CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: Keith Struthers and David Barrett talk organic architecture, the Hippie days, Buddhist sensibilities, and take a stab at defining deep listening. NaturalsCool is South Africa’s up-and-coming producer of podcasts featuring innovative designers from around the world. In this 30 minute podcast you’ll hear two like-minded architects groove on the essence of their creative practice.
“I don’t like pure modernism when it seems to be devoid of possibility;
it’s locked into a moment.”
A few words from NaturalsCool:
David’s passionate, integrated and warm hearted approach to design includes ‘deep listening’. This means quieting yourself down to become more present in the moment, with all your senses and awareness. To be in-touch with the site, your clients, your colleagues and yourself.
It’s a way of balancing and amplifying the relationship between our inner and outer realities.
Deep listening stands as a counterpoint to technology, which both speeds up our lives and encourages absence to our immediate reality. When talking or texting on a mobile phone, trawling Facebook, TV etc; our awareness moves out of our immediate environment and experience of time into a kind of timeless zone in cyberspace. It can sometimes feel like a form of hypnotism, where we are no longer present as self conscious individuals.
So the question we grapple with daily is, how do we engage with technology without losing our all encompassing and visceral relationship to nature, one another and ourselves? Can our method of designing embrace the complexity of our times without becoming one-sided, so that our buildings embody and support our full humanity?
“I’ve often felt that architecture is more built around experiences
than it is objects themselves.”
A generous THANK YOU to Keith Struthers and Shannon Flynn for inviting us into their NaturalsCool world.
By David Barrett
Do you hold images of heaven…those descriptions and utopian paintings fed to us in Catholic school and museums? I reflect on these while sitting in the morning light within our garden in Bali.
I realize for me, this place comes closest to satisfying the memories, or the gestalt of paradise. There is a clear sense that life is in total harmony in this place…the gentle climate, the lush vegetation, the plethora of fragrant flowers, the symphony of birds, the reflective shimmering of the pools of water, the architecture that weaves order in such sympathetic ways with the garden, and maybe most importantly, the relaxed, open smiles on the faces of the Balinese people. Happiness and gratitude are inextricably connected. Love is not just a romantic illusion, but a descriptor, synonymous with life. It radiates from the smiling faces and projects from the laughs that shake the body. It is the way it is…a natural state of being. It is heavenly.
Now this said, there are distinct signs of “the other”; of purgatory or even hell. It is seen in the impact of modernization on Bali. It is felt in the traffic jam of internal combustion engines clogging the narrow streets of Ubud. It is the noise of the motorcycles and scooters buzzing in and out of the jumbled mess. It is the choking burn of the fumes. It is technology, materialism, and tourism invading paradise.
So this is heaven and this might contain hell. I feel bad for a culture that, even under these pressures, still seems to hold paradise at their center. They coexist with the pressures that have distanced most of us in the modern, western world. We are split, they are still whole.
Is there any way to mend this fissure? If I can have any hope, it is to challenge the next generation to become the modern designer, or weaver, to figure out how to bring us back into connectivity. We should have programs, grants, career paths, and global challenges to recreate heaven on earth.
The merger of spirit and material must always be the first criteria for progress. If it is to be in the past, we will be left only with nostalgic replications and we will be forever lost.
From a hopelessly in love with Bali traveler.
By Leslie McDonald
Last month we highlighted Michael and Nancy Linsley’s indoor greenhouse in our blog. Now you can see their artful home – site, landscape and all – featured in Boulder County Home & Garden magazine. “The Creative Journey to a Smart, Sustainable Home,” tells about our client’s co-creative process with some amazing photos: the driveway in the shape of a musical note, the meditation garden’s spiral water feature, and interiors that serve as the Linsley’s portfolio and art gallery.
“We like to describe the co-creative process as a dance,” said David Barrett. “With the Linsleys…our role of architects more closely resembled that of a juggler rather than a conductor. The glue in the project was everyone’s shared commitment to creativity, beauty and listening to the land, with a healthy dose of humor and goodwill.”
By Leslie McDonald
What’s more exciting than designing an expansive organic home for an artist and a cowboy? Winning 2015 Home of the Year! Thank you Colorado Homes & Lifestyles for honoring the entire design team with this extraordinary award.
“The house is light but muscular. Rough but luxurious. Sprawling but intimate. And because of that perfect alchemy, we’ve selected it as our 2015 Home of the Year,” said Colorado Homes & Lifestyles writer Alison Gwinn.
The creation of this stunning home exemplifies what Barrett Studio Architects does best:
- Capture the dreams of the clients, no matter how eclectic the tastes and desires.
- Use nature to the greatest advantage toward beautiful, sustainable homes that connect to their site with integrity.
Congratulations to everyone on the design team, and especially to the homeowners Grace and Kirk Eberl.
By David Barrett, FAIA
As architects we are usually in a relationship with our clients from the get go to make their dreams come true. Seldom do we design, build the dream, and then hope that the dream attracts the dreamer.
In the case of Zoomerhouse – a concept home aimed at the active baby boomer – or what is called a Zoomer – we did just that. Putting form to ideas around a home to celebrate life and age gracefully in, we went out on a limb and brought to market our vision as a product.
The experience is a good one for designers, as we were coaxed into the role of developer with all the risks and hard financial decisions that are often the territory of our clients. When one’s own money is on the line, if nothing else, it is an education that makes us walk in someone else’s shoes, on a tightrope between aesthetics and budget. Will people value, or even perceive, quality upgrades, energy efficiencies, and custom details?
As it turned out, we learned some good lessons:
- Though we valued flexibility and wanted to give the buyers choice in how to use different spaces of the home, people viewing the home didn’t really want more choices and decisions, they wanted something defined. Many people don’t visualize things easily, so in the end we enclosed one of the “open concept” bedrooms and fenced the courtyard to give definition to those spaces.
- Location does matter. Even in a fantastic neighborhood, a baby boomer who has already done the kid thing may think twice about living across the street from an elementary school.
Many young families toured the house, but in the end the ecstatic new homeowners are quintessential Zoomers. Pictured above, Fred is in his late 50’s, and Lark is in her 40’s. At the closing, they had both just returned from a 50K race in New England. Now that’s zooming. And to top it off, he is a bona fide rocket scientist! The house will be perfect for them – it maximizes contact with nature and gives ease of access for outdoor gear.
After just a few weeks in their new house, Fred commented: “We both especially love the light, the sense of open space, and the flow within the house. The large windows located high in the walls bring in wonderful natural light throughout the day while maintaining a nice sense of privacy, even on a busy corner across from a school. We also appreciate the care given to environmental efficiency. The high quality of the workmanship is apparent throughout the house, as are the many thoughtful design features. All said, we love it!”
With my wife Betzi as listing agent for the house, and both of us being architects, we think the Zoomerhouse model of architecture will be desperately needed as the U.S. population ages. There is great success to be had in this venture. We joked with Fred and Lark that “it’s not rocket science,” but the truth is, Betzi and I have 65+ years experience between us, and that partnership makes for strong planning, design and marketing. Boy, the years zoom by.
As Betzi and I enjoy the fruits of our labor by taking off the month of July to travel the world, we will be thinking about the next iteration of Zoomerhouse. Maybe even Zoomerville? We already know that in our next design/build venture, we would like to enjoy the ride with some willing partners! Stay tuned.
By Nicole Delmage, Associate
In the beginning we knew that working on a new residence for ceramic artists Michael and Nancy Linsley was going to be a creative adventure. They emphasized that to truly support and express who they were, the home would incorporate growing way beyond the regular houseplant. To be clear, we’re talking about year-round indoor growing of veggies, herbs and lemons!
Challenge #1: Seamlessly integrate green growing spaces into a new contemporary home. No tacked on glass structure. No section of the house that screams “greenhouse!” We were asked to create a logical extension of the architecture.
Challenge #2: Make it a zero energy greenhouse. For zero energy you need to have thick mass, you have to optimize the size of the windows, and you need to have high insulation and white reflective surfaces. Even if a traditional all-glass greenhouse was wanted, this year-round zero energy requirement made that impossible. Traditional greenhouses extend the season but don’t grow all year round without adding energy or heat. This client’s integrated greenhouse would be a different archetype altogether.
We, as architects, loved this project: creation of architecture that supports, encourages, enhances, and befriends deeper meaning in the day-to-day life of its inhabitants.
At Barrett Studio, we are strong believers in co-creation, which is one of the reasons the Linsleys were drawn to work with us. We added Larry Kinney of Synergistic Building Technologies as a greenhouse systems consultant, and Cottonwood Custom Builders as general contractors, into the collaborative mix. This team, and more importantly, Michael’s unwavering commitment to the idea, was what made the greenhouse part of the project come true.
Two strategies were required to meet the project goals: Indoor planters within the combined living and kitchen spaces, and an integrated greenhouse separate from the living space, just around the corner.
The end result was a completely practical, beautiful, and productive greenhouse with clients fully engaged in the process as co-designers.
We were curious, five years after the house was completed, what did our two artist friends have to say, and what had they learned?
An interview with Michael Linsley turned out some interesting topics:
Why is it important to have indoor gardening rather than waiting for the natural seasons to do it all outdoors?
If you wait for the natural seasons you have five months with nothing. You are in competition with rats, mice, deer, squirrels, bears, you name it. If you are going to garden outside, you have to create a fortress of mesh wires and electrification to keep them all out. Up here I don’t want to be in a war with nature to get 1/10th of my produce after the squirrels have taken one bite of everything.
Tomatoes year round, you can’t do that outside. I still do canning, preserving, drying and freezing because vegetables in the height of summer are still better than in winter. We do like to capture the summer flavors and harvest when things are at their best.
What about the aesthetics of having a garden in the living space? Gardens go through phases, they are not always perfect.
Yes, there are cycles of renewal. There are times when I tear everything out of a bed and start the bed over. But it doesn’t take long. Even if you take a bed down to bare dirt and reseed it, within one week you have green things growing. To me that’s fascinating. We’re talking about the intersection between function and art.
A lot of times I let plants duke it out for sun and space and air, and I see who wins. The stronger plant is going to be the better tasting thing.
You can nurse plants along, but they never produce much. It’s better to throw that plant away and start over than to put in all this energy and valuable real estate into nursing an ineffective competitor. You are the chain saw instead of the forest fire.
In Colorado we are so concerned with connecting inside with outside all year round so we feel like we get the best of our 300 days of sun a year. How is that year round connection experienced in your greenhouse?
We do really well with light here between the skylights and the exposure. We don’t put any energy into the greenhouse space. There is a climate battery that takes the hottest air from the top of the skylight space and stores that heat in the dirt. We function four seasons without putting in any energy.
Even on the freezing bitter cold days, ice will form on the inside of the windows from condensation. Even then it’s okay. In winter we drastically reduce the watering – far less water than I thought – because the moisture stores better in the soil. We do get drip lines down the walls and skylights. That has to be acceptable some times.
We should be connected to the idea of growing food, intrinsically. It’s essentially free, in a way. All we need is light, air, and dirt. We stick things in the dirt and this miracle happens and you get free food.
What have you learned over the years that you didn’t anticipate?
Bugs, they’re a given. If you grow inside you will have bugs. I put in a fertilizer injector, and that’s where I put in my bug control stuff. The aphids you have to hand spray and it’s a long process to knock them down.
It’s a question whether you screen the windows or don’t. Because if you screen the windows, the bug predators can’t get in.
One thing we would change is to make the operable windows in the cultivation space higher. Creatures can walk in the windows through the open windows, and have!
I hope you enjoyed hearing Michael’s perspective on his integrated greenhouse. And if your interest is peaked about zero energy greenhouses, take a look at this previous blog post: The Practically Zero Energy Year Round Greenhouse.
By Leslie McDonald
Last week, AIA Colorado honored Phoenix Home in Boulder, CO with their 2014 Architects Choice Award. We’ve touched on the unique story about this home before: a client’s dream retreat rising from the ashes of the 2010 wildfires.
What we haven’t shared before is the client’s goals and perspective about working with Barrett Studio Architects. The client’s responses below contributed to AIA choosing this spectacular and sustainable home for the Architects Choice Award.
What was your initial goal?
It was to build a home that would be beautiful, comfortable, creative, and that would maximize the beautiful mountain views. I believe our specific words were:
“we wanted the view to be sucked into the house…”
At the same time, we wanted a home that would be conscious – one that would appear as though it belonged to the land, and would be very environmentally responsible.
How did the project meet or exceed your expectations?
The project exceeded our expectations. We believe that it is stunningly beautiful, amazingly creative, with views that leave us in a trance. With solar panels integrated into the roof, large south-facing windows and concrete floors to absorb the heat during the day, we purchase very, very little electricity and propane.
Does the project feel like an expression of your family’s character and lifestyle?
My wife and I live outside of the ordinary and adore nature. This home reflects our true being in many, many ways.
What were your architect’s important contributions?
The architect created the basic design of the house, after hearing our relatively inarticulate descriptive, in about 3 weeks time. He created what he refers to as the “split-leaf” roof, which flows like a mountain lenticular cloud. He captured our desires perfectly, though we could have never come up with it ourselves. Of course many details and changes followed, but his basic design was never fundamentally changed.
Barrett Studio gratefully receives the AIA Colorado award, and knows that it is an honor shared with the client. Home architecture is a co-creative process, ultimately an expression of the client’s desires.
It is our hope that this home is exemplary Living Architecture, with each element providing a functional, sustainable, and aesthetic solution to the directives of rebirth, renewal, and resilience. For more photos and details about the sustainable features, click here.