MONTH     May 2012

Cool Modern Architecture at Wellesley College

Cool Modern Architecture at Wellesley College

My older daughter will be graduating from Wellesley College on Friday, and needless to say I am incredibly proud! Were you aware of how much phenomenal modern architecture you can experience at Wellesley’s gem of a campus?! My favorites are Mack Scogin Merrill Elam’s Lulu Chow Wang Student Center and Rafael Moneo’s Davis Museum. Check them out sometime!

Will Ruhl

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Exciting New Green Ideas

Exciting New Green Ideas

I recently traveled back to Hawai`i for a three-day photo shoot of our Hawai`i Wildlife Center, which means two very long days of travel and ample opportunities to catch up on reading. However, before digging into the 20 pounds of reading material I brought for the occasion, I just had to start by flipping through United’s Hemispheres, and was shocked to see not just the usual pretty photos of exotic locations, but a genuinely interesting article on cutting edge green technology. Some highlights from “Plan G”:

  • Britain’s PaveGen has created power generating sidewalk tiles that convert pedestrians’ kinetic energy into power that can either be stored or used to power nearby streetlights. These tiles are being installed in London for the 2012 Olympic Games.
  • Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have devised a process to make paint that can produce electricity. This solar paint, called “Sun-Believable,” isn’t as efficient as a conventional solar panel, but it has enormous potential in terms of scalability and simplicity.
  • Currently under construction in Milan is an apartment complex called Bosco Verticale, designed by Stefano Boeri and billed as the world’s first “vertical forest”. Every unit will have a balcony planted with humidity-creating and CO2-filtering trees, shrubs and flowers that will get their nourishment from recycled gray water.
  • Alcoa has developed a building product that can actually clean the air as well as itself, using a common mineral known as titanium dioxide which reacts with moisture and sunlight to remove organic particles from the air. Alcoa’s Reynobond With EcoClean panels have enough titanium dioxide such that just 10,000 square feet of panels cleans as much air as 80 trees.
  • Dow Solar has begun marketing “Powerhouse Solar Shingles” in CO, CA, and TX, and recently expanded its Michigan plant to bring them to the mass market. The hope is that this new product will make solar power significantly more accessible and affordable for homeowners, since Powerhouse shingles can be installed as easily as a standard asphalt shingle.
  • Will Ruhl
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Griffin Island House Design Update – a “floating hole”

Griffin Island House Design Update – a “floating hole”

One of the most critical design imperatives for a new custom house is that it should be fully integrated with its unique landscape. We are currently collaborating with Kris Horiuchi of Horiuchi Solien Landscape Architects on a new house for a spectacular four acre site on Griffin Island in Wellfleet, MA. The site photos and digital model we posted back on March 19th show a design that takes its formal cues not only directly from Cape Cod Bay but also from the actively shifting, sliding, sandy topography of its dramatic coastal bank. The coastal bank’s movement is almost visible to the naked eye, with sand and trees moving together in dramatic harmony, and our house will also appear to shift and slide with the landscape.  One interesting surprise we have proposed to both the owners and Kris is a “floating hole” strategically placed in the middle of the house adjacent to the main entrance as well as main living space, where landscape and building architecture, earth and sky, sun and shade all come together, anchoring house to nature. See below for several building sections that we are developing, as well as additional details of the “hole”. And we’ll keep you posted as we continue to develop the design.

 

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Before and After: Updating a Staircase

Before and After: Updating a Staircase

We posted progress photos a few months ago of a small project in Boston’s South End, where we were asked to update a stair connecting an upper level entry hall to a lower level combined living / dining / kitchen.  The previous stair was fairly utilitarian, and did nothing to unify the two levels of the house.

We’ve kept the original stair structure, but resurfaced the stair treads with a new and more substantial profile, stained a rich gray/brown to coordinate with the owner’s furniture.  The thickened treads are keyed into a white slatted wood wall on the lower level, which conceals doors to storage closets.  The slats, in turn, are punctuated with small cutouts backed with LED programmable lighting. The outside wall of the stair is re-surfaced with large-scaled high-gloss panels, which visually connect the two stories with one common element.  On the upper level, the entry now feels much larger after we replaced a solid half wall with a glass and stainless steel railing.  A new paint scheme makes the entire experience lighter and calmer.

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