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Friday, November 22, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board

The reality of this phrase hits home when you work with an architect. We had our first meeting recently to discuss preliminary drawings. I was glad to see that the profession has not completely abandoned the old tools. J., the architect, had three versions of a 3D image of the exterior, but when it got down to the details, we were looking at hand drawn floor plans. There were several variations, depending on the amount of work to be done.
I knew that there are fashions in architecture, but I hadn't expected him to denigrate the roof as being so last century. We do have to do something about the roof at any rate, because the lack of eaves is what has caused much of the siding to rot in the damp Seattle climate. He suggested a butterfly roof; a V shape with the high sides on the north and south ends (this struck me as being very mid-century modern - even further into the last century). The benefit of this design is it allows for passive solar gain. I countered that our planned solar  power and hot water installation requires a southern slope. He admitted the butterfly roof is hard to seal properly (as the water follows the slopes towards the center of the building) and, next thing we knew he'd redrawn the roof with a North/South sweep.  While part of me wonders if it is really necessary  to completely replace an unfashionable (and poorly functioning) roof, the rest of me is fascinated by the design process. 
Next we proceeded to move walls, fixtures, etc. with abandon (it's all done with tracing paper). The only thing that seems to stay in one place is the mechanical space and the staircase. But I expect even that could be moved.
Queen's House, Greenwich - a bit grander than ours

He sent us home with some drawings and instructions to think things over and let him know what we thought. We had just one evening to do this before I  was off to foreign parts for work.  D. was in his element, and dug out his father's architect's scale and tracing paper. We realized the last set of drawings left us with a bedroom door that opened onto a void above the basement, a too small music room in a windowless corner of the basement and a few other  awkward things. So we rearranged the floor plan again on tracing paper, scanned them and sent them back. By now it seems there is not much of the original house left (we had rejected the place as unsuitable the first time we saw it for good reasons). On the other hand I think J is getting a better idea of how we live.  
Archictect's scale
Part way through my trip, in the middle of one of those weird jet-lag induced semi-sleepless nights, I decided that a void (they're calling it a light well, I call it a big hole) in the middle of the house did not sit well with my life long fear of heights.  While some people might enjoy being able to see straight down from the top floor to the basement, the very idea of it brought me out in a cold sweat.  I mentioned it to D. and he said, "you shouldn't have an architectural detail that makes you uncomfortable", and notified J. that he'll need to rethink that.
He and his assistants are now preparing another set of drawings to incorporate our comments and suggestions. Meanwhile, I'm finishing up my trip with another session in the British Library. I don't always write blog posts from such esteemed places, but there was a mixup in a book I requested so I need to do something while I wait.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Have you moved in yet?

There was such flurry of activity around the end of September when we told everyone about the house we're buying.  They all assumed we'd be moved in by now.  Folks were surprised and possibly disappointed  when I invited them over recently to the same old place (sorry!).

Since we don't want to live (and work) in a building site, and since we're hiring professionals to do the work. . . it's going to take some time. We don't anticipate any work to begin until after the new year. If all goes well, we'll move in sometime next summer.

First step in the process, and one that has been completed, is to measure everything.  Two architectural assistants spent the better part of two days photographing, measuring, and inspecting the place inside and out with the aim of creating a computerized model of the house.

Next comes a series of meetings with the architect. This was delayed a bit because he's been busy with the completeion of his latest project, a conversion of an old house into Ada's Technical Books. We like his style and the way he reused elements of the old house. 

During the interim, I've been trying to read up on modern house design and construction. There's so much new technology out there, it's mind boggling. Our first real meeting about our house takes place in a couple days.  We're both excited and  a little nervous.  We've created a document called a program that explains our goals, what kinds of spaces we use on a regular basis, what we've liked or disliked about past homes.  This gives the architect a way to focus his designs.  We've also prepared a list of comments and questions regarding this particular building and thoughts about what we'd like to change or keep. 

No pot rack here. . . 

It's a bit crazy, after all these years of trying to fit our lives into rented or otherwise temporary accommodation to be able to think about what it is we really want in a home.  For what feels like ages I've been saying things like "my next kitchen will have a pot rack" (and it never does).  A root cellar, and a place for radio antennas (both impossible in a condo) are also on the wish list.

We both dream of a workshop area where we can change bike tires and do other repairs (currently these happen in the front hall where at least there's no carpet to get spattered with grease and dirt). Or even a place to properly store the bikes and their related gear (aside from the front hall and the cupboard under the stairs).  Also on the list is an entry way where two or more people can put on their coats and shoes without doing a little dance involving each other, the folding bikes and the coat rack.  It's not like we want a mansion, we just want a functional space (with a view!).