Friday, October 10, 2014

Readings + Resources for the Intern Architect (and all) – PART II

Did you study up? I hope you enjoyed those resources. Here are two more of my favorites.

A Pattern Language – Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein
This book was also on our reading list when I was an architecture student. It was, and still is one of the most informative, comprehensible and timeless books regarding architecture, construction and urban planning. I love this book and often reach for it for insight and advice. It’s a guidebook on sociology of human nature and the language of our environment, which the authors of the book defined as patterns. The layout of the book is unique too as the patterns of this book are phrased as design challenges that yield discussions, illustrations and solutions. 

Life of an Architect – A blog by Bob Borson
I began to follow Life of an Architect this year as I read in a magazine article the honesty and humor Bob provides as being a practicing architect. Like all professions, the job has its good and bad parts. And Bob has a genuine way of providing a truthful account of all manners associated within the profession. In fact he often says what I believe many of us feel, and he has no qualms in doing so. I suppose that’s only fair since he’s licensed, been practicing architecture for a while now, and most likely sleep deprived like most of us. His blogs make me laugh as well. Whether he’s searching for an intern that speaks Klingon or poking fun at reasons to become an architect, he delivers the silly kind of crap I like. Most importantly though, Bob should be applauded and recognized for the time he dedicates as a professional to provide guidance and knowledge to the young minds of this profession. 

As we know, architecture + building knowledge is a long, arduous and a never-ending educational journey. The more “seasoned” you become the more you understand the complexity of the industry. I hope the books and resources I mention intrigue you as they have me on my timeline as a young mind in architecture.  Cheers!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Projects Highlighted by Exceptional Details

BuildSense is in the midst of working on three beautiful condominium interior completions at 140 West Franklin in Chapel Hill. Check out the intricate and outstanding work by Eidolon Designs in one of our clients' homes in their recent post:
http://eidolondesigns.com/140-west-franklin/

Precision crafted built-ins at 140 West Franklin

Friday, September 26, 2014

Readings + Resources for the Intern Architect (and all) – PART I

In this two-part blog I thought I might throw out some of my favorite readings and resources. Over the years, I’ve found these to be valuable, silly and often brutally honest.  Here are two to look over this week. We’ll hit you with a few more next time.

GreenBuildingAdvisor.com - An informative resourceful website for green building, design and building science guru’s. This site contains plenty of articles, blogs or details for whatever building topics you wish to gain further insight. I’ve frequented this site for years now researching construction strategies and details for our mixed humid climate zone. I also thoroughly enjoy the green architects lounge and their candid booze infused discussions. The two architects hold great after hour sessions (with notable guests) that debate numerous green building strategies within of our industry all while getting blitzed. 

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin by Lawrence Weschler – An inspiring chronicle of an artist who reveals to the reader his persistent goal towards the experience of perception which he feels is the foundation of everything yet the most difficult concept to grasp. The author’s account of Irwin’s life is compelling, unusual, and yet often humorous.  Irwin challenges preconceived notions, technique and his education; he strips his mind of all constraints and focuses his work on the origin of perception through self-discovery. I read this book in graduate school and I was rather fond of it at the time.  I found his lifestyle relaxing, yet his mind unsettled, and his work deeply complex. To me, Robert Irwin challenged contemporary art and his work eluded classification. Many art critics debated his career and work as even being art while others deemed him as a pioneer of minimalism

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Awesome Responsibility & Benefits of Custom Design

Only a very few people design and build a custom home. A house just for them that fits their needs and passions, family, lifestyle, self-image, and world view. Part of this relates to time, part to money, and a part relates to the emotional investment. It is an awesome responsibility to start with a blank piece of paper and design and build a home. I've heard and sensed this many times over the years but have had recent conversations with clients that have reinforced this idea (and made me laugh). My favorite comment was this: "when you walk into someone's new place and the kitchen island feels wrong, you think, 'what a dumb ass.' When you design it and screw it up, you are the dumb ass."

It is simply quicker, easier, and cheaper to buy a production house that may be close to a fit. However, there is a pot of gold at the end of the custom house rainbow. The reward for this effort is a real home (not just a commodity). A home that helps keep you and your family healthy; that is luxurious and comfortable in the way you experience comfort; that is a place of contentment, delight, and utility; that supports your favorite things to do; that represents your views and passions; and that inspires pride; a home that you love.

My wife's and my experience building a home has changed how I think when we design and build for others. In the design and building process, I learned a whole new level of empathy from the other side of the table. Now, just starting to live in our new home, we are learning first hand what the fuss is all about. One of our first mornings in our home and after a shower, my wife said that she felt like she was traveling and staying in a posh hotel but, wait, it is HER shower! We've gotten clean for years in perfectly serviceable bathrooms, but they never felt like this. Now, we have a hard time choosing between the outdoor shower with a view of the pasture, forest, and pond or the delightful and spacious indoor shower. Of course, both have hand-held shower nozzles to wash our dogs. I say of course because that is true for us and for our custom and personalized home, but not for a commodity house.

When we compare the investment of planning and building time to the decades we plan to live here, it is a minor blip that will feel even less significant with each passing year of enjoyment in our home.

While custom home design is not for everyone, here are a few examples of custom spaces or items requested by clients which provide them with tremendous pleasure, comfort, and peace of mind in their own unique and personalized homes. "It would be nice if my tub didn't feel like a bathroom, but more like a spa. It would be wonderful if I could gaze into the trees while relaxing and soaking."
This home for a boat captain on a very steep slope is three stories with the main entrance on the top floor. "I'd like something of a dumbwaiter to haul light goods up and down with ship's block and tackle."
Requests for "a light filled and open stair" and "plentiful bookshelves throughout the home" resulted in this simple, but dynamic stair. What might you want out of your custom and personalized home?

Friday, August 29, 2014

BuildSense leads another great summer of Design/Build at NCSU School of Architecture!

BuildSense leads another great summer of Design/Build at NCSU School of Architecture! In our fifth summer, we were once again blessed with a fantastic group of motivated students who completed another elegantly executed project. The non-profit Benevolence Farm in Graham NC was the proud beneficiary of this summer's efforts. Students and Instructors designed and built this vegetable washing and packaging barn (“The Benevolence Barn”) complete with open work areas, cold storage, dry storage, and tool sheds in just over 10 weeks. Benevolence Farm provides an opportunity to formerly incarcerated women to live and work on a farm where they develop farming and business skills, grow food, nourish self, and foster community. See images of the completed work below:







Friday, August 15, 2014

Gabions Rock!

Why pay for organized fitness classes when you can install gabions?? It’s both a great work out and a means of enhancing one’s physical environment! Amongst the multitude of today’s retaining wall options remains the handsome gabion. Ideal for erosion control, this modular system demonstrates many benefits; particularly strength met with flexibility. 

“Gabion” translates to “big cage” which is typically made of steel wire fabric that is welded, twisted, or woven closed once filled. The baskets can be filled with rocks, stones, or even concrete. Ideally, one can reuse material such as concrete from a demolished structure. 

While a finished gabion system appears to be monolithic and does indeed provide retention, the wall is also flexible to ensure structural efficiency, and permeable to allow for drainage. Last, if you are willing to put forth your own efforts, collect suitable materials, dig a lot, break and stack stone, and sweat real hard, then gabion walls are quite affordable. Upon completion, this seemingly elemental system will surprise you with its rustic yet undoubtedly elegant appeal. Here’s the basic overview of gabion installation:

1) Excavation
A couple of good shovels will certainly do the trick, however a few hours with an excavator will greatly reduce time and energy spent during excavation.

2) Leveling the ground
It’s important to make sure your ground surface is nice and level before placing the baskets.  While hand levels are, well, handy… a transit is a nifty surveying tool that assists greatly in leveling.

3) Basket assembly
Next comes the unfolding and assembly of gabion baskets.  This takes patience, but the pay-off will be very rewarding.

4) Filling the baskets
Once the baskets are properly set, it’s time for the fun part – filling the baskets with your chosen material!  Options range from taking a sledge hammer to the concrete foundation of a previously demolished building to create chunks of desired size as reusable fill, to ordering pre-sized riprap, stone, etc.  Inherent beauty of the retaining wall structure will be achieved as long as the fill is thoughtfully placed.

5) Fastening baskets
This step can be tricky; using zip ties to first close the gaps between seams is extremely helpful.

6) Backfill if necessary
A layer of landscaping cloth between gabions and earth further prevents erosion.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Explore Your Senses

video
                                                              Sound

Smell

Sight


Touch

Explore your senses

Explore your senses

Explore your senses