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.
by Leslie McDonald
Rebecca, our Interiors Intern and Librarian, is slightly obsessed with the Lumio…a brilliant lamp that cleverly disguises itself as a book! Lumio can be transformed into multiple shapes and mounted to any magnetic surface. Pop it up on a cabinet, hang it from a tree, or stand it on a table. With 500 lumens of output, it’s big enough to light a dinner party, yet compact enough to fit in a small bag. Best yet, the battery life is over 8 hours and is rechargeable by USB. $200.
We’re astounded at the number of configurations possible with this new concept chair. Montreal-based designer Stéphane Leathead created the Exocet chair with identical slats assembled on a rotating cylinder to allow the chair to change shape with ease. Sit up, sit back, lay front, lay back, or just sit on your bum. This has to be one of the most versatile chairs ever. Exocet is the first product for design studio Designarium.
Responding to predictions that the world’s population will grow to almost 10 billion within the next 40 years, Italian think tank PNAT has developed a module for crop cultivation that does not rely on soil, fresh water or chemical energy consumption. Dubbed the “jellyfish barge”, the project is envisioned as a floating agricultural greenhouse, able to purify salt, brackish, or polluted water using solar energy. Globally, we must plan for the impending expectations of our planet; and projects like the Jellyfish Barge, are doing just that!
Kinema is a pendant designed to let you control the intensity of light based on your mood or the environment. Each of Kinema’s rings can be individually “flipped” creating dramatic light and shadow effects. Inspired by the movement of crustaceans, a wide variety of forms can be created by arranging the pendant’s rings in alternating open and closed positions. At $1000, it’s an artful investment for your living space.
Bluebell Home: Light and transparency interact in a light filled in-town living space.
By David Barrett, FAIA
On many mornings I sit in a café where daylight surrounds the lives that come and go. Caffeine serves as a temporary agent of our awakening; we are warmed inside by a quiet moment, conversations, a new day. I watch as the light dances beautifully across faces, subtle expressions revealing an inner response that might have been missed sitting in a darker corner.
I am hopelessly smitten with light. As an architect, I am the privileged manipulator of light space. Daylight in particular informs our moods, our sense of connection to the cycles of the day, and touches the “awe button”. Doesn’t it take your breath away?
Aside from daylight being naturally energy conserving, I was struck by some current health care research that crossed my desk.
Are you in favor of these?
- Better sleep quality
- Reduced agitation
- Better pain management
- A shorter hospital stay
Research shows these are all benefits of increased access to daylight in the health care environment.
Architectural space comes to life in natural daylight, and apparently so do we.
Examples of day lighting in Barrett Studio projects
Artists Home and Studios: East Hampton, N.Y. artists create in day lit studios that speak to their individual desires for light, color and going inward. Translucent Polygal clearstory windows invite the light of creativity.
Phoenix Home: Sweeping mountain views are brought into visual balance by way of soft daylight introduced from above.
Abbey of St. Walburga: The light of heaven and earth speaks of transcendence for monastic prayer in the chapel of the Abbey of St. Walburga. Mystical light illuminates the incense to create a sense of mystery and spirit.
Uncompahgre Retreat: Quality of daylight gives visual clarity and sense of time and place.
Home on the Range: The rhythm of daylight directs one’s path while giving context for art as well as passage.
Little Ship House: Layers of structure and light suggest the protection of the archetypal cabin, while lifting our sense of connection to the light and time of day, the seasons, and climate. Natural light provides a sense of well-being.
Wee Ski Chalet: Sitting in the snowy woods in the warmth of direct sunshine, passive solar provides illumination to the ochre interiors in a warming glow.
Healthcare Benefits Research
Sundolier, Inc. gathered this current research on daylight in the health care environment:
“Female patients in a cardiac ICU exhibited shorter length of stay in sunny rooms.”
Source: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
“Hospital patients with access to daylight have better sleep quality, reduced agitation and better pain management.”
Source: Architectural Engineering Design Group, Inc.
“Insufficient or inappropriate light exposure can disrupt normal circadian rhythms which may result in adverse consequences for human performance, health and safety.”
Source: LEUKOS – The Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, vol 5 (1), pp. 1-26, July 2008.
“Patients residing in a hospital exposed to 46% higher intensity sunlight on average took 22% less analgesic medicine than counter parts with similar medical conditions on the darker side of the hospital – resulting in a 21% cost differential.”
Source: Psychosomatic Medicine
Rye Quartz wandered into our office last summer and made his offer: we buy the paint, and he paints our big, blank, boring cinder block wall facing the alley. One look at his website assured us this was an excellent opportunity to partner with a talented young artist. Rye drew inspiration for his mural painting from our architecture portfolio, then he got to work.
The result was a true gift to Barrett Studio and the neighborhood, a real enlivening of the public realm. We continue to get comments from people walking their dogs or strolling with their kids saying how wonderful it is to see this vibrant, colorful artwork where once there was an unnoticeable building side.
We thank you Rye. And we offer to our readers this 1.5 minute time-lapse video of Rye painting the mural over the course of three days. If you watch to the end, you’ll see our happy hour gathering!
by Leslie McDonald
Living Bridges, Literally: The tiny village of Mawsynram in Meghalaya puts Colorado’s frequent afternoon rainstorms to shame. Wearing “the wettest place on earth” badge with honor, the locals train the roots of rubber trees to grow into resilient natural bridges and ladders that last for centuries, where man-made wooden structures would deteriorate within a few years. Talk about 100% living architecture!
An article in The Atlantic tells the story of this amazing place with 18 gorgeous photos.
Make Room for the Pallone: Nicole’s eyes lit up when she sat her toosh on the Pallone chair by Leolux. This quirky, squatty, finely-crafted leather armchair is not only striking, it has a highly coveted feature not many chairs have: you can comfortably sit cross-legged on it! Now that’s a chair to spend some hours in.
Leolux produces its furniture in Venlo, the city nominated as the C2C (Cradle to Cradle) capital of the Netherlands. Making consumer goods will most likely never become a neutral practice, but Leolux regards it as their duty to strive for the maximum achievable. View the Pallone here.
We have to agree, this bank deserves a second look. Merchants National Bank Building in Grinnell, Iowa was designed by the father of modern American architecture Louis H. Sullivan. David remarked to his friend. “When you think of the impermanence of banks today…both literally and architecturally…this is an expression of a solid capitalism, equal to a church.” It’s worth a quick read to learn about this fascinating National Historic Monument.
Solar Roadways: Driving on sunshine? That’s what inventors Julie and Scott Brusaw from Sagle Idaho have in mind. Solar panels that you can drive, park and walk on – they melt snow, light pathways and lanes, provide real-time warning signs for upcoming traffic hazards, and best of all, they generate electricity. With initial funding from a $750,000 Federal Highway Administration grant and $2.2 million from an Indiegogo campaign, the Brusaw’s are well on their way to their first public installations. Check out their silly but informative video to learn about these roads of the future.
By David Barrett, Architect
Last Spring I told you about Zoomerhouse, the “aging gracefully” home prototype in Boulder, Colorado that my wife Betzi and I were building. We are so proud to say our baby has been born. She’s a beauty.
More than beauty, she has a reason for being: to help some lucky inhabitants age gracefully. Her new owner might be a Zoomer – someone over 45 years old who plans on being culturally and socially engaged for quite a while – a baby boomer with zip as they are described.
Zoomerhouse was designed to anticipate the needs of aging minds and bodies without cutting back on style or sustainability. Here’s what we had in mind:
- Zoomers expect the home to be an activity center, where they can continue to be involved with consulting, hobbies, meditation, yoga, creativity, exercise, and entertaining.
- Zoomers need smaller, more compact homes, with essential living on one level, lots of counter space, convenient storage, easier access to bath and shower, and less lawn to mow. Domestic needs can be tended to effectively as kitchen, laundry, and closets are open for easy access and proximity for multi-tasking.
- The Zoomerhouse flexes. It adapts, and morphs to respond to changing needs and evolving interests. What starts as a personal wellness space in the second story loft can reconfigure to house a Boomerang family member or a foreign exchange student, can transform into a social and financial outlet via Airbnb.com, or later in the aging process can accommodate a live-in health care giver.
- Zoomerhouse has minimized physical obstacles to one’s freedom of movement. From garage, to inside-outside flows, Zoomerhouse provides a seamless surface. The primary living level has generous clearances from doorways to pathways. The open plan is organized around the idea of continuous flows, loops, and freedom of choice: living large without boundaries!
- Zoomers live life around an outdoor courtyard. This outside room is open to the winter sun and shaded by deciduous trees for summer comfort.
- Zoomerhouse supports “next stage years” as a return to right livelihood; where living, working, and playing are supported in one home environment. An in-home studio/office with abundant daylight allows for continued work, consulting, activities and hobbies to bring balance to the active mind and body.
To visit Zoomerhouse, contact Betzi Barrett at Four Star Realty
By David Barrett, Architect
Need ideas for your kitchen remodel? No problem. On Houzz.com you have access to four million colorful photos of interiors and exteriors. Simply filter on 15 different attributes including number of islands, kitchen shape, and even backsplash color.
Houzz has become a mighty mecca for savvy homeowners and home design enthusiasts looking for inspiration. The site is 25 million people strong, and growing.
From my perspective as an architect, Houzz is both a blessing and a curse.
For years design enthusiasts have been collecting ideas from coffee table books, articles from design magazines, and even snapping their own photos from all over the world of what strikes their fancy. Then they would meet with the architect, turn over their handful of clippings and excitedly say, “I want something like this!”
The trouble is, Houzz has pumped up any person’s image-gathering capacity a million-fold.
Which leads me to the curse of Houzz: dead architecture.
Houzz shows you yesterday’s singular creative designs for someone else in some other place. Even if it is unconscious, you can end up wanting this montage of Houzz images which if actually built, is a fragmented, impersonal, soul-less space that lacks connection to your site, your climate, your budget and the people living in your home.
There’s an even bigger loss with a heightened focus on image, style and consumerism: in some ways you are avoiding real creativity.
Real creativity is uncomfortable. It’s intense to step into the unknown and try to uncover some part of yourself that longs to be expressed in this world. Many times fear is the predecessor to the real moment of synthesis when you find that special convergence of nature, place, needs and poetics that is truly a reflection of who you are, and where you are. Short cutting this process may be safe, but it is shallow and is only temporary in its gratification – until the next wave of Gee Whiz images come your way.
That said, finally I come to the blessing of Houzz, and why Barrett Studio Architects is a regular contributor to the site: A picture is worth a thousand words. Communication is imperative in the design process so you want to do your due diligence in conveying who you are, what floats your boat, or what drives you absolutely mad! The whole process of idea gathering is exciting, and because the outcome of your efforts is ultimately going to manifest visually (and experientially), the natural language to express your desires is pictures.
Like most things in life it comes down to balance, and trust.
If you come to your designer with an intention to find the design of your home together, and you trust them to actually design versus assemble your Greatest Hits, then you’re headed for a co-creation-amazing-things-can-happen experience. The poetic seeds of your home have room to take hold – a home that is rooted in the soil of your life and memories – and your site will endure. Who knows, your unique living environment might just show up on Houzz!
If you’re a Houzz lover, or are feeling the gravitational pull toward Houzz, here are 5 ways to keep Houzz the blessing that it is:
- Houzz is great for getting new ideas and shaking up your viewpoint. But absolutely have an idea of what you need before going there. If you need flooring ideas, it’s a great tool to see what’s out there. If you hit Houzz with no goal, no vision, no soul searching beforehand….yikes.
- When viewing a photo, discern exactly what appeals to you. Is it the style, the color, the materials? If you saw the same photo and the countertop was blue instead of red, would it still be your favorite? Become a discerning viewer.
- Discover how the image makes you feel. Look at a clean, crisp kitchen that is white with stainless steel. Compare that to one that is warm, woodsy and cluttered. What is it that makes you feel comfortable, calm, energized, social, rested? Tell your designer the feelings that you want a room to evoke and they will love you for it!
- Rather than giving your designer multiple versions of a feature, pick the one that you like the most. One of our clients submitted three versions of built-in silverware dividers. We urged her to pick her favorite and eliminate the others.
- Know the location of the house you are viewing. When you click on a photo, Style and Location shows up on the top right of the screen. Think about the difference between the climate and culture of that house location, and your house location. Site-specific design considerations make a big difference in a house’s endurance in your life.
Happy Houzz hunting everyone!