Great architecture stands the test of time!
Adding character and stature to a home should not be such a daunting task. Our home is a window into who we are and what we treasure – our appreciation for history, culture and even where we have been. All this – can often be addressed at first glance.
We wish to empower the reader to recognize and perhaps participate in the process of beautifying our streetscapes and by so doing avoid “the wanton destruction which has taken place in this country in the name of progress: about the sheer, unadulterated ugliness and mediocrity of public and commercial buildings”. [The Prince of Wales in A Vision of Britain]
Reviewing our Principles will help you better understand the sense of architecture.
1. Elevations – Roof lines are changing – becoming stepper all across the country.
2. Portico – The place of Welcome.
3. Sense of arrival – Wow we are here.
4. Interior heights – A sense of grandeur.
5. Space Proportions – Changes in lifestyle.
6. Impact of Cars on Architecture – Leave room for people not just cars.
7. Building Proportions/Materials – Human scale and complimentary materials.
8. Harmony with Nature – Orientation and location.
Most of us have an idea of a “dream house” with its pleasing exterior and it hits of a comfortable interior. All would agree, there is a sense of pride in one’s home.
Some exterior features give a house a present and a stated dignity, but none more that the roofline. The exterior of a home is the beginning of the definition of what awaits us inside. The attention to details, architectural style, wither home is formal or casual can typical be measured at a glance.
The stepper pitched roofs often found in England and France have practical considerations as they dealt with rain and snow loads. Today we often see stepper rooflines even where it does not snow as we have come to appreciate the gifts of a 12/12 (12” rise over a 12” run) or stepper designed roof that offers charm, and allows for the addition of dormers or balcony. As well we are finding Turrets that often flank the home and provide its unique identity – these turrets often have an 18/12 pitch for maximum drama and effect. The mansard roof is also becoming more popular leading to homes that are often more formal.
The gradual slopping roof of 4/12 (4” rise over a 12” run), typically shown in Mediterranean homes, is given way to steeper pitched roofs as shown above and below.
2. THE PORTICO: THE PLACE OF WELCOME
Once found in the noblest homes, this convenience protected visitors from the elements upon arrival. Horse and carriage, is now gone, but still the suitability of the portico offers the arriving guest both protection and welcome. Surely, the first time visitor has some curiosity and imaginings about what the interior can promise in this arrival rite. This is an area deserving of some study and plan. Include front walkways and entrance steps and a step railing and suitable lighting.
Shown above isan example of a portico that welcomes and protects guests from the elements and creates intrigue as to what awaits inside.
Shown below an entrance door that fully exposes guests to the elements. It is not very inviting.
3. THE SENSE OF ARRIVAL
Judgments are made quickly upon arrival. The first impression is made in the Hall. Once a great room, where all gathered together. Do not ignore the power in the first entrance into the hall. We open our homes to our guests and welcome them in this space. Here carefully laid out floor patters give way to wonderful high ceilings that may be coffered, soft lighting and dimmed wall sconces helping complete the sense of arrival. It is an amusing thought that the successful hall promises a splendid evening of love and laughter making it difficult for guests to go home. The attention paid to this area is typical of what one would expect in the rest of the home.
From this area a glimpse of what awaits should be available- without being too exposed. Guests should anticipate a sense of adventure as they move through the home. The Entrance Hall for all its charm must still provide intrigue without fully exposing the remaining merits of the home.
A well-planned Foyer may tantalize your quests but keep in mind that the principle benefactor of a great home is the occupant each and every day.
4. THE INTERIORS HEIGHTS
There is no greater singular interior detail that dates a home that interior ceiling heights and the element that it brings along with it.
Historically we would find higher ceilings in public places that would allow home to remain cooler during the warmer months. The private rooms were often smaller and the ceilings were lower to save heat and create more comfort during the colder months.
Architects like Frank Lloyd Write introduced the 8’ ceiling as part of his particular style in an attempt to produce more human proportions. Builders were quick to adapt this detail as it lowered the cost of construction.
Today, minimum ceiling height are often 9 to 10 ft- this allows for the ability to disguises duct work in architectural bulkheads and create coffered ceilings for individual space configuration.
An additional benefit of an increased ceiling height is the opportunity to place doors measuring 7’8” vs. 6’8” height. These doors help establish the grand scale within the home. These features also play into the sense of arrival feature.
Great rooms often exhibited tall ceilings that may contain coffered details, often we will see wonderful coffered ceiling with pitches and interior details mimicking the exterior shape.
The introduction of roof trusses has opened new possibilities for coffered ceilings in bedrooms as well. There are options to create character today that do not require great expense. These options truly empower one to make their home their castle.
5. SPACE PROPORTIONS - CHANGES IN LIFESTYLE
The Open Concept
The principle change in today’s space configuration is the fact that all homes have a more open concept to them and that our puclic rooms have grown. These rooms gently fold into one another allowing views that are much more exciting.
People not only seem to entertain more often today but also in a more casual manor- just as the pioneer would gather round camp fire or stove, has the kitchen become the site for storey telling, cooking food and drink and having fun.
The island seems to be the centre of attention located in what is often the most expensive room of the home – the kitchen.. The magic created by this evolution is that nowadays we find dinner parties less segregated. Men and women now share this space.
The Mary Tyler Moore kitchen is a symbol of yesterday.
The epicurean delight is both appreciated and shared more often hence the need for greater kitchens.
We have not seen a kitchen that can be described as too big although larger kitchens do require additional planning so that the feeling of intimacy is not lost.
Examples shows kitchen with two islands - this home is ideal for great parties.
The Ensuites and Powder Rooms
This very interesting room often features bathtubs that are never used and a room where most people stumble into first thing in the morning– shower and depart in hast. Still these rooms appear to be getting larger and larger. One possible explanation for this is that we have great anticipation for the luxtury of someday having time to mellow in these show tubs.
Smart powder room planning – we have been to many parties where there is a line up to the powder room and guest s are sent upstairs into the master bed room rather than waite in line- for this reason many well planned homes feature a second powder room on the main floor. It is amazing how often both washrooms are used at the same time. The beauty here is that the second powder room does not have to take up a lot of space and this space can be as expensive as you chose to make it.
Open space and Larger Family Rooms
Many home are moving away from unused living rooms and combining this space in a larger family room. This space lends itself to larger social gatherings where guest are sharing conversation in a group as opposed to isolated in separate rooms. The challenge becomes one of creating comfort for the homeowners when the parties over. Oversized rooms are often void of energy and careful consideration should be given to this element. The best way to avoid this feeling is by containerizing the room. This can be accomplished by seperate setting area and even room divisions where one section appears defined and separated from another. Experience has shown that a smaller and more private location is vital for quiet reflection and rest.
6. IMPACT OF CARS ON ARCHITECTURE
Whether it is the love affair or the dependency on the automobile –nothing can destroy an elevation or sense of arrival more than a garage. The housing of cars is a problem no one has solved well. Often the garage is a dominant feature first noticed from the street. If the lot upon which the house sits is narrow, usually the garage is thrust forward and the house appears to have become a transporation terminal. Front door is jammed or pushed aside and lane ways often have cars parked while that garage remains unused. Convenience is placed above all else. In earlier time, that car had it own little house further back, down the lane and out of sight. Our preferences are for coach houses that house cars allowing the home to have its own definition.
On city lots the garage can occupy more than 60% of the front elevation. All cities across North America have streetscapes where the automobile was not the architectural focus. Porches and verandas welcome friends that strolled by.
Today we typically see charming areas giving way to parking garage fortress style homes. Creative avenues must be employed to maintain the feeling of people friendly environment). The following homes are all have same size frontage the first two have appealing front elevations this detached garages. These homes have wonderful center hall plans that are helping achieve a sense of arrival front first entry into the home.
The following homes feature a garage as one of he main architectural features. Not only does this design compromise the front elevation but imagine walking into a home and the first thing you see is a solid wall going straight back 25 ft.
This is not our idea of a well planned home.
Builders will continue to build this type of home as long as consumers are prepared to buy them. Main reason is that they are less expensive to build and typically the builder does not live in this home at the end of the day.
On larger lots the opportunity exists to containerize this space as unique and distinctive from the home and placing the garage on a different plane that the home so that it does not compete with the home. Often located at the side of the home with entry through a mudroom to facilitate access in all kind of weather conditions. Breezeways and overhangs help optimize these structures.
7. BUILDING PROPORTIONS
Trivia - whose book on arithmetic was a standard work for 200 years and is still considered the best book written on arithmetic? Leonardo of Pisa or (Filius Bonacci, Fibonacci series) after born in 1175, he discovered the perfect mathematical harmony in nature, which he used as the basis of this formula.
Great architecture must follow certain ratios – and relate everything to man as the controlling factor- for example if the ceiling is 20 feet tall the height of the wall sconce does not change.
Human scale provides a sense of security and comfort. Entrances that are too tall challenges our understanding of security- are the columns too thin, is the structure safe and do we feel welcome here or are we out of place.
How many homes have you seen the columns were too thin, or a building where the roof dominated the structure?
In historic days everything was related to modules and this immediately established proportions. Understanding proper proportions is complicated and an experienced professional should be contacted- that having been said not all professionals have understanding of this detail so review and question their work.
The final issue along with proportions would be choice of material- two different builders will build totally different homes from the same plans. Here we see the craft and artistry at work. The same stone dressed differently and with different mortar joints will look totally different. Often the subtle changes make a world of difference.
Basically, we recommend materials that are natural and indigenous with the environment. If you were building a home in the mountains- one typically would not expect to find a contemporary glass structure.
8. HARMONY WITH NAUTRE
This deals with the orientation of the home on the property- window location, lot coverage, trees and blending into the landscape.
In some cultures and becoming more and more common in North America, Feng Shui, the ancient chinese science of aligning oneself and ones surroundings in harmony with the electro-magnetic forces of nature, enhancing ones every potential for happiness, health, harmony, and prosperity is playing a much larger part in planning.[Feng Shui]
In smaller properties, there is no option on orientation and lot coverage is controlled by local by-laws. Still we do have choices of window location and capitalizing on passive solar gain and relative views.
Trees for shelter and anonymity are a simple addition that adds life and value to a home and even how the home blends in the landscape are pivotal to the comfort of the home. It is important to minimize the destruction of the landscape.
|Harmony with Nature: Shown here are footing that follow the terrain as opposed to blasting the rock and creating sharp edges of newly exposed stone. The stone in present state reflects the impact of Mother Nature since the last ice age that formed these rocks|
One of the best and most famous examples of this is Falling Water by Frank Loydd Write, before he began designing this home he knew where every rock and tree was. He was then able to plane this home with the waterfall looking like it came from within the home. This truly on of the most remarkable home as it has stood the test of time and is now 75 years old and as spectacular today as it was the day it was built.
The energy within the home Feng Shui will be address in upcoming issues of our magazine.