Friday, February 17, 2006

nitty gritty

shed frame prototype

looking at how straw fits

i'm working on the nitty gritty of the shed frame. i'm trying to figure out the structure, looking at the joints, timber sizes, spans. the shed roof presents some difficulty with a need to span 28 feet over the dining room. i doubt we're going to be able to find 28 foot timbers, but i will check into it. we could just go into the forest and take down a few trees, bark them and put them up round. it would be impressive, but very heavy! other options are to put in middle posts and i've come across a couple of heavy timber flat-roof trusses that would work but i don't know that a truss overhead in the dining room is the look or feel we want.

i'm also looking at how the straw will interface with the frame. it seems to make the most sense to me to place the straw outside the frame. this means that we have to have four foot overhangs (2 feet over the straw itself and another 2 feet to keep drips off the straw). we may be able to use extensions from the frame with braces, as in the drawings below that show the overhang supported by braces. this would limit the length of the spanning beams to the frame width. in the case of the kitchen this would be 14 feet, which is workable.

this saturday there will be a design meeting in my studio at the tip top building. we'll be going over all this stuff! 3pm.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

shed logic

here's a graphic showing the logic behind choosing a shed design. i'm working on how the frame itself might work. the challenge is the spanning beams which would have to be a total of 28 feet long over the dining area. 28 foot logs are rare and very heavy. we may have to have intermediate supports, or we could use fabricated beams, but i'd prefer the structure remain timber frame all the way through.

Friday, February 10, 2006

natural lighting

pitched roof

shed roof

pitched with a skylight

one of the reasons behind narrowing the kitchen was natural light. it's easier to get natural light in from the sides of a narrow building. natural light will be important for making meals and conserving electricity. a shed roof design helps distribute natural light fairly evenly though a room because the ceiling pitches down from high windows and bounces their light to the floor. in a pitched roof design, as you can see in the top image, the peak and center floor area tend to be dark. this can be remedied by adding a skylight, of which we have two at the moment. the last image shows how a pitched roof design can be lit up with a skylight and a peak window. but even with a skylight, the pitched roof design is darker. the images here were created using some very cool light modeling software that treats light much the way it behaves in reality. each of these models was lit identically from the outside (by light from an old european town square! it's german software). south is to the left, east is behind. the models are 24' x 24' and are viewed through a wide angled lens.

boston meeting

slant roof, summer solstice, noon

pitched roof, summer solstice, noon

shed design from the circle

pitched design from circle

shed interior, south wall

pitched interior, south wall

i travelled down to boston yesterday and met with many faeries at jim and jay's place in cambridge. we had a good meal and meeting. i presented the rationale for changing the plan of the kitchen to be narrower and the idea of phasing construction to allow for variability in labor and weather. everyone liked the new plan. this was the same presentation i made in new york.

i then presented some new drawings that showed some different massings for the building. i'd been playing with pitched roofs but they didn't seem right to me for some reason. so i tried out a shed roof pitched in the same direction as the slope of the land. gabriel came by my computer and said he really liked the shed roof. i showed it to a few other people. they liked it too. so, i did a little more work on the modeling and brought drawings down to boston, which are pictured here. the window designs are preliminary and not thought out, so think of them as hints rather than explicit.

the shed roof has many features that make it attractive for our kind of project:

  • lower slope that's fairly easy to walk on with less danger of falling off. a steeply pitched roof is more difficult to work on,
  • all precipitation drains off the back of the building, downslope of the building which eliminates having to drain as much water away from the front of the building.
  • the southern facade is taller allowing for another row of windows facing south which will let in more light and in the winter more solar gain to help heat the building.
  • because the slope is lower on a shed, the north side could have an extended roof that provides good cover for wood storage and even an alternate hang out spot.
  • a shed roof allows space for clerostory lighting above the porch roof proving the kitchen with more southern light.
  • the higher windows on the southern side of the shed will provide a higher view of the hillside and sky than a pitched roof, unless the pitched roof had a southern skylight in it.
  • the shed roof design presents a much larger face toward the circle than the pitched roof design, which people seem to like.
  • people like it!
  • it may be easier to build a shed structure.

so, by the end of the meeting, there was informal consensus that we should proceed with the new kitchen plan under a shed roof design.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


view from the circle

here's a mockup of what the new kitchen might look from the circle. the bathhouse is also in the corner--a little to high actually, but generally in the right place. this gives a sense of how the trees relate to the building. the trees in the earlier models were too short.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

a kitchen like destiny's

d'acres kitchen

d'acres exterior

today i visited an organic permaculture education farm in new hampshire called d'acres. they offer a sunday breakfast once a month with a tour of the facility. i took particular interest in their kitchen which, it turns out, is similarly dimensioned to the recently revised kitchen plan for destiny. they have a five foot aisle between counters just as we've planned. they have about the same amount of counter space and a couple in-counter burners for heating water and making small dishes, just like our snack center. a pan rack hangs above the prep area.

i asked how the kitchen works. they all agreed it works very well. one big difference between their plan and our plan is the location of the range and sink. they've placed the range at the end of the galley space and put the 3-bay sink along the outside wall. this does give nice light to the sink, but the range is dark. they told me they serve up to 70 people at their potlucks from this kitchen, about what we expect at destiny. in this picture there are six people working in the kitchen. d'acres is on the grid, so they have a nice commercial fridge, a powered hood, and electric lighting. they had a substantial budget to work with, so the counters are stone, the cabinets all new, the floor is tiled and the stove back is bricked.

the dining area attaches directly to the kitchen (behind me in the photograph). it measures about 20'x20', a bit smaller than what we have planned. they said they do fit 70 people in there for pot-lucks so that bodes well for our space. the dining area has a wood stove at one end that heats the entire space nicely. they have lots of windows that light the room beautifully. couches along the outside walls provide lounging space and tables in the center dining space. we've planned for built-in window seats, which will serve much like the couches. can we make them as comfortable, i wonder?

the rest of the building contains a woodshop, composting toilets, bedrooms, offices, a yoga/movie studio and a small library. the basement houses the composting bin, a wood-fired boiler and wood storage. they have many outbuildings for storage, housing animals and growing food.



here's a cool sink i came across at a friend's house. the controls and the spout are mounted on an old stripped and inverted column. the sink is set into an oak barrel that's attached to the column.

one plan, three roofs

#1 shed, 3/12 roof

#2 pitched, 12/12 roof

#3 rotated dining room, 7/12 roof

since i've been playing around with the plan, trying to make better use of space and to protect the porch from westerly winds, i decided to revisit the roof shape and see what it looked like with the new plan. previously, we'd decided on a hip roof, but i felt the hip roof didn't work so well with the jog in the roof. i also started to think that for beginning timber framers a hip roof might be more challenge than we want. three different roofs are pictured here. the shed would provide a lot more southern exposure than the pitched roof. the pitched roof gives a traditional feel to the building with a big gable end. the third image shows the dining/gathering room with its gable end facing south. this version could have a steeper roof which would allow more space for windows but the roof, in any case, would dump snow and ice onto the porch roof which might not be such a great idea.

what do you think?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

regulating lines


one of the nice things about taking the train down to new york city from vermont is the turnaround that happens in palmer, mass. no one gets on or off at the train station, but you go past it twice as the train reverses direction. i've always liked this building. it's got something going on that most buildings don't. what makes it so appealing, i've wondered? this time, i happened to be re-reading a book called the old way of seeing by jonathan hale. much of the book talks about regulating lines and the innate ability of human beings to detect patterns, especially human-scaled patterns. hale argues that what makes buildings likable and interesting are the hidden and sometimes sacred geometries that regulate their design. in most buildings these lines don't exist. with this in mind, i drew some lines over the palmer station and found it singing with regulating lines. a regulating line is a line that can be drawn across a facade that connects at least three important points. the points can be corners of openings, center points or edges. as you can see in the picture there are lots of lines that connect the windows and doors. nearly every point of the facade connects with other important parts of the facade. the overall composition fits within a triangle anchored by the two doors and the peak of the gable. now, try this exercise on your average suburban home or commercial building. you'll find the lines tend to connect nothing creating a kind of blankness, void, absence. according to hale, the trend away from ordered composition began in 1830, when the symbolism of architectural elements became more important than their placement. eventually the notion of ordering a facade with geometry fell from the vocabulary of the common builder and the common world became a less beautiful place.

new york design review

framing design

kitchen plan

last weekend in new york city at dick and daisy's loft on 6th avenue we had a design review. i presented the current design of the kitchen and answered questions. we talked quite a bit about volunteers and work weekends, which daisy will be coordinating. we also discussed some grants that we'll be applying for and worked on the wording of the applications.

pictured here are the plan and a 3-dimensional framing model (incomplete--some braces are missing) that i presented. after working with the previous rectangular design i began to think that the kitchen area was too wide and that too much area was given over to circulation. there were two hallways so that people could get to the bathroom and enter the kitchen from the side. narrowing the kitchen eliminates the need for hallways making more efficient use of the space. the counter space for the kitchen remains the same, at about 55 lineal feet, which should provide ample work and storage. in the narrower design the counter is longer providing a service line that can handle both dish return and serving, which the prior design didn't address. entry to the kitchen is through a break in the counter that has a drop leaf door that can be closed when the kitchen queens don't want people coming in and out. an efficiency kitchen separate from the main kitchen houses our existing domesitc stove and a small sink for making tea, sandwiches, etc. the main kitchen will have a commercial 6 or 8 burner stove with two ovens. the dining area will be the same size as the original plans, 24x24 feet.

i presented the idea of first completing the kitchen and then moving on to the dining area. without knowing how much labor we're going to have over the summer i think it's prudent to have a range of construction options, the minimum achievable by just a few volunteers over the summer and the maximum being the entire building with lots of volunteer help. since none of us has taken on a project quite like this we need to allow ourselves flexibility and time to learn as well as build. there is optimism that lots of faeries will appear over the summer the help out and if that happens we will accomplish a lot!