a hillside courtyard


I don’t know why courtyards intrigue me so much.  Perhaps it’s due to my living in the sun-drenched foothills of Southern California, where courtyard typologies have long dotted the land to provide shade in the summer and protect against winter winds.

Today’s project is yet another courtyard house.  This time stemming from a relative’s home perched atop the rolling hills of San Diego county.  The layout is simple:  A small patio protects the front door (to the left on the drawing), with a living room just beyond, a dining room to the right, and the kitchen and family room further yet; to the left are bedrooms and baths, with a stair down to a lower level tucked into the hillside below; a central courtyard is flanked by a covered patio which opens onto tiered terraces and stairs beyond.

Formally, my initial studies (below) were rather rectangular, with only one oriel window at the family room.  However, I couldn’t resist the fun a pinwheel-ed series of oriels would provide, lending one each to the family room, the master bedroom, a guest bedroom, and the dining room.  Here the plan takes cues from McKim Mead & White’s two casinos at Newport (also here) and Narragansett, with a dash of the Bell House (also here).  The bottom sketch further investigates a circular series of stairs at the patio, referencing the predominance of half-round oriel figures in the remainder of the plan.



another house. another veranda


Some time ago, I shared a very Irving-Gill-dependent rectangular home with a wrap-around arcaded veranda.  Today, I’m offering a new take on that plan – taking a cue from the Shingle Style and rounding out the corners of the veranda, and subsuming the whole under a large, steeply pitched hip roof.  Here, the veranda is more closely tied to the rectangular volume behind it, rather than merely acting as a stand-alone wrapper.  Personally, I find both equally interesting, but I’ll let you take your pick.


at home with an arcade


There’s a single family house in my neighborhood that was at one time wrapped in a deep arcade.  Though rotting and falling apart (and no doubt unpermitted), the regular rhythm of the arches masks the asymmetrically placed windows and doors behind.  I tied this with Irving Gill’s Oceanside City Hall of 1934 (also here), which uses an arcade in a similar fashion, to regularize an otherwise syncopated facade.

Today’s project takes Gill’s more refined use of the arcade and applies it to the single family home, a typical, asymmetrical, single story, home not unlike many here in Southern California (and indeed in many suburban neighborhoods).  This results in some interesting conditions, with some occupied spaces pushed right up behind the arcade while leaving shallow porches elsewhere, and even enclosing a small garden within its bounds.

The options below take the same floor plan of above, but add a second floor, positioning the arcade proper against taller volumes behind.



at home in a tithe barn


Today’s project takes its impetus from the tithe barn (Fr. grange dimiere), medieval structures used to collect villagers’ tithes, which prior to the proliferation of cash was often given as a portion (one tenth) of the individual’s harvest.  These cumulative tithes required an elaborate barn to store them for safekeeping throughout the following year.  The structures are fabulous syntheses of the ecclesiastical and the secular – large, windowless stone or brick fortresses with soaring trussed, nave-like, roofs.

Barn conversions are fascinating to me, with the domesticization of the agricultural, and the tithe barn is no less so.  This project attempts to take the typical tithe barn and meet it with the domestic, with a large enclosed courtyard to compliment the truss-framed living room.


gamble via gill


Staring at a blank sheet, knowing that I want to draw something, just not knowing what to draw, sometimes I try to draw the plan of a house from memory.  This particular day I was musing over Greene & Greene’s seminal Gamble House, the high water mark of the California Craftsman bungalow.  But being my own self, obsessed with modules and keeping things on grid, I drew it a little differently, quickly observing a plan that reminded myself more of Gill than Greene.  So I ran with it.  White stucco replaces darkened shingles; Rectangular parapets take the place of deep Japanese-inspired gables; Minimally appointed Italianate colonnades take over for iron-wrapped wood posts.  What we’re left with, while deriving from the Gamble House no doubt becomes something completely different, yet all the while essentially Californian.



more octagons


Two more takes on the Victorian-anomaly-Octagon-house.  The first is octagonal at the core, with square rooms off of four corners, connected by intermediary porches to form more of a chamfered square at the ground floor, while the octagon proper pierces out at the second story, topped with a tall, Rossi-an turret.  The second is more subtle, placing a gabled roof on top of an octagonal plan, with porches on either side at the ground floor.


a gazebo


I like circles.  I like squares.  I like circles and squares together.  This is a gazebo.  It has a square brick base with four Tuscan columns.  These support a circular lintel with conical purlins.  The drawing below does not have a circle.  It is kind of boring.

That is all.


t’karregat revisited, or wood pyramids


I think through drawing; I interpret as I reproduce.  The drawing above perfectly capture this, where I set out to draw an accurate representation of an existing floor plan and ended up drawing what I wanted to see.  The project in question is Frank V. Klingeren’s T-Karregat Center in Eindhoven, of 1973.  The original is a system of steel truss ‘trees’ that serve as both structure and building systems, in some Reyner-Banham-dream-come-true, culminating in large pyramidal skylights that provide the majority of the light to an otherwise free plan interior.

My interpretation keeps the modular system, but lays it out in a rigor more reminiscent of early SOM (Mitchell Hall at the US Air Force Academy), and imagines it rendered in popular-once-again heavy-timber framing.  The drawings below investigate the basic modularity, the nine square, and centering.


a belvedere


Today’s post takes its impetus from a number of geometric games I’ve been playing with myself recently – the staircase moves from a circle to a square in plan, the tower moves from a square to a circle in elevation, the staircase moves from a rectangle to a circle as it moves from floor to floor.  Programmatically, it is a take on Krier’s belvederes, which crop up again and again in his oeuvre (and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. . . ).



I find the late Victorian octagon houses fascinating on many levels (this one, this one, this one).  A few weeks back, while scouring a site devoted solely to documenting these gems, I stumbled upon one that had been wrapped in a square two-story porch.  This project is a derivative of that, with a tower-like octagonal form completely subsumed behind the square porch, only peeking out in a cupola at the roofline, taking a cue here or there from good ol’ Aldo Rossi. A study below takes the tower metaphor further, extending the octagon below the porches, which take on a more expressive tectonic with braced timber supports below.