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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.

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