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.
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.
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
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!
by Maggie Flickinger
Last month during the AIA Convention in Chicago, the Windy City showed off another face. Thanks to global weirding, a particularly hard winter left ice far off the lakeshore, pushing cool winds and fog over the waterfront. The fog consumed the lakeshore and the first quarter to half mile inland, dropping late June daytime highs to unseasonably low 60’s. One happy accident resulting from this phenomena? Amazing photo opportunities! Architecture buffs get all weak in the knees at the rich architectural history and contemporary newcomers on display in this vibrant city. Enjoy some favorite shots I snagged of architectural icons in a moody Chicago. And, stay tuned for highlights from the convention.