2014-05-20_blog_image_the break up part 1

After 14 years or so the AIA and I have broken up… seems I’ve put on a few extra pounds and the AIA has… well… they’ve gotten to be high maintenance. The magic is gone. No matter what I do it’s not enough. We’ll always have… hmm… not sure what we’ll always have. We did have some good times though, didn’t we? Perhaps we can rekindle our relationship in the future (I left a turtleneck in their closet ** air thumbs up! **). For now though, and for the sake of the design, we have parted. A follow-up post in the future will cover more specifics. For now I give you some revised lyrics from the Counting Crows Mr. Jones (VH1 Storytellers version):

1 qoute



So you wanna be an AIA Member,

Well listen now to what I say,

Just get a bank account,

And take some time, and learn how to pay,

Just learn how to pay.


Well I was down at the New AIA Headquarters,

Just staring at this yellow painted gable,

Mr. AIA strikes up a conversation,

With the black haired flamenco drafter,

You know, she dances while his father pays the dues,

She’s suddenly beautiful,

And we all want something beautiful,

And I wish I was beautiful la la la.


I’ll call-up Mies- come on,

Show me some of them contemporary designs,

And pass me a contract Mr. AIA,

Believe in me, come on,

Help me believe in AIA,

‘Cause I wanna be someone who believes.


Mr. AIA and me,

Tell each other fairy tales,

We stare at the beautiful architecture,

“She’s looking at you, no no, she’s looking at me,”

Standing in this permit office,

Coming through in stereo,

When everybody loves modernism,

You should never be lonely.


I wanna paint myself an outfit,

I wanna paint myself in black and charcoal and grey and dark grey,

All the beautiful colors are very, very meaningful,

Yeah, you know black it’s my favorite color,

I just, wear it everyday,

But if I knew Corbu,

I would buy myself a dark grey mock turtleneck and pay.


Mr. AIA and me,

Look into the future,

We stare at all the beautiful Architecture,

“She’s looking at you, I don’t think so, she’s looking at me,”

Presenting to this Planning Commision,

I bought myself this black suit and tie,

Man, when everybody loves me,

I hope I’ll never get lonely.


I wanna be a lion, I know, I know-

Everybody wants to pass as cats,

We all wanna be big, big, big, big, big starchitects,

Yeah but then we get second thoughts about that,

So believe in me, man, I don’t believe in anything,

And I wanna be someone to believe,

You should not believe in post modernism.


Mr. AIA and me,

Stumbling through the city grid,

We stare at all the beautiful Architecture,

She’s perfect for you, there’s got to be someone for me,

I wanna be Richard Neutra,

Mr. AIA wishes he was someone just a little more, you know flexible,

Man, when everybody loves you and dues are so high,

Sometimes, that’s just about as fucked up as you can be,


Can’t you hear me ’cause I’m screaming

But I did not pay my dues this year,

Oh, don’t wake me ’cause I was dreaming

And I make you worth it again today.


Mr. AIA and me, we don’t see each other much… anymore.

2 qoute



Design On,

** The acoustic version will be awesome!  


2014-05-13_blog_image_competitions 1Within the architecture profession, design competitions have a love hate relationship. Many architects either love them or hate them. Me, I don’t cut it so black and white, I prefer an off gray stance. I don’t enter many design competitions, perhaps a future post as to why. However, when I do, I look at them from my own ** insert pun ** perspective and I win every competition I enter.




How? Simple, I enter them with a specific challenge for myself to achieve. I don’t care about ‘winning’ in terms of Charlie Sheen, or the competitions definition of winning. Sure, it’d be great to win and receive the accolades from peers, or a quart of tiger’s blood, but I’m in it for more than that. I win by using competitions as exercises to further my knowledge of the architecture profession and/or add new design tools to my arsenal. There are two, and only two criteria to meet if you want to guarantee a win- and in reality one of them is optional.

The two critical tips to win every competition you enter:

1. There needs to be an entry fee. It’ll force upon you responsibility and commitment. If you’re anything like me, you expect to get something out of the monies you pay- I’m looking right at you AIA, sorry, that’s another post.

2. You need to commit to learning a new technique, trying new software, testing a new concept, investigating a new material or new usage of a typical material, etc. the key here is ‘new’ as the only way to win is doing something new.

You can win without meeting tip number 1. However, your winnings will be greater if you do. Keep in mind, there is no way to win if you don’t adhere to tip number 2

2014-05-13_blog_image_competitions 3One of my most recent projects was the design of a new residential house. The clients are great and it’s been a fun project. The design was done via SketchUp and the design package was presented via renders right out of SketchUp. The graphic results for the schematic proposal were good. At the schematic stage, I try not to get caught up in materials and color selections- I want clients to focus on form, massing, and layout. I’ve used SketchUp for several years, the renders are good but a bit cartoonish. If you’d like to learn the basics of using SketchUp, check out my post SketchUp 101. I’ve tried a few other rendering plug-ins with Sketchup in the past, while the results were better than the standard Sketchup, they were cumbersome to achieve. I knew there were better Sketchup plug-ins. Time to go win a design competition.

My local chapter of the AIA was having their annual design awards competition, a perfect one to enter. As previously mentioned, there was an entry fee and the new software I was going to learn was Maxwell Render. I wanted to learn a new software to enhance the Sketchup renders. In addition, I was looking for a technique to better render grass, and Maxwell fit the bill on both counts. The free version of Maxwell is a plug-in that runs within Sketchup. While you’re limited to certain functions and output resolutions, it greatly enhances renderings of your Sketchup models. I chose Maxwell because Evan Troxel raves about it and if he does, trust me it’s got to be good. So Maxwell it was. I won’t go into specifics about the usage of Maxwell, perhaps a future post, but honestly you’re better off checking out Evan’s get Method site.

Here are some of the images created- the original SketchUp image is followed  with the Maxwell Render below. Keep in mind these were created from one SketchUp model with minor tweaking in Maxwell. The people, trees, and sky were done in Photoshop:

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So there you go, my latest win at a design competition. I won by learning a new software and technique. I was extremely happy with the results and haven’t even begun experimenting with Maxwell materials… maybe I’ll save that for my next winning entry. If you care to forgo an entry fee, be sure to check out Bob Borson’s Life of an Architect annual Playhouse Design Competition, its for a great cause.

So go out there and win yourself a design competition, you’ll be happy you did!



Design On,

** Seriously… you’ll win… do it!

Lifer 2This is not an article by me. I read this article in inform Architecture+Design 2013: number six issue, a publication by the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects. Inform states that they encourage “open discussions of architecture and design.” I reached out to inform asking their permission to post their article on my blog, I never received a response. I hope they are okay with this. The link to the article on inform’s site is at the end of this post.

The opinions in the article are of Peter Gluck, founder of the design-build firm GLUCK+, he is spot on with his observations. Gluck raises some interesting points concerning architects conceding, or abandoning, their responsibilities during construction. This should be, if not already, on the minds of all architects. Gluck asserts, correctly, that the AEC profession must break down the separation between the design office and the construction trades. I strongly agree with his theory that there should be no separate ‘departments’ between designing and building or thinking and making. So have a read and post your comments below:

1 qoute


Peter Gluck founded the design-build firm GLUCK+ in New York City as a logical step toward delivering buildings that are built efficiently and well so that they adhere to the highest levels of life-cycle performance and aesthetic presence as prescribed in the design documents.

The strength of his firm’s work may lie in his breaking down the silos that separate the design office from the construction trades. The same project team of architects at GLUCK+ have a direct supervisory role at the building site, and in fact are in touch with the building trades before construction on site has begun. The theory is that there are no separate departments between designing and building, thinking and making. The pedagogy of the studio is that this integrated approach is the foundation for great buildings to be possible. This requires a shift in thinking.

“My pejorative position is that if you hire an architect who has been in the field for eight years, that is the point where he or she is resistant to change and tends to be defensive about being on a construction site and operating there.”

Design Forum XI

Gluck will join Ma Yansong, mad architecture, Beijing; Jeff Kovel, Skylab Architecture, Portland, Ore.; and Kai-Uwe Bergmann, BIG, Copenhagen, this coming April 11-12 in Charlottesville for the eleventh VSAIA Design Forum, “Dwelling: The Art of Living in Century XXI.”

In a recent interview with Inform, Gluck shared his personal views on three reasons architects have abandoned their responsibilities in the construction of their buildings.

Airs of a profession

In the late 19th century, architects wanted to distance themselves from being seen as tradesmen or craftsmen. They wanted to be seen as professionals. They brought academic pursuits to America from European institutions, notably the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and no longer aspired to talk tough and wear overalls on the job site.

Supervision: The Scarlett S

As litigation became more prevalent in the post-WWII boom, which lasted through the 1960s, lawyers began advising architects against supervision. Even though construction supervision is the one best way to know what happens on the project and is crucial to developing young talent, risk avoidance means that architects haven’t supervised job sites for several generations. By passing that responsibility over to others without the training and experience, risk avoidance became the greatest risk architects could possibly take.

Academy versus polytechnique

Architectural education has moved too far from reality. The thinking among many faculty is that true architectural education is purely academic, “and the polytechnique is for those who must build the building,” Gluck says. “So the third reason architects get separated from the construction world is that there is an attitude that they are artists, and that artists don’t dirty their hands with the real work. But, if you know anything about artists, you know that they have dirty hands.”

We have already seen the architect become the straw man—the target—when something goes wrong on the construction site. The architect’s role used to consist of schematic design, design development, construction documents, and supervision. If you believe, as Gluck does, that architects have already given up the supervision aspects, what is next? His answer is not to shy away, but to get involved in the process of translation from the abstract representation of an idea of a building to the full-size built version. He warns of the danger of depending on building information modeling (BIM) software as a panacea to replace the hard work of communication.

“Our process has been called analogue BIM because we have our people sitting next to each other doing the plumbing, structural, and mechanical drawings,” Gluck says. “The coordination is done humanistically—at the same time those people are design the architectural space.”2 qoute

If architects concede design development to some looming side profession of BIM managers (as so many conceded to construction managers in the 1970s and ’80s), “then architects will be relegated to making cartoons or sketches,” he warns.




The article can be found on inform’s web site here-> ‘Architects Are Not Cartoon Makers’

Design On,

** I wonder how much money cartoonists earn…

I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp as the electronic version of chipboard and BIM as electronic basswood. Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. Typically I’ll create Schematic Design entirely in SketchUp, except for the floor plans which I’ll hand draw or use 2d CAD. You can create the floor plans in SketchUp, however, I’ve never been satisfied with how long it takes to achieve a decent ‘graphic.’ With the SketchUp model, I’ll generate elevations, roof plans, sections, and various perspective views. It’s a quick and a great tool for visualizing in three dimensions. I’ve been using SketchUp since, well… um… let’s just leave it at beta.

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I’m often asked about how to use SketchUp, or more typical, part of a discussion about the fear of learning SketchUp. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and one of the easiest programs to learn. As such, I’m offering up some tips and general information for those looking to get started in SketchUp or those who want a brief refresher. Note that this post is based upon Google SketchUp version 8.0.14346 and may differ slightly from the most current Trimble version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

The Basics

1. Resources:

a. There are numerous resources online to learn SketchUp, Start at the Help Center, here you’ll find numerous tutorials and information:

b. From within SketchUp, Instructor teaches how to use a tool when you select it- Go To: Window>Instructor

c. Click here to download a PDF-> Quick Reference Card for SketchUp

2. Toolbars- these are the basic toolbars that should be in your workspace:

a. Getting Started- Go To: View>Toolbars>Getting Started

b. Large Tool Set- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Tool Set

c. Styles- Go To: View>Toolbars>Styles

d. Layers- Go To: View>Toolbars>Layers

e. Shadows- Go To: View>Toolbars>Shadows

f.  Standards- Go To: View>Toolbars>Standards

g. Views- Go To: View>Toolbars>Views

3. Large Buttons, makes toolbars easier to read- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Buttons

4. Axis- each axis has a solid line on one side of the origin and a dotted line on the other, the axis lines orientation is:

a. Solid Blue line extends up from the origin

b. Dotted Blue line extends down from the origin

c. Solid Red line extends East from the origin

d. Dotted Red line extends West from the origin

e. Solid Green line extends North from the origin

f. Dotted Green line extends South from the origin

5. Shortcut keys- when using the drop-down menus at the top, pay attention to commands that have a letter to the right, those are shortcut keys that you can use from the keyboard.

Setting Defaults and Saving Your Own Template

1. Open a new file and set all settings below to your own liking.

a. Setting the location and solar orientation

i. Go to: Window>Model Info>Geo-location * You’ll have the option to geolocate or manually locate the model, geo-locating is more precise. Also note, location should be updated per a specific project location.


b. Styles

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the first box Edge Settings, confirm the Display Edges box is checked, turn off all other options.


c. Face

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the second box Face Settings, confirm the Front color and Back color are set to white. Confirm the Enable transparency box is checked and set to ‘Nicer.’


d. Background

 i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the third box Background Settings, set the Sky and Ground colors to your liking.


 2. Saving your own template

a. After selecting the settings above, save the drawing.

b. Go to: Windows >Preferences>Template and Browse to find the file you just saved. Once this is set, whenever you open a new file, your settings will automatically be set in the model!

Modeling Basics

1. Always use the axis to draw Everything. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to lock directions. The up and down arrows will lock the blue axis. The right arrow key locks the red axis and the left arrow key locks the green axis.

2. Make use of Groups and Components.

a. Creating a Group is simply a way to combine several objects together, into one ‘piece.’  For instance you can create a window that is comprised of an upper and lower sash as well as glass. You can than make a group out of the ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

b. A Component is a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.

c. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

d. Groups and components can be edited by double clicking them.

3. When drawing shapes and lines, you can key in actual dimensions, look at the bottom right of the screen for the dimensions dialogue box.

4. The basics of modeling are to draw shapes, select from the toolbars or Go to: Draw drop-down menu. Than you manipulate the shapes by the Push/Pull tool and various others selected from the toolbars or the drop-down menus.

5. Linear Arrays create multiple copies of entities or geometries (use it for posts at an on-center spacing, siding, beams, etc.) To create an array:

a. Select the entity to be copied

b. Select the Move tool, press and release the CTRL (PC) or Option (MAC) key, the Move tool icon should now have a ‘+’ sign.

c. Click on the selected entities to copy and move your mouse to copy, easiest if you key in dimension spacing, click destination point.

d. Type a multiplier to create additional copies, i.e. typing 4x will create a total of 5 copies, the original entity and the 4 copies.

e. There are several other ways to create linear arrays, as well as radial arrays, search online or use the SketchUp help forums.

6. Use Layers, they make it easier to control the visibility with-in the model and group similar ‘pieces.’ From with-in the Layers dialogue box select the ‘+’ sign to create a new layer and name it as you wish. From this box you can also select which layer is ‘current’ and all modeling is currently being placed in.


7. Use the Tape Measure tool to create drawing guidelines, it can be accessed either from the toolbar button, Go to: Tools>Tape Measure, or by pressing ‘T’ on the keyboard. After a while your model may have a lot of guidelines, you can delete them by, Go to: Edit>Delete Guides

8. You can import files to use as site plan or floor plan references, Go to: File>Import and select the type of file to import. You can scale the imported file by using the measuring tool to measure a known dimension and scale accordingly using the Scale tool.

9. The Follow Me tool is a great time saver for creating moldings. The tool will take any multi-sided plane (e.g., a section through a piece of molding) and extrude it along a line or curve. Draw the shape you want to extrude. Then select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag it along the path you want it to follow.

Draw the shape you wish to extrude:

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_follow 1

Select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag along path of extrusion:

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_follow 2

Complete the paths loop:

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_follow 3

10. A lot of time can be saved by using models/components others have created. Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Get Models and search for what you want. Once imported into your model, they can be edited as you like. You can also share models/components you create, Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Share Model

11. To apply a material, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Select button should be highlighted,  from this dialogue box numerous standard materials can be applied by selecting a material and then using the paint bucket to select the model pieces to receive the material. Be sure to select the Shaded With Texture button in the Styles toolbar or you won’t see the material.

a. Once a material is placed it can be edited, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Edit button should be highlighted, from here you can edit the color, scale, and opacity of the material. You can also use your own images to create materials or images from a manufacturer’s website.  

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_material 1

b. After placing materials, you can edit them in the model by right-clicking on the material and selecting Texture>Position (if you right-click again there are some additional options). Four colored ‘pin’ tools appear that allow you to modify the position and scale of the material. The two most commonly used are the Green ‘pin’ which allows scaling and rotating of the material and Red ‘pin’ which allows moving of the material. Using these ‘pins’ allows scaling of the material to match a known dimension and placing the material at a ‘starting’ point.

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_material 2

Views and Animations

1. Once you determine vantage points that highlight your model, you’ll want to save the views (called ‘Scenes’) for printing, exporting, or creating animations. To create a scene, Go to: View>Animation>Add Scene, a new tab will be created at the top of the work area. Right clicking the tab allows you to update the scene to the current view. Right clicking a Scene tab also allows you to open the Scene Manager, from here you can rename your Scene and choose which properties are to be saved in the Scene. You also select if the selected Scene is included in an animation or not.

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_animation 1

2. Animations can be created from a selection of Scenes, Go to: View>Animation>Settings to set the Scene Transition and Scene Delay times. To play the Animation, Go to: View>Animation>Play or right-click a Scene tab and select Play Animation. Note, Animations will play the Scenes from Left-to-Right. If need be Scenes can be re-organized by either right-clicking a Scene tab and selecting Move Right or Move Left, or from within the Scene Manager Dialogue Box.

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_animation 2

Plugins and Scripts

1. There are several plugins/scripts that can be downloaded to enhance the use of SketchUp. A few of my favorites are:

a. Windowizer- allows you to create windows from a shape.


b. Stairs- there are several available to quickly create stairs


c. Roof- allows you to create various roof configurations


d. Joists- creates floor or roof joists



1. Styles apply filters to your model to give them various looks, such as a hand-drawn look. To apply a style, Go to: Window>Styles> select the left tab Select, now you can view various styles and apply them to your model. From here you can also create your own Style. With a slight bit of research, you can find numerous Styles to download for your use.

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Original Model:

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Model After Applying Style:

2014-01-14_blog_image_sketchup_style 3

Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using SketchUp, even if you’ve never used it before. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher of the SketchUp basics. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with SketchUp and a lot more tools/ information to learn. You’ll also realize that there is almost nothing that you can’t model in SketchUp. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

So what tips/advice do you have for SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use SketchUp.



Design On,

** go download SketchUp and get your 3d on!

1976… 0630 hours… Outpost Sidecut… Christmas morning………

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I’m the first up, my three brothers are still asleep. I make my way to the Dutch-door that guards the descent. Creeping down the stairs, my hand has a tight grasp on the hand hewn oak railing. I must hold firmly and lightly jump-skip the next tread, it’s the one that creaks. Kneeling down to peer below the ceiling I see the glowing fire of orange, blue, red, yellow, and the suffering wood, crackling and popping is a comforting sound- someone beat me to it and is already up. I stay frozen in my spot, fighting the heat of the fireplace as it radiates across the room and through my body.

I make my way down to the first floor. Directly ahead of me is a step down to the entry foyer and in sight is the bathroom door- thankfully it’s ajar and I can see via the mirror reflection down the hall that my father’s room door is still shut. I make a U-turn and enter the living room. I look down into the kitchen, lights off. I turn left and look through the glass doors to the dining room, still set from the night before for dinner today. Glancing up and to the right, I confirm no one else is wake upstairs yet. Looking back to the left is the tree, freshly cut a week prior from the woods. Suddenly a faint rustle is heard, I quickly dash across the living room and into the kitchen. The reddish colored linoleum floor in the kitchen is cold on the feet, I dive under the table. Ten minutes pass, it must have been the cat. Getting up from the floor I look out the bank of windows spanning the rear of the house in the breakfast area. I look out across the back yard towards the horse barn and my father’s woodshop… Yes! The field is pure white, it snowed last night!

Making my way back to the living room to investigate what’s under the tree, another noise! This time I crawl behind the chair that is in the alcove to the left of the fireplace. The mantle clock is ticking as if it’s a bomb about to detonate and it seems to be synced to the beating of my chest. I’ve got good cover, behind the chair and above me low shelf’s displaying my dad’s stein collection… I’m one with the darkness. I peak under the chair and I see it, the box that’s about the right size, can it be? I see my name on it and I’m hoping it’s… I begin making my way to the box under the tree.

Half way between the chair and the tree I hear my dad getting up, not good. We were to stay in bed until he was up. Not enough  time to make it up the stairs without being spotted, I know what needs to happen next. I run and jump down the step into the foyer. The door to my dad’s room is to the left and starting to open. Maintaining momentum I continue straight into the bathroom, where my dad is headed… I keep going because the door on the other end of the bathroom opens into a small office, taking a left I run into the playroom, my dad’s now shutting the door to the bathroom. I take another left and run towards the entry to the playroom, hang a left, a right, jump up one step and I’m now on the stairs back up to my bedroom, whew made it! Just as I turn into my bedroom, I see my dad in the middle of the room with a big grin on his face asking me why I’m making so much noise creeping around the house, busted on Christmas morning!


My childhood home holds great memories for me. At the time I was unaware of the gift our home gave- it served as a frame of reference for our daily life which in turn became our memories. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve lived in the house, but my memories are fresh because I have the house as a reference that enhances my memories recollection- textures, sights, sounds, smells, all contained within a house, a home… architecture.


Design On,

** yes, that really is the house I grew up in, it had a few more additions on it prior to my living there  

A few weeks ago I posted Crickets; it addressed my frustration with potential clients being unresponsive. However, I just can’t let it rest. As an architect I’m always looking to solve the problem at hand and make my client’s responsibilities as easy and efficient as possible. As such, I’ve created a [un]Response Form that can be left with potential clients to review and choose their response. I’ll even go so far as to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the [un]Response Form. Hopefully, this will elicit a few more responses. I present the latest in my library of forms:




Download a PDF for your own use ->[un]Response Form


Design On,

** the form is provided free of charge, and you assume all liability and comical consequences- however, at any point in the future I can decide to charge $79.99 for a one time use of the form… enjoy! 

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There are numerous buildings that I find inspiration in and admire. Selecting one and stating that it is my all-time favorite is impossible, there are too many. However, I thought it would be an interesting change of pace here on Architect’s Trace to offer up some architectural history and discuss one of my favorite single-family houses, The Lovell House.

More than half a century after its completion, The Lovell House in Los Angeles CA, 1927, designed by architect Richard Neutra, remains an icon of modern architecture. The Lovell House was without precedent. The historical value of the house resides in its adaptation of industrial materials for non-industrial use. The house was constructed of a steel frame (erected in 40 hours), concrete, glass, and metal panels; a construction system typically reserved for commercial applications. The house was the first American residence that was completely steel-framed. The steel frame of the house  was the house; the house  was  the frame-  both structurally and  aesthetically it gave  the  house  its meaning. The frame became the ‘soul’ of the house. One could make comparisons of the geometric asymmetrical facades of the Lovell House, with contemporary painters Mondrian and van Doesburg.

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The Lovell House marked the beginning of an effort to integrate the innumerable products of American technology into a single frame of reference. This technological achievement was not however at the expense of the quality of the site, Neutra had a unique ability to harmoniously unite both machine construction and nature. The Lovell house proved that the modern house could be very hospitable and not entirely abstract; a great achievement for the proponents of the International Style. Neutra’s use of pre-fabricated materials and extensive incorporation of the outdoors was a novel idea at the time. With the completion of the Lovell House, a new era in the history of American architecture began. The void between architecture and engineering was closing. The house is  a unique hybrid of the International Style of Central Europe, the Organic Style of Frank Lloyd Wright, and Neutra’s and his clients vision of a healthy and natural way of living.

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In 1930 The Architectural Record published an article entitled The Demonstration Health-House, Los Angeles: Richard J. Neutra, Architect.’ The title of the article is worth noting because the house is often referred to as the ‘Health-House’, rather than the Lovell House. This is an important notion because as technologically advanced as it was, the house also promoted healthier living. The client, Dr. Philip Lovell, was a vital figure in the conception of the house. Lovell was an advocate of forward-looking experiments. Lovell wanted to be the man who could see ‘health and future’ prosper within an appropriate architecture. Neutra had total freedom of design as long as he conformed to Dr. Lovell’s programmatic idiosyncrasies; open sleeping porches, private sunbathing areas, and special provisions in the kitchen and bath areas for dietary and therapeutic needs. Dr. Lovell had strong convictions towards healthier living and how the built environment can afford it and in turn these became the catalyst for the house.

Neutra had firm beliefs about modem life and architecture. He was concerned with ‘design’ in general, not just architecture. Neutra’s passion was to re-introduce man to his ‘natural’ existence by using America’s new technology in architecture and design. While during Neutra’s lifetime his beliefs were often viewed as radical and suspicious, today they are the foundation of design centered around its user, embracing nature, and issues of sustainability. The Lovell House was Neutra’s first attempt to alter the way people live through appropriate design in hopes of allowing a better lifestyle. The house appeared alien to a country accustom to traditional housing styles. However, one will find that many of Neutra’s notions about lifestyle and architecture are timeless.

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The key to the success of the Lovell House was due in large part to the architect/client relationship. The Lovell House and Neutra’s beliefs, would have had a difficult time being realized where it not for Dr. Lovell who was willing to construct such a novel ‘modern’ house. Neutra and Lovell were futurists in a sense. In fact Dr. Lovell professed what would later become the Southern California ‘lifestyle’, a lifestyle that stressed fitness and health. Neutra also proclaimed a healthy lifestyle; however he was able to give built form to his beliefs. It’s interesting to note that an  architecture viewed as  radical  and unacceptable during its  time,  is  now  an architecture to strive  for.

The Lovell House was revolutionary for both its proposal of a healthier lifestyle and for its proclamation of a new architecture which coincided with modern life. Not only was the construction method novel it also changed the way in which architects designed. A shift in architectural thought began, spaces conceived of as volumes. Architects no longer had to conceive of buildings as structures of mass and solidity, the Lovell House and its techniques, allowed architects to think in terms of volume- space enclosed by planes and surfaces.

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However, there is a greater lesson to be learned. Neutra’s reputation has often been rooted to stylistic classification and analysis, whereas the overriding philosophical belief of his architecture is often overlooked; humanism focusing on [wo]man in relationship to nature. This belief manifests itself in all of Neutra’s designs. Contemporary architecture would benefit greatly if Neutra’s principles were analyzed and applied with more conviction.

So that’s one of mine, what is one of your favorite buildings?


Design On,

** photo 3 from Penn State University Library’s photostream, photo 4 from The City Project’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License) photo 5 via Wikimedia Commons.