With Simple
Let’s talk about how using an iconic shape can help you conceptualize the modern design of your new home — architects start here all the time. Take the simplest architectural outline, such as four walls topped with a gable roof, as shown in this archetypal Scottish stone barn.
(Image courtesy gairloch.org) What can you do with it? How can you pack it, expand it, open it, raise it, give it a sense of history or modernity? Here’s a sampling of houses that all began with a similar profile,
starting with architect Rick Joy‘s design for a barn-inspired house in Vermont.
(Images courtesy Architectural Record.) Inside you can see how the shape is simply hollowed out for the main living space, with minimal but strong posts and rafters providing support. The design feels modern and historical at the same time. One side opens to a terrace while other has high windows for balanced light. Architects William Turnbull and Mary Griffin began with the long barn idea and then
divided it into two spaces (kitchen/living area and a bedroom/bathroom) separated by a breezeway-dining room, creating a contemporary dogtrot cabin (itself an historical house type) for the wine country.The outdoor dining room can be closed off from the prevailing wind with a sliding barn door (which is in the open position, in kitchen on drawing).
The house is the width of a vine row (drawing and photo courtesy TGH Architects). Architect Stephen Atkinson took a similar tack with corrugated aluminum siding
and pulled the fireplace away to mark the edge of the deck in his Zachary vacation house.
(Images courtesy Studio Atkinson.) His plan is also a dogtrot but includes a galley kitchen that parallels the long axis; the breezeway stretches beyond the house to include the fireplace and deck. Australian architect Glenn Murcutt has often explored the use of simple house forms and distilled them to an essence,
as in the elegant curve of the gable on his Marie Short house (images courtesy Architectural Record), which also seems to be channeling a fluid line from Alvar Aalto. In this case the walls are really a series of operable layers that filter light, air, and view. So the iconic form creates a structure that allows for change depending on needs and circumstances. The two story gable is equally iconic, especially in the Rudin
house, made of concrete by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron (image courtesy Apartment Therapy), which in turn has influenced designs by others,
like this memorable little shelter by Ultra Architects of Poland (image courtesy Mocoloco).
The most famous riff on such shapes is probably Robert Venturi’s design for his mother’s house from 1964 in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania.
Venturi used the gable as the centering device for the facade and then broke it to bring in high light and shape the entrance (image from The American House, courtesy curatedmag.com). This house became an icon in its own right as a herald of “Post Modernism.”
Archetypal house forms are also at the heart of designs by architects in our Exclusive Studio, such as Bud Dietrich’s wide gable that encompasses
greenhouse windows and a garage, Plan 481-1; Ross Anderson’s Plan 433-1
for a coastal getaway, with saddlebag-like attachments like the rustic staircases and the screen porch; Braxton Werner and Paul Field
and their version of a long barn house, Plan 491-10; Gregory La Vardera’s Plan 431-14
even recalls the Herzon & de Meuron example in its cubist quality, only in shingles this time, not concrete, and Frank McGahon’s Plan 520-7,
which combines a series of long gables into a courtyard layout. And we’re back to the stone barn — not from Scotland now but from Ireland!
Recycled Wood News
Kirei is a sustainable wood manufacturer known for handsome bamboo, wheatboard, and Kirei board products (the latter is made of reclaimed sorgum straw) and has just launched the new Windfall line of paneling.
It uses reclaimed wood from deconstructed buildings in the Pacific Northwest to create engineered wood panels for wall coverings and casework (image from Kirei). Solid panels come in Clear, Ivory, Anthracite, and Mocha finishes; 3-ply panels come in Clear finish. Solid and 3 ply panels also come in an end-grain style.