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 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 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!