MONTH January 2012
A December 30, 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal‘s Friday Journal focused on architectural regionalism and its reemergence in house design. After decades in which well known architects designed houses that could be seen as idiosyncratic homages to their previous artistic preoccupations and that paid little attention to local climatic realities, architects (and their clients!) are once again finding joy and artistic inspiration in the house’s local surroundings and reinterpreting local traditions in fresh, inventive ways. We can only hope that this catches on with mass production and speculative house builders, which represents the vast majority of our country’s new housing stock…
Below are two houses that illustrate a preoccupation with important regional architectural issues. Additional images of Ruhl Walker’s Westport River House can be seen on our portfolio website. The Hawai`i house was designed by Rhoady Lee Architecture + Design (RWA happily provided production assistance!), and additional images can be seen on their website, with photos by Linny Morris.
Did you see the recent Maurizio Cattelan show, “All”, at New York’s Guggenheim? While the Guggenheim is a favorite of many architects, it has often been criticized for the inherent difficulty of hanging art on its curved walls, to be viewed from spiraling ramps. Fortunately, as the museum passes its fiftieth anniversary, art sometimes seems to be catching up to it, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s rotunda has inspired more than a few amazing site-specific installations. Cattelan’s assemblage of hanging objects has to be one of the best.
See Aaron Seward’s recent article on how the exhibit was hung, “Get A Rope” in The Architect’s Newspaper here.
Having worked on several cool projects in Hawai‘i over the last few years, our eyes have really been opened to architectural possibilities that rarely exist in New England. For example, we collaborated with Rhoady Lee Architecture and Design on the Big Island on a new house near the Four Seasons at Hualalai that had custom motorized rolling walls of glass and teak (detailed by our own Sandra Baron and Lilly Smith!) that disappear into lava rock walls, opening virtually every room in the house to trellised lanais, an edge-less pool, lushly landscaped courtyards, and sweet tropical breezes. So, how can we introduce these exotic possibilities to the custom houses we design in New England?
One answer is through bi-folding glass walls from companies like Nanawall, and we’ve designed several recent houses that utilize their exceptional technology. Our clients wanted to have large screened porches so they could live outdoors spring, summer and fall without the ubiquitous New England mosquitoes and flies, and wondered how they might join those porches to the rest of the house. Voila, we proposed Nanawall doors and something that has traditionally been a barrier in older New England houses becomes an opportunity. Added benefit: makes a great party house even better!
After a very long, exhausting day flying from Boston to the Big Island of Hawai‘i, and after a bizarre drive across seemingly endless miles of lava – usually at night with little sense of scale – harried visitors are often welcomed by a warm “aloha”, friendly faces, cool towels, fresh guava juice, and hotels unlike anything most of us have seen before. Who knew that hotels didn’t really need walls? As with Hawaiian houses, the main public spaces of most Hawaiian hotels are essentially large open air lanais; no screens as you would find in the Caribbean since flying insects are less prevalent in Hawai‘i, and it is rare to see the discrete bi-folding shutters or sliding skylights closed. The next morning you wake up, and you see views like those below. Pure heaven! And fresh ideas for how these design possibilities might translate into our own work on custom vacation houses in New England…
Having just returned from the Big Island of Hawai‘i – the first time in five years not related at least partially to working with the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center – I still have Hawai‘i on my mind… It doesn’t help that the temperatures dipped into single digits this weekend, with wind chills below zero!
Architects have a hard time traveling without focusing obsessively on local architecture, and Hawaii’s – the openness to the elements, the blurring of inside and outside, the direct link to Asian architecture in both form and spatial flow – is particularly alluring. One key element is the “lanai”, a term first used in Hawai‘i in the early eighteenth century, and elsewhere known generically as a porch or veranda. The Hawaiian Islands are well known for their steady tropical breezes, a benefit and sometimes curse of being located so remotely in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaiian lanais are often a house’s primary living space, and provide much needed shade and help Hawaiian buildings breathe by catching the trade winds and using that constant supply of fresh, naturally cooled (by the Pacific) air to remove hotter, more stagnant air. Below are a few of my favorite examples of modern lanais.
Send us your own images and thoughts! And look forward to future posts showing how we bring this “exotic” knowledge to our New England projects!
Belzberg Architects, Santa Monica, CA: Belzberg Architects
Olson Kundig Architects, Seattle, WA: Olson Kundig Architects
Craig Steeley Architecture, San Francisco, CA: Craig Steely Architecture
Legoretta + Legoretta, Mexico: Legorreta + Legorreta
Just as construction of our Mystic Lake house was winding down, the neighbor’s house was demolished and construction began on their own new house; what goes around, comes around! And soon winter will have to arrive presumably; other than an odd snowfall around Halloween we’ve escaped so far. So, we will have to wait to do a full (professional) photo shoot until spring. In the meantime, our client shared the lovely photos below.