-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Thursday, April 07, 2005

the 1st set of architect plans

The mail gods were kind to us... the first set of house plans which Eric prepared turned up yesterday. That's only about a week to get from Australia to London, which is pretty good. I'd thought we'd be lucky if they came before the weekend.

There are 3 options in total, each made up of several A3 pages. This made them a bit difficult to scan, but Dave painstakingly did it in sections and then pieced it all together into a slideshow. You can view them here.

Last night Dave and I spent several hours pouring over them. At this stage, the idea isn't to pick a particular plan, but rather to use them as a series of "what if's". We decided to do it by picking out all the things we liked and all the didn't like about each plan. Dave also went back to the original (incredibly detailed) brief we'd sent, just to remind himself of all the things we'd discussed.

Overall, we have a whole lot of comments on every plan, and some plans sparked ideas that weren't in any of them! Tonight, after we've had a night and a day to think them over, I'll try to write up our thoughts on each option. Right now, if you forced us to pick our favourite of the 3, we agreed it would be option A... but, there are lots of things about option B that we really like too, especially the outer appearance... what I call the "house's face"! In fact, option B is my favourite from the outside. Also, there are a lot of things about option A, as it stands, that we don't like. Anyway, no more commenting for now!.. I'll just finish with an extract from Eric's letter giving his explanation of each plan.

Eric says...

What to look for

"At this stage, I often like to look at very general aspects of the designs like the locations of certain rooms in relation to other rooms. Also, the general look and feel of the buldings. Note any specific features like storage or room sizes that work better than others.

Option A probably comes the closest to strictly answering the design brief. It has the main rooms discussed so far. I've added a walk through dining area because I reasoned that if 10-12 people are visiting for a big meal, it could be difficult to set up a table in a room normally used for something else (therefore losing the use of that room).

Option B would be my preferred direction for the house to take. I like that it is simple and ordered, but less rigid than option A. The form is asymmetrical and the internal spaces connect in more subtle ways than simply walls and doors.

Option C is the black sheep of these options. it is included as a contrast to the other two. Single storey and the courtyard configured differently. Spaces like the study and cooking/eating areas are quite different and shown for discussion purposes.

Siting. I've generally adopted the concept of the buildings being linked together by the private, inward looking garden space. I'll be interested in your thoughts about this"


"The goal of this early concept stage is to better understand the design problem. On the one hand, this includes understanding the site features which affect the design. On the other hand, a refined understanding of what we want out of the building. At the second design cycle, these can be put together into a good solid concept which suits both your brief and the site. Since I have been absorbed with these designs for the last few weeks, I naturally have some opinions about which options I think work the best, but also encourage you to form some independent opinions of your own."

This is my first experience working with an architect but so far, I am very happy. I would have struggled to get anywhere near to what Eric has done in translating my ideas of rooms and sense of what a space should "feel" like, into practical layouts. If anyone's looking for an architect I whole-heartedly recommend him. Even though he lives in a country town in Australia at the moment, as demonstrated by my experiences he isn't put off by the idea of working with someone on the other side of the world! He's from Oregon originally too, which is one of the things I liked... it means he knows a lot about older styles of building in America (many of which are influences for me), which your typical Australian architect probably wouldn't. So if anyone reading this is thinking about getting some architect input, especially if you're interested in sustainable, energy-efficient building, he might be your answer. Best of all, he charges a flat rate for the first two design cycles, which I found very reassuring compared to other architects where the prices felt open-ended.

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