A complex pinwheel of L-shaped masses steps down the sloping site, enclosing a central courtyard and forming private outdoor spaces around the perimeter. Each L-shaped mass includes a bedroom suite in the upturned leg, and the associated program is organized so that the house can function as four independent apartment units with exterior entrances if family and guest arrangements warrant.



Located in a wealthy suburb south of San Francisco on an oddly shaped interior lot, the project uses the irregularly arranged base program (including garage, studio, and office space) to fit the idealized steel-framed pavilion to the lot configuration and slope of the site. The base construction is continuous with the stone garden walls and terracing that extend out into the site.


GENERAL INSTRUMENTS 2 / Arch. of Record, The Hiller Group

The J,P:A monograph, Instrumental Form, featured the original version of the design for this site, done by J,P:A under contract to The Hillier Group. This is the version that was built, for which J,P:A also provided the design. A precipitous drop in the price of the client’s stock occasioned a complete redesign, emphasizing exit strategy over all other considerations. Within the constraints imposed by the real estate pro forma—all suburban office buildings must be three floors of approximately 30,000 gross ft2 with a central core—only the arrangement of the buildings on the site and their skins become available for design.

This design for a corporate headquarters campus in Pennsylvania shows how an exit strategy need not sacrifice corporate identity. In responding to a challenging market-driven formula, this headquarters complex for a technology leader was conceived as four identical, interchangeable buildings rotated in plan to deliver a variety of views and points of entry, serving a variety of programs with the same basic, flexible floor plate.

The skin design features the same multicolor (red with random dark-blue patches) brick strategy used previously by J,P:A (on the UCLA Cogen Plant, also in Instrumental Form), and which is now proliferating around Philadelphia via other Hillier alumni who have gone on to their own practices. Also, as at UCLA, the panelized nature of this veneer is highlighted by impossible cantilevers and counter-tectonic window patterns. The entry for each building is marked with a curtain wall zone inset in such a way that the standard corner position for the fire exit stair becomes a projecting tower element, though it remains within the overall regular rectangular outline dictated by the pro forma.


The layout and design is determined by the view, which appeared magically one day when the neighbors slid down the hill into the Pacific Ocean. The narrow plan throws all spatial variety into the vertical section, which provides the usual planimetric program divisions.



In this project sliding glass doors are used extensively in parallel ranks to divide up what might otherwise be an open office layout. The glass sliders are not simply a metaphor for corporate transparency or display of its positive effect on efficiency; in fact, they create flexible space divisions in support of a hoteling-based organizational structure. By opening and closing the doors in various combinations, the schooling fish/consultant’s hot desks are allowed to coalesce into larger work group table areas or divide again into individual private office spaces. Conceived as a physical expression/embodiment of Andersen’s mantra of corporate flexibility through flattened hierarchy, this scheme was intended as a model for Andersen to use in demonstrating to their clients how the physical environment could be more supportive of the recommended business model. In addition to the partitioning and layout of the floors J,P:A designed furniture, graphics, and lighting for the client. Among the furniture pieces were desks, chairs, tables, and hoteling carts. These carts, invented by J,P:A but now in wide use, held the consultant’s files and effects in a lockable mobile version of a filing cabinet/storage locker and could be wheeled around to wherever the consultant was camped out and then re-docked in centralized security areas at night.


Movement provides the means by which these buildings achieve a flexible relation to the site and context throughout the day. Units move across the site laterally on rails, using conventional bridge-crane technology, including hoses and cables for power, waste, and water. The seventeen-ton units are manually driven by a stationary bike device; it takes 6,000 pedal rotations to move from one side of the yard to the other.



This project included a branding exercise designed to re-imagine the noodle-eating experience as both upscale/exotic and mass market/fast food; this involved design of the space, menu, space graphics, eating implements, furniture, and the process of ordering and eating.


The most difficult task facing a truck-driving school is not teaching shifting or steering out of jack-knife, but ensuring that their students remain in the field after they graduate. It takes a particular sort of person to be comfortable with this lifestyle, and it is the school’s mission to identify these individuals and weed out the others. For this reason the school operates 24/7/365, offering an intensive three-week immersion experience for the budding trucker. Everything the student needs is located right on site: classrooms, living and sleeping quarters, a dining facility, maintenance services for the trucks, and the school administration. And all of this has been accommodated within the project’s permutations of the pre-engineered steel building type, rehearsing every possible variation on the basic tectonic palette.



The idea of a balance of opposites, the Yin and Yang (T’ae-guk), is central to the Korean ethos. The ageless symbol of this relationship is the primary motif of the flag of the Republic of Korea, and it characterizes the contextual situation in Koreatown where the Korean American Museum of Art and Cultural Center will make its home. A museum dedicated at least in part to traditional Korean art, set in the middle of Southern California, the capital of contemporary popular American culture, will unavoidably be a study in contrasts, and to succeed it will have to engage in a delicate balancing act. This idea of balance permeates the present scheme, informing the layout of the building on the site and disposition of the program internally, establishing its architectural character and imagery, and influencing its construction and tectonics.

To a certain extent, even the idea of a museum entails a balancing act these days. The authority of history seems less relevant now when all experience is mediated, hyped and consumed. This is particularly true in the case of KOMA; as the Korean culture, steeped in the authority of history, collides with a context where to “be history, dude” means to be killed or erased, an agility and sense of balance—as well, perhaps, as a sense of humor—will be crucial. In the midst of such awkwardness, the Korean American Art Museum and Cultural Center must create conditions of respect for its artifacts and demonstrate their tradition’s virtue, without isolating that tradition or rendering it silly. The tradition must be brought into the present, with dignity, so that its relevance can be demonstrated rather than claimed.

Despite their apparent differences, Korea and Southern California have responded similarly to their distinctive geographic circumstances and have used them to emphasize their cultural differences from their neighbors. Both are isolated by natural features and societal inclination. Yet, architecturally speaking, neither traditional Korea nor contemporary Southern California enjoy a distinctive, home-grown vernacular. Into this architectural void steps the modern, to weld the two together in an appropriately timely formalism, born naturally of the interplay between the program, the climate, and the economics of contemporary construction.

This scheme derives its distinctive architectural features from a desire to balance a rigorous support of specific program requirements with the flexibility to respond to the continuing evolution of the program. Included in this is a concern for the “phasability” of the project—could it be built one-piece-at-a-time while remaining architecturally and institutionally viable during all steps of the process? Within the distinctive structural and planning grid borrowed from the grain of the surrounding residential neighborhoods, the gallery portions of the building break down easily into flexibly combined sub-assemblies of standardized space- and construction-units. The more programmatically distinctive portions of the building—the performance space and the lecture hall—find accommodation within the system withoutcompromising the flexibility of the less determined spaces. A unique feature of this approach is the non-specific allocation of the temporary gallery and resident artist studio spaces: a system of rolling overhead doors allows a continuous reconfiguration of the generic loft-type space. In combination with the sideyard, north-facing light wells, which provide secure, controlled exterior access to all parts of the loft space, as well as the strategically located internal gardens, this system ensures that any

configuration of studio and gallery space can be accommodated. From all gallery to all studio, or anywhere in between, the space can be swiftly changed as requirements dictate. In addition, this spatial strategy is reinforced by a lighting/observation “catwalk” system which runs throughout the building at the third level, where the administrative and gallery storage elements of the program are found, which provides for security and a continuous tuning of the environmental conditions of the galleries.

In light of the recent unrest in the area, the most important issue facing the institution might well be how it presents itself to the public—will it close itself off in protective isolation from the surrounding neighborhoods, a safe repository for its valuable artifacts and haven for its artists, or will it open itself up to its surroundings in a confident gesture of neighborliness and risk the depredations of this marginal context. This scheme councils a balance between these two extremes. It strives to give the sense of openness without compromising the fact of security, to make a statement of institutional authority without seeming forbidding or aloof. To give this impression, the gardens and sideyard light wells act as filters between the surroundings and the interior spaces of the museum. Through them this exterior condition is drawn into the building at every turn, but carefully controlled: the space, and the visitor, enters only on the building’s terms. The entry sequence is layered in discrete, overlapping zones of exterior “defensible space.” The entry garden, between the street and the lobby, works with the existing garden at Irolo and Normandie Streets to create a doubled foreground condition: as it passes under the western gallery/studio spaces which form an entry portal, the physical line of security is enhanced by a factor of psychological comfort. The underground parking garage surfaces naturally within this most interior garden, well within the most secure zone, and inside the after-hours enclosure under the western gallery portal. The sideyard lightwells provide direct exterior access at the second level to the artists studio spaces but are gated to restrict access to others.

Though the museum will front Olympic Avenue, a commercial street, it will extend well back into the residential neighborhoods to the north. Existing between these two radically different contexts, it will be important for the museum to balance competing expectations. The present scheme accomplishes this critically, through the interaction of a number of formal systems. The grain of the residential subdivisions, for example, which formerly split up the site, is continued in the new museum by incorporating the typical front, rear and sideyard setbacks of the former lot divisions into the structural and planning grid of the design. The figure of the building spans across these divisions, though, to impart a commercial scale and institutional presence. Balance is achieved through sectional manipulations which respond to the sloping of the site and the height restrictions varying between the neighborhood to the north and the commercial strip along Olympic. The logic of the lot divisions is maintained in the internal layout of the design: the “sideyard zones” are distinguished from the “front and rearyards” as circulation, while the “buildable areas” in the subdivision organization are reserved for the more contained exhibit areas. The civic dimension is communicated by the design as it registers the interneighborhood shifts in the surrounding subdivision grids, presenting this dynamic on the facade and inscribing it in plan.


Government buildings stand for the state; they give form to the civic real. They should embody the authority of the polis, which is communicated by a strong architecture of exemplary proportions and form. They should convey a sense of timeliness and stability, this is ensured by simple, straight-forward design that emphasizes durability, They should demonstrate responsibility and compassion, which are products of intelligent planning for flexibility and convenience. In short, the design for the new Taichung City Civic Center should be straight forward, simple, clear, and strong–not idiosyncratic, trendy or complex. Only in this way will the flexibility clarity and openness that is so important in government be translated into architecture. Only in this way will its buildings show a confidence in the future and a respect for the past.

The architecture of this design is composed of two systems–a concrete envelope and glass and steel connective tissue–which carry the architectural theme while satisfying the programmatic requirements. The envelope contains the spaces where the required program is housed. The connective tissue is the interdepartmental circulation zone which joins these spaces to each other. The basic servant-served relationship between these two zones is maintained in both the City Government building and the City Council building, but the manner in which the relationship is embodied varies in order to highlight the significant differences between the two buildings and their programs, The glass and steel servant structure is the active element in this relationship, while the concrete volumes play it more straight in both cases.

The parking structure also participates in the conceptual development, forming a plinth running the entire length of the civic center as a civic mall. Connecting the two complexes, this datum reinforces the differences between the two architectural layouts by highlighting the different ways they interact with it.

On the City Government building site the construction is concentrated toward the center of the site, maximizing the efficiency of the envelope and increasing the possibility of favorable interdepartmental adjacencies. On the City Council building site the program has been divided in two and placed toward the perimeter of the site, leaving a symbolic gathering space between, in the center of the site.

The landscape design follows the concept of simplicity and durability, this conveys the dignity appropriate to a civic center. A major ceremonial civic mall is proposed atop the parking structure which runs the length of the civic center, paved down the center and along the edges, where there are benches, Between, and on the two adjacent park sites, an informal arrangement of lawn and indigenous trees is proposed to contrast with the formality of the civic mall.

The City Government Building complex is the seat of the executive branch of the city government, and headquarters for the bureaucracy, including all its services, agencies, and civic amenities. It is primarily a huge office building. Support functions for the city employees and public interface areas extend across the entire site at the base of the office building, with major entrances in the center on the mall and at either end of Hue-chung and Wen-Hsin Roads.

For many good reasons the slab form is traditional for “huge office buildings”: it says “office,” giving it an impressive presence; it is efficient, saving both site area and circulation it suggests a very clear and rational organization, important to employees of a vast bureaucracy as well as visitors; and because of its shallow depth it provides the best exposure to light and air, The slab proposed for the New Taichung City Government Building has several features which add to the traditional reasons for preferring this massing scheme: the usual criticism of dullness and anonymity is answered by breaking up the slab vertically and horizontally, allowing for increased identity of individual departments and greater visual interest. The slots that are provided between the different departments introduce light and air into the continuous-exterior-passive-solar-vent-stack-circulation-”canyon” between the slabs. The architectural theme of “connection/efficiency” is expressed in the manipulations of the servant/served circulation structure, which graphically forms a connective tissue between the various buildings that make up the mega-slab, tying them together and fulfilling the required interdepartmental adjacencies.

Programmatically the City Government Building is a sprawling many-headed complex. The city government is given a formal focus by the twinned slab partis; this mega-form combines the advantages of slab-organization outlined above with the increased possibility for adjacency usually associated with more cubic volumes. The passive cooling (stack effect) canyon between the slabs provides a sheltered community “street” for the office workers while programmatic amenities are spread out at the base of the complex where they are organized around dedicated outdoor spaces in identifiable sub-assemblies. Side outlets from the main canyon street, for air and views are made by separating the slab into discrete buildings by major department–providing visual interest to the whole and a sense of identity to the departments.

The parking mall plinth bisects the mega-slab at its center–symbolizing the realm of the public and the city government’s relation to it: the city government buildings branch out from the mall but face along it fore and aft. Like the city government, it is there if necessary, but otherwise it is not in the way, and can even be ignored if desired. The public interface areas of the government bureaucracy are arrayed along the mall for easy access and conceptual clarity. The parking below the mall provides multilevel drop-off possibilities at a sunken court at the center of the complex for both ceremonial VIP entrance and discreet daily entrance.

The City Council Building houses the legislative branch of the city government and its support functions. If the government building is the behind-the-scenes bureaucracy, then the City Council Building, as the home of the elected officials, is the showplace of the city’s civic pride, It is a gathering place for these officials to meet with each other and their constituents, and is an office building where the business of the city council is supported.

The City Council Building is comprised of the same elements as the City Government Building, but they have been arranged in a different way to express the difference in the two programs. As with the other building, the office functions are housed in the concrete slabs, and the circulation occurs in the glass and steel structure of connective tissue, but in the City Council Building the slabs are held apart to form a central outdoor gathering space, invoking the theme of assembly, The diagram is very simple and straightforward: the support functions for the city council activity are arranged in the slabs to either side framing the city council spaces. They are connected under the raised outdoor plaza at both the ground and basement levels. In addition, there is a outdoor bridge between them at the sixth level suspended beneath the trusses of the louver canopy. the more public functions are concentrated at the power levels adjacent to the plaza, while the more private functions are located higher up in the slabs. The immediate support for the city council areas themselves are located with those areas under the plaza. The raised plaza provides multilevel drop-off opportunity; a grand ceremonial stair of mall VIP entrance, and a more discreet drop-off below the raised mall at ground level.

The main symbolic component of the City Council Building are the audotoria, Traditionally they are shaped by concerns for accommodation of site-lines and the support of good acoustics, but are fit into whatever envelope is available, without expressing the dynamic form that arises naturally from these concerns. These audotoria take their symbolic role seriously–they have discrete identities, separate from the supporting slabs and enjoy the sort of free from shape which comes from acoustical and sight-line concerns. They are embedded in the mall plinth that forms the main symbol of the theme of assembly.

The connective tissue servant structure provides a louvered canopy over this symbolic gesture and creates a sheltered outdoor gathering space, It is a grand civic symbol of the idea of city council, contrasting with the City Government Building’s architectural theme of connection. The City council auditoria spaces below have expression in the outdoor symbolic gathering space as the protruding light monitors that are “gathered” under the canopy.


The practice of medicine is a unique mix of the human and scientific, in which both the rational and the intuitive play a role. The varied techniques and equipment the medical profession employ in fulfillment of the Hippocratic oath cover a broad range of human ingenuity and expertise; an effective bedside manner is as important in its way as the MRI for which it might prepare the patient, and the right question can be as effective as Computerized Axial Tomography in making the appropriate diagnosis. Architecture can also play a role in support of these efforts, but in so doing it must cover a similar range of concern.

The architecture which supports the medical profession can be seen as another piece of equipment, since it must not only satisfy the required functional considerations, but if possible enhance them, allowing the profession to fulfill its duties with the greatest efficiency and efficacy. In this sense the architecture is more than just a passive or neutral container. Just as a CAT scanner can be seen to represent a commitment to the ideal of saving lives, as well as being an instrument of that effect, the building which houses this activity may represent these intentions, as well as keep the rain off. Unlike the CAT scanner or other equipment though, this is part of architecture’s prescription, not just a fortunate side-effect.

Architecture is expected to communicate something about the program it supports. This is particularly true in the case of a commercial building, dedicated to fostering trade. In such a case architecture becomes part of the marketing effort, a member of the sales team. Its dual nature comes to the fore in such situations, supporting trade both through efficient planning, which eliminates inconvenience and physical barriers to the deal, and through visual cues, which establish a positive mood encouraging this activity. A medical professions trade center, AMIHALL, must reconcile the messages of its two masters: the perceived altruism of the medical community, and the boosterism of the commercial trade-show environment. What architecture “says” medicine? What architecture “boosts” it?

A typical convention center is interested in generating a certain level of excitement, but rarely adopts a particular design “theme.” The exhibits, which change with every trade show and convention, determine the mood of each show, and are given the greatest chance to show off in a thematically neutral environment. But AMIHALL does not warrant this same level of neutrality. Though there is a revolving component to its exhibition program, it is primarily a permanent medical products fair; it should take advantage of architecture’s capacity for expression to enliven the mood and set the tone of its medical orientation—as a continuing stimulus to sales.

Consequently, the proposed design for AMIHALL takes its cues from the rich mix of the humanism and science characterizing the medical profession itself. The design attempts to

project a sense of excitement—by providing a variety of spatial and visual experience, while stating the fact of its rational planning—through the obvious conveniences such planning promotes.

The design is not a typical neutral “black box” convention hall. A medical “theme” is carried throughout the facility: the use of biomorphic shapes and bold geometries, the overall “technical” appearance and “clinical” details, the predominantly white coloration, clean materials and smooth surfaces, all recall the profession’s scientific and humanistic basis. There is an abundance of light and space. Light enters deep into the interior of the volume from the lobby and both ends of the main space and from clerestories above. The industrially efficient roof structure elegantly carries the symmetrically modulated duct work and exhibit support services, providing a generous ceiling height which not only increases exhibition flexibility but is better suited proportionally to the vastness of the space. This height allows important program elements to soar over the exhibition and sales floor, activating the usually empty volume of space above the booths, enlivening the space as a whole without competing directly with the exhibits below. Many ramps and bridges, including some used as seating areas in the restaurants themselves, actively encourage the visitor to move through the space and explore the exhibits from different perspectives. As well as promoting movement, these dramatic diagonal surfaces impart a visual dynamism to the space—in further support of the trade fever.

These architectural fireworks are based on a rational plan, though. No gratuitous decorations are applied to this efficient trade machine; nor does it require them; instead, that efficiency has itself been emphasized. The use of cleanly detailed, straightforward no-nonsense forms and a restrained palette of durable materials complement the simple shape and proportions of the hall to create a strong unified impression.

A desire for maximum efficiency in exhibit layout and comprehensive beneficial adjacency have dictated a very simple, straightforward plan and section, in which architectural license is reserved more or less exclusively for the unconstrained spaces above the main exhibition and sales floor. Basically, AMIHALL is a large continuous open exhibit and sales area, organized and sized according to the typical convention center/trade show model; that is, on a 10X10 booth module grid, 30X30 primary services grid (communications, power, drain), 60X60 secondary services grid (communications, power, drain, compressed air, gas, water), and framed on either long side by the enclosed amphitheaters and their upper galleries, which overlook the exhibition floor.


The city’s objectives for the new Civic Center can be divided into two categories—the practical and the symbolic. The practical objectives are easily and efficiently satisfied by the most straightforward, basic office building. After all, both city halls and police stations are mostly collections of office functions differing little from the commercial standard. Yet, the City has specifically asked that the image of such a building be avoided, even if such a construction type has been the basis for the budget. This places the major burden for design firmly in the symbolic, where the straightforward basic office building may be elevated to a stature appropriate to a civic center’s “statement of government activities.”

The design has been organized efficiently around the symbolic idea of “assembly.” Two ordinary office buildings are ennobled by their arrangement as frames for a central space which literally continues the civic space of the town square and is oriented to the entrance from Palm Canyon Drive. A great canopy is proposed to shelter this space from the harsh desert climate, becoming the main symbolic expression of the civic nature of the project. By this gesture the design demonstrates a sense of “inviting ... user friendliness and easy accessibility.” Strongly “framing views of the mountains” as it “presides over the town square,” this gesture frees the building(s) to demonstrate a virtuous modesty and cost effectiveness, without losing Civic Presence.

The design includes several features which will help make the most of the limited funds available. Preferring not to waste the city’s money on anachronistic decoration, the design’s honest, contemporary expression of a functional “desert architecture” makes the most “cost

effective use of contemporary building technologies and climate-sensitive practices.” For the most part a very straightforward, repetitive design, the scheme takes valuable lessons in economy from the commercial construction industry, such as using EIFS, off-the-shelf storefront glazing systems, structurally and spatially efficient light gauge metal framing, etc.; but all are put together in a way that belies their commercial origin. Up to 10,000 SF of future additions can be organically accommodated under the Civic Plaza, saving envelope costs; and because of its layout in discrete building units, the design would be easily phasable. Finally, the Emergency Services program elements are isolated in their own building, allowing the more expensive structure to be minimized.

The civic leaders have indicated a strong desire to upgrade Cathedral City’s image, particularly in this part of town—to create a new town center that would encourage “pride and a sense of belonging in the City.” As a catalyst for future development in the town center and an example for the form and character of that development, the new Civic Center’s positive impact will extend beyond the immediate site. It will be a signal to everyone of the city’s sense of its own future and standing in the Coachella Valley. If the City wishes to truly distinguish itself from its neighbors, it will choose not to imitate their efforts but to set its own course. Instead of following their nostalgic example of Disneyland-style, cartoon Southwesternism, it will set a new example and assert a more honest and responsible standard that looks forward with confidence to the future rather than backward, with longing, to the past.


The task to design a coffee kiosk is modest, but must immediately bring to mind images of the primitive hut, particularly when the site for the kiosk is so consistently vested in classicism. When that kiosk is to be a prototype for other small structures as well, then the reference to the primitive hut is unavoidable. No other model is possible. This is not to claim, of course, that the primitive hut must be replicated—even its earliest depictions were interpretations of an imagined ideal. There is and never was an actual entity to replicate. So each rediscovery is actually an invention, holding a mirror up to the discoverer. This example is no exception.

The Stanford Utility Kiosk system assembly prototype is an expansive distillation of the architectural elements traditionally elucidated by the primitive hut exercise. It deploys an emphatic, but straightforward, expression to mark space rather than shelter. The actual programmatic requirement for protection from the elements is served by a secondary system, as are the more specific requirements that turn the system into, say, a bike rack or bus shelter. The primitive hut demonstrates the essential distance between existence and expression that a project interested in essence must negotiate and record; the kiosk understands this as an exhortation to constrain the excess necessary for expression to the axis of purpose alone.

All programs are accommodated by minimal adaptations of the basic module. The coffee kiosk is the ur-model for the system, though it sports the inverted roof configuration; it is particularized by the addition of bench and counter elements, and the coffee vendor’s containerized secure production module. The bicycle rack shelter is arranged by reversing the orientation of the coffee kiosk’s bays, to give the more classic—but more frumpy—pitched roof profile of the standard primitive hut; it is completed by the addition of the bike racks themselves between the columns. The bus shelter is assembled from a linear colonnade of modules, facing the street, with tractor seat benches slung in each bay. Finally, the screen wall replaces the bus shelter’s benches with solid vertical panels to block the view through the columns.


A Bay Area couple now living in the Far East will build a vacation house at Donner Lake, for themselves and their children still living in the Bay Area. The parents anticipate returning to Northern California twice a year for family get-togethers: once in the winter for skiing, and once in the summer for water sports. During the remainder of the year the house will be available for the children’s use or may be rented out to other vacationers.

The heavily wooded, two-acre site is combined from two separate lots. It slopes generally down to the south, toward the lake and distant views. The two lots that make up the site vary dramatically in size and amenity—one is a large, interior lot with no auto access but tremendous views, and the other is a small subdivision lot at the end of a crowded cul-de-sac, without view or character. By combining these lots the weakness of the one is compensated by the strength of the other: access to the prime building site is provided from the cul-de-sac, via the undistinguished lot, where autos will remain, under a canopy. A walkway will extend from this point to the interior lot and building site. Though neither site is truly secluded or remote, these measures will promote a greater sense of isolation and exclusiveness.

The architects were asked to prepare alternate schemes for this site from the same basic diagram supplied by the client. This diagram included a large living space combining living, dining and den and a separate bedroom wing.

The two resulting schemes explore different adaptations of the basic diagram to the site. The client’s initial sketch presumed a flat site, but the actual site conditions presented an opportunity to rethink the required programmatic separation vertically. Consequently, the two schemes vary the distribution of the program by level. This has a corresponding effect on the amount of site coverage, the arrival and entry sequence and connections to the site.

Scheme # concentrates the program into two stacked rectangular volumes; the upper volume, housing the living space, is slid off the center of the lower volume and rotated to face the view. Decks are provided by a third gasket-type system, introduced to mediate between the volumes, which also sponsors the inter-communicating stairs. Within the space resulting in section from this move is located a thermal storage plenum, fed conductively by air from the two fireplaces. The upper volume is nested within a massive weathering steel truss-frame, supported on four columns rising up through the lower volume, and it cantilevers out over the site on both ends as it swings free from the earth-hugging lower mass to face the view.

Scheme * fits the program into two linear, single story, steel-framed and-clad volumes, arranged along the principal topographic axes of the site.In this case the living spaces occupy the lower volume, which faces the principal view. The resulting stepped-chevron form produces a large outdoor deck on the roof of the lower volume. Where the two bars overlap at the corner, a double-height volume is created; here vertical circulation and a hearth are accommodated. A mechanical room and storage area is provided in the space below the lower level.

Though this project falls within the “cabin” typology, both schemes reject the traditional cabin form, as well as its contemporary ‘A’ frame expression. The traditional cabin’s shape evolved for the most part in response to heavy snow loads; the characteristic steeply pitched roof highlights the structural limitations of wood construction and traditional building technologies. A cabin today need not be constrained by such limitations. These two schemes make this clear. By embracing the economical steel construction practices perfected in the industrial building industry, they are able to use the snow, as a heavy insulating blanket, rather than lose it.

The detailing that was developed to support the steel building/construction industry is both mature and flexible. We believe that the forms resulting from a straight-forward application of this practice exhibit the same integrity and appropriateness on the site as the trees and rocks themselves. Like these natural elements, the steel building of today can be considered the end product of a long, evolutionary history of painstaking refinement. As Corbu described in Vers Une Architecture or Mies elaborated in his Chicago work, the goal, and result, of such a process is a naturalness and ease that seems inevitable. Both these architects also address nature with the same frankness as the steel building industry, “teasing nature into unhiddenness,” directly or indirectly, by accommodating natural forces and effects and thus giving form to them. Both these masters of modernism and the steel building industry view form as the proper and inevitable expression of an inner will, rigorously applied, and base judgments of value on consonance with that will, rather than novelty or charm.

A critical perspective and sense of irony prevents the contemporary architect from fully enjoying such heroic positivism, though. These schemes acknowledge that reality, and admit their presence outside the strictest accounting of positivistic evolutionary histories. Each scheme elaborates its critique in a single, simple departure from conformity to the requisite or precise assimilation to the necessary. Each scheme spoils its own implicit bid for perfection. By this departure, though, the project is fit more “perfectly” to the site. The intention betrays a reliance on the logic of supplementarity, which suggests that, by working to fit themselves more completely into the site, they demonstrate their own lack of completeness. Yet, at the same time, while the overtness of this act makes it critical, its intention keeps it positive.

Scheme # rotates its superstructure off its base to address the view; this goes beyond accommodation to assert the scheme’s consciousness of its own aggressive presence on the site and its likely reorientation of the surroundings to its new centrality. Scheme * employs an obvious somatic screen in order to blend in; the strict framing of this element, though, undercuts its simple statement of camouflage to highlight the practice’s artificiality and questionable motives.


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The battle for our planet’s future will be fought within technology, not against it. Even “appropriate” technologies, or “alternative” technologies, however, respectful, are still scientific engagements of Nature—still only different readings of our basic technological contract with Nature.

Admittedly, technology is at least the proximate cause of our environmental problems. The domineering effects of technology are widely felt; its attempts to control both man and nature, to subject them to its standards of efficiency and quantification, are well documented and analyzed. Smokestacks that once proclaimed prosperity now seem aimed more menacingly at the sky, like industrial cannons holding the planet hostage.

Yet we must also admit technology’s indispensable place in our society and our conception of the future. Ultimately, the quarrel should not be with these smokestacks themselves so much as with the “technological mind set” that “aims” them. The attitude that views everything as “standing in reserve” to be fit into the “system” and judges quality strictly in quantifiable terms is indeed pervasive in industrial societies. Its universalizing outlook misses both the humane and the natural in its quest for efficiency. The products of this universalizing attitude play an increasingly integral role in our society, but this attitude forces us to cast them as the villains, which may make us miss the real culprit.

This critique of technology tends to place a distance between us and our machines that obscures the naturalness of technology as a normal extension of man. Our technology cannot help but bear the personality of its maker. This personality is as varied as humanity, and thus not necessarily or uniformly attractive. We are inseparable from our technology—it is the stuff we make; it is what demonstrates and tests the stuff of which we are made. If it is deemed ugly, or irresponsible, or cruel, it is as likely as not because we have been ugly, irresponsible, or cruel.

The “sea-change in consciousness” that appears to be dawning today describes the magnitude of the changes necessary to effect a true and lasting impact on our relationship with

the planet. This change of consciousness must begin with a new heightened awareness and understanding of our relationship to our technology. It is only by this route that any substantive change in technology’s relationship to nature may be affected. We interchange “humanity” and “technology” freely in assigning the blame for our environmental problems because, despite technology’s alienating habits, it is only transparent to the humanity who wields it. The problem is centered precisely here—in the attitude that views technology as something to be “wielded,” something raised “against” something else. Whether this something else is truly worth a battle, like poverty or hunger, or is indifferent, like the weather, by “wielding” technology against it, an attitude is fostered—and focus created—which damns the wider consequences. The combative “us against them” mentality may lead to quick solutions, but seldom to lasting ones. Technology is not a weapon but a tool and a mirror, and increasingly, inescapably, a companion.

Selflessness and sacrifice, however noble, however helpful, are not in themselves solutions though: the image in this mirror will not go away. We are tied to technology by more than just a selfish regard for the comforts and security it provides. It may seem a cliche to say that “Man is a machine,” but this phrase neatly captures the limited range of physical experience available to humanity: technology is a direct expression of how we inhabit and engage the world, a direct outgrowth of our perceptual and cognitive abilities and limitations.

And technology is, finally, humanity’s own Creation. The difference between technology and Nature is the difference between man and God. Technology may yearn (it’s in the nature of the machine) for the perfection of Nature but, like its own creator, it must be satisfied with worship.

Architecture expresses our place in this cosmos. Its formal referent must ultimately be the world: Nature. Technological form is directly expressive of what nature demands or will allow. If architecture retains its traditional role as a vehicle for placing us in the world, then science and technology act as the map.


There are two edges in any retail environment that can carry information. The vertical edge we usually call a wall, and the horizontal one we call the ceiling or floor. In keeping with the idea of exchange, we propose to draw these both into the space where they can be experienced as edges. These elements will be understood as being part of the equation, and not just the things that happen to define the space.

The overall concept for the roll-out program is relatively straight-forward. We would create two types of modular unit. A spatial unit, and a fixture unit. The kit of parts from which this idea is assembled is small. All the pieces are modular, but highly articulate and flexible.

Aside from specialty items like stairs, elevators, or cash register booths, all stores are laid out with a multiple of these modular wall/ceiling units, and multiples of a single universal fixture type, “with optional attachments.”

This single fixture-type accommodates all necessary storage and display conditions: tall and short hanging, with or without display; tall and short shelving, with or without lines or display; and mannequin-type display.

All this action is accomplished in the most low-tech manner, though, with bolts and thumbscrews. this keeps down the costs and increases convenience. These units, like the wall/ceiling modules, are also composed of a skin and a subframe. For both the fixture and the wall/ceiling unit, the frame is the universal element, while the skins can vary within certain dimensional constraints.

The Fifth Avenue site for the flagship store provides an extreme test for this system of panels and fixtures: the corner space is both tight and extensive. This space, spread over three levels, with small floor plates, massively intrusive columns and relatively low ceiling heights, is less than ideal for making a big splash, despite its location.

Having said that we feel that the Fifth Avenue store will provide the concept with the most challenging test, and “If we can make it there, we can make it anywhere.”

To fit the roll-out concept onto three levels is itself no big deal. After all, it wouldn’t make much of a roll-out concept if it weren’t flexible. In fact, it helps us to tie the levels together, while allowing different orientations of the wall/ceiling system from floor to floor. By arranging them so that they alternate, we can impart a dynamism to the space without complicating it or messing up the wayfinding.

But to reach the three stores in one we’re going to need one mondo vertical conveyance system. It’s going to take up a lot of valuable floor space, so we have to make it do more than one thing. since the levels define the flagship store’s difference from the rest of the fleet, we can use the big stair as the signature of the flagship. If we make this signature visible from the street, it can unify the three levels to make a bigger, urban-scale impact. When viewed from the street it becomes the billboard for the store.

But this means we are showing a big stair on the long streetwall that is usually reserved for display. In a vertical situation like this, though, the usual kind of display has problems—you can’t see the outfits up on the second floor. This opportunity demands billboard type thinking. You can’t really make clothes for giants, and big photos are just not the same. The stair makes perfect sense.

Although like a billboard, the stair fixture will have greater depth and interest. It will act as a line, delineating the exterior, but also creating a tension toward the interior. People know what to expect from the stuff inside, so the stair will act as a big X marks the spot.

Or rather A|X marks the spot. The signature can be elaborated in this zone with some urban-scaled graphics in translucent/transparent panels. The people in the store walk among these panels when they are in the stair zone, and everyone looks through them to see into and out of the store.

Shanghai North Bund Plaza

The main idea for the project is that it be like a new Little City. This is obviously expressed through the architecture of the building and window patterns, but also in the functional relationships and in the project’s programatic flexibility. Each aspect is inseparable from the others; each reinforces the others so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Like a city downtown area, the project is exciting, energetic and rich in experience, as well as functionally practical.

Rather than imposing some arbitrary style or composition on the buildings and then trying to force the spaces to fit into it, this scheme starts with the spaces and connects them freely to the city. The honesty of this approach leads to its own architecture, unique to the project, not borrowed from some other project. This approach to architecture has the newest look anywhere, stimulated by the latest advances in electronic technology and complexity theory that is just now finding its way into design in New York and San Francisco.

Newer even than “Deconstructivism,” this design combines the visual freedom of virtual reality and cyberspace with the hidden order lying underneath complex natural phenomena, being detected these days by the new science of chaos and complexity. Complexity theory says that may systems formerly considered random or chaotic, like the weather of turbulence, actually display an underlying order if looked at in the right way. Nw advances in computer technology now make it possible to discover this order, and the virtual reality of cyberspace allows this order to be modeled so that it can be visualized. Since it is architecture’s responsibility to express society’s highest aspirations and best understandings, this design takes its inspiration from this cutting-edge research. When this new understanding of science is translated into architecture it results in spaces that are both exciting and comfortable, unusual and familiar.

To be economically reasonable, the design must communicate a sense of this excitement without making everything too electronic or too complex. This is where the art of design comes in: this design represents the latest advances, and symbolizes the newest ideas, but still can be built for reasonable cost with existing technology. But the visitor will never know.

On the facade is a complex, freeform window pattern representing a cross-section of the urban order. This collage of city imagery will heighten the sense of intrigue, encourage exploration and hint at a variety of constantly changing experience, like in a city. Since this project is based on a logical circulation diagram and central organizing space, though, its architectural variety and

dynamic spatial experiences creates a desire for exploration, not confusion. There are many “places to meet” in this Little City.

The Little City is a seed for the future building development in this area of North Bund. As the leader of new development in the North Bund, the building dies not simply obey the orientation of the streets surrounding it. Instead it calls out to its distant urban neighbors to follow it into the future, turning to face the Pudong and Bund, addressing them as a proud symbol of the strong future of the North Bund. The Phase Two facade also turns to face the neighborhoods to the north, inviting the residents to come into the North Bund to shop. Simultaneously, by turning to face their friends, the buildings also twist southward to face the sun.

The facade facets represent the many aspects of Shanghai and its vibrant culture; the angled forms draw inspiration from the cutting edge of technology and design to represent the energy of the city as it stretches and grows to embrace its future; the vertical circulation cores are like the strong historical core of Shanghai which rood the building in long tradition of openness to the future and other cultures; the sparkling steel and glass windows emerging from inside the heart of the structure are like the inner magic heart of the city, welcoming to the citizen and the stranger.

Like a city, the project is zoned functionally–some parts are designed for excitement, and some parts are designed for efficiency, some are visible and some “behind the scenes,” but each contributes to the overall vitality of the design.

Instead of emphasizing the expression of the programmatic functions, which need to be flexible, this scheme expresses the service functions common to all the programs, which will never need to change: no matter how much the rest of the spaces change from office to retail, the service spaces will need to remain in their most efficient layout. These service elements are the vertical circulation “cores,” the mechanical equipment rooms and restrooms, and the stair towers. By expressing their vertical continuity right up out of the ground and up to the roof, all the various levels of the building are united. This organization is like a tree, with the parking ramps and floorplates as roots, the vertical cores as its trunk, and the commercial and office spaces as the branches and foliage. Way-finding is easy when the vertical circulation is so clear. In addition, by expressing the technical elements of the projkect in this way, it is possible to communicate modernity and technical sophistication without being expensively or alienatingly “high-tech.”


Head Start Childcare Facility

Marshall McLuhan’s observation that the whole environment can be thought of as a vast teaching machine seems an apt description of the intentions embodied in this facility. In every possible way the design of this building and its grounds attempts to engage the children’s imaginations and to inspire them. Consequently, the design does not offer itself as a neutral background for primary colors and educational graphics, nor does it satisfy itself with simple fulfillment of the typical programmatic requirements. Control and supervision of the children, or durability and ease of maintenance of the facility are important, of course, and must be addressed, but they are not ends in themselves. This building goes beyond sufficiency to challenge the children to go beyond survival.

In the broadest possible sense, the building offers itself to the parents and staff as a teaching tool. First, it gives the children the security of the familiar, and the staff an anchor, through the imagery of the home from which adventures may be launched. Neither Disneyland nor a panopticon, the image is pitched between adult responsibility and child’s fantasies, encouraging the adult to explore and the child to grow, together. Subtle and not so subtle, shifts in scale and geometry are the signal that such familiarity is not to be taken for granted: instead of a single, cute kid-scale, there is a range of different scales which offer the viewers—including adults—unusual perspectives, fueling aspirations to grow or empathy for the less grown, or empowering them with confidence. And instead of a single pragmatic ordering system, or a cacophony of wacky departures from that, the building grows logically into differences that the attentive eye will find both liberating and illuminating. The geometric shifts set up in such deviations are far from meaningless, showing how the regular pre-engineered building structure accommodates the change and what end is being served by it.

The building is designed to express such ideas through its apparent movement, making an empathetic connection to the children’s own constant Brownian motion, and showing how it is through such demonstrations of self control (control of the self) that the self is posited, and the integrity of that self is tested and affirmed. In its apparent movement, or the sense of its potential for movement, in the folding permutations of the house-form “shell,” or the attentive ministrations of the service program’s “hermit crab,” the design intends to catch the eye and engage the imagination as a first step to teaching how buildings and the environment work. And then the actual movement in the space furthers this interest by allowing the adults and children to participate—the changing, controllable play of light and shadow from the operable windows and skylights, the aural and tactile “movements” apparent in traversing from carpet to wood to rubber flooring, the thermal movements that can be traced through the HVAC and plumbing, laid-out like the body’s circulatory system, or the changing spaces caught within the rolling-shelf units that house the classroom supplies and create a constant sense of control over the classroom environment, or even the segmented garage doors that permit the classroom to be linked directly with the common play corridor—all this “motion” conveys to both the child and the parent that nothing is given and everything is what you make of it. The head start which this facility offers its families begins here, in the building’s own demonstration of empowerment, and in the encouragement that can be taken from its legibility.

In this way, the design hopes to stand not merely as a pattern for other Head Start facilities, but to demonstrate a more engaged way of dwelling in general. Seeing decoration as the greatest impediment to both truth and flexibility, the proposed design eschews all dissembling about its nature as a construction of industry-standard parts and systems. It holds no mysteries that cannot be solved, hides no lies behind sheet-rock frosting.

The lessons of the first modern wave of “flexible design” have been assimilated. This proposal avoids both rigid modularity and systematic flexibility. It looks to the techniques developed over generations by the tremendously cost-conscious pre-engineered building industry for the means of its adaptability. For obvious reasons, the techniques of this industry are geared precisely toward cost-effective variability and adaptability. They are based more on the general efficiencies of wide-span structure and homogeneous enclosures than on particular geometries or stocks of pre-fabricated pieces. Serving a wide variety of clients and a multitude of program types—which experience a continuous stream of process and plant changes that must be accommodated quickly and inexpensively—pre-engineered buildings have become synonymous with inexpensive flexible design. Of course, it must be admitted that they have also become synonymous with cheapness and banality. But this is not necessarily the fault of the material or system—since Charles and Ray Eames pre-engineered design has not really been asked to do any better. The present design assumes that there is an honesty, a nobility, to be teased out of this type of construction, as well as an inherent flexibility, that can support the educational and aspirational requirements of a Head Start facility on this or any other site.

The scale of the facility, which is actually quite small, is manipulated in various ways to mitigate the industrial nature of the materials and the enforced simplicity of the enclosure. Two metal wall panel types are used, flat and corrugated, and several colors, to emphasize the necessarily subtle geometric deviations. The otherwise distracting trim elements, gutters, and rainwater leaders are also brought into the composition to heighten the effects of the color changes. In such a way, by recognizing the exigencies of the system from the start, and designing a formalism to exploit these, instead of chafing against them, the typically banal building components of the pre-engineered building industry may be deployed to positive, cost-effective architectural ends. Rather than seeking to promote the inherent “industrial” connotations of these components, the design intends to disrupt this reference through the overt residential formalism, so that these elements may by reconsidered for their matter-of-fact suitability and the legibility of their performance, apart from their habitual usage for industrial applications.

To many outsiders, the preschool is a study in chaos; they miss the underlying order that is the hallmark of a successful, supportive environment. The classroom is designed to be both flexible enough for the changing demands of the pre-schooler’s day while respecting the child’s (and their adult supervisor’s) needs for order. Striking a balance between structured and unstructured, or figured and neutral environments, the classroom emphasizes the degree of control both the child and the adult may have over that environment by offering interactive opportunities for “tuning” the classroom itself and its relationship to its surroundings.

Sliding storage units on flush floor-mounted tracks satisfy the primary storage needs of the classroom. They can be arranged in a number of configurations to create various activity areas. Use of the shelves is extended by the inclusion of a “kit-of-parts” that includes platforms, access ladders, railings, easels and other devices that support class activities. Just about everything the classroom requires is stowed in such a way that it either folds, slides, rolls or otherwise deploys from the shelving units. And when it’s time to clear the decks, the units settle into an alcove in the wall, and all their treasures and distractions are out of reach and out of view. On rainy days or when facility-wide activities occur, garage doors open allowing free access between the classroom and the public spaces. The sliding shelf track extends out the door so that shelves can be rolled out for rainy day indoor play outside of the confines of the classroom.

With child-safe glides and brakes, these storage units are architectural scaled stuff that the children can participate in moving. This element of customization provides an important sense of control and ownership for both the children and the adults.

Outside this “flexible zone” there is adequate area for tables and chairs for the entire class. For “circle time” or other gatherings of the troops, a circle is created on the hardwood or carpeted floor. The circle provides the constant in the child’s day, no matter how much the environment changes in the “flexible zone.”

Spread over two floors, the classrooms are ensured a sense of connectivity through the introduction of a grand stair. Both a grand symbol and haptic reinforcer of aspiration and grand place to play or hang out or lead small reading groups, this EPDM rubber-lined object offers a focus and organizing structure to the children’s realm. As stair and amphitheater it supports both active and passive learning opportunities; as a reference to the home it connects that learning to the family life that must nurture it, and as a superscaled version of that stair at home it makes it all-important and fun.

At the foot of the grand stair is the entry-“living-room”-surveillance-hub-hermit-crab-roosting-reading-nest-window-seat-kitchen-door-playground-access-amphitheater place. Designed as a between space rather than a figural space, it connects rather than contains, providing the nexus of the administrative and children’s realms. It anchors the building and its occupants’ experiences, but not in the traditional static way of a hearth which, though it speaks of security also speaks of insularity. Around the periphery are areas where quiet, small-group activities may occur, but generally this is the space of presentation and show, of loudness and ceremony, of coming and going. A couple of overscaled arm chairs, big enough for an adult and several children, and a rag rug that culminates the entry spiral combine with the “fireplace” and great stair to declare the living room in the midst of the swirling centrifugal space, and give the larger Head Start family a place to call Home.

High Sierra Guest Cabin

On three hundred and sixty acres of high Sierra forest and meadow in Hope Valley, California two stanford professors (optics) will build cabins, out-buildings and assorted guest quarters for themselves, colleagues and students, The site is zoned for two dwellings and accessory structures.

The property includes portions of the largest high Sierra meadow remaining in private hands and is bordered on all sides by non-developable federal land, either designated National Wilderness or National Forest. The property is bisected by a low ridge running north and south, which divides the meadow on the west from a shallow wooded valley on the east. Across the meadow and beyond another ridge, US88 climbs up to Luther Pass, where it can be seen only from the highest point on the property, Access to the site, such as it is, is from a spur road coming off US88 several miles to the north and running down “behind” the eastern edge of the property on its way to Blue Lakes, a popular backpacking destination lying twelve miles further south. Off this spur runs a barely recognizable dirt track, which only the hardiest four-wheel-drive vehicles can negotiate. The property is splendidly isolated , and its pristine condition is no doubt due to this, and to the fact that it is surrounded by much more famous recreational areas that have attracted the backpacking legions away.

The building sites are located primarily in relation to the meadow, which is the property’s most dramatic feature, and reflect the two professors’ different attitudes about the wilderness. The sites are not visible to each other. The northern site is situated on the broad, gently sloping flank of the ridge, just inside the tree line. Though its primary orientation is toward the meadow to the south, seen out through a screen of pines, it enjoys a sense of security within its forest setting and would acquire a magnificent view of the surrounding hills from a high enough vantage point on the building. The southern site is directly atop a rock promontory that caps the ridge line, with a powerfully exposed command of the meadow on one side and forest on the other. There is ample evidence scattered here that coyotes frequent this promontory to bay at the moon and it is not hart to imagine virgin sacrifices taking place here (though the indigenous Americans who camped here hundreds of years ago indulged in no such practices of course). Upon visiting the property there is a strong sense that the first site is where something should be built, and the second is where something really wants to be built. This sums up the difference in the professors’ attitudes, and the reason why it is important that the two sites are not visible to one another

High Sierra Meadow Cabin

The outbuildings will include a well structure and generator building located back in the woods, roughly between the two sites, Some preliminary site work has been done: each site already has its own leach field and a well has been dug. Each site will be supplied with buried connections to the well and generator. Single-room guest guys will be placed elsewhere on the property, three initially , to take advantage of its other interesting features, They will be skid-mounted and fitted with self-contained water and waste systems, so they can be moved around as the seasons or whims suggest, To preserve the property’s isolation, no additional roads or parking facilities will be provided. It is expected that guests will park at the spur road and hike in, and that the professors will only drive in as supply or maintenance needs might require.

The buildings are designed to respect this isolation, to answer the question about dwelling in nature posed by the differences between the two sites. They are intended to embody the two professors’ differing senses of the proper posture for this dwelling.

All structures will be constructed from twenty-foot shipping containers. In industry these containers are used as a basis for temporary shelters all over the world, as well as the shipping purposes for which they were originally designed. They are extremely hardy and very inexpensive. It goes without saying they are eminently transportable. Each of these factors recommended their use for this project. The remoteness and difficult topography of the proposed building sites require that the structures be delivered to the property by truck and then ari-lifted by Sky Crane helicopter into place on the specific building sites. The inexpensiveness of the containers allows the architects to propose extensive modifications, within a general modular approach, without busting the budget. The durability of the containers provides for a measure of security, weather and fire resistance not common in vacation homes, but important because of the lack of a constant owner presence. And the mobility of the containers allows the construction standards for the units to be raised considerably since the entire assembly can be shop fabricated. In fact, much of the design effort has been spent ensuring the road – and air – worthiness of the module units. This has led to the basic telescoping design and accounts for the apparent spatial or constructional inefficiencies evident in the doubled walls and columns. It is the architect’s intention that these contingent effects of the structure’s unique genesis be seen as sources of visual interest, revealing as much integrity and appropriateness as the veins in the surrounding rocks, or the pine cones which interrupt the “pure lines” of the tree.

The response of this construction technology to the unique characteristics of each building site and the personality of each client result directly in the specific designs for the two cabins. In each case, the essential linearity of the original container module has been maintained (this is an important difference from the typical industrial configuration in which the containers are arranged side by side in an attempt to overcome the perceived limitations of their narrowness). for the northern site the containers have been circled, like wagons, into an outward facing figure, providing the more retiring client with a polite sense of security, and acknowledging the different views and places that might be created in the forest’s edge. Yet the circle is not closed in either plan or section. Because of this, no part of the surroundings is excluded from the figure and the desired feeling of security is not fearful. On the north side of this “train,” two containers have been stacked end-to-end vertically, braced by additional external structure, to create a tower. A library runs up alongside the stairs, with desks at the landings. Above the tower, spanning the site at the level of the thinning upper branches of the surrounding trees, is a study/observatory with controlled views in all directions and an operable roof that permits star-gazing.

On the rock promontory the more assertive client has dictated a stronger figure, less interested in politeness than conviction. Her containers have struck a bold horizontal line across the rock plateau. Though settling down behind the most prominent rocks, the arrangement makes no figural accommodation to the site; at either end it projects into the air as the topography falls away, and launches commanding views out across the meadow and back into the woods. A protected area has been captured behind the cabin, between it and the few wind-blasted trees which have managed to prosper up here, but the face of the cabin is relentlessly exposed to the merciless sun, wind and views. A combination sunshade, windscreen, security closure, and active solar device has been designed to mitigate these forces without compromising the confidence or openness of the figure.

Their provenance in transportation technology ensures that the container-cabins will sit lightly on the land–ensures, in fact, that they could get up and walk away. They demonstrate no desire to burrow into the landscape or mimic “natural” forms, nor do they adopt traditional, picturesque vernacular forms; rather, the compositions intend to fit the sites as peers to the trees and rocks. Taking their place alongside these “natives,” straightforwardly and simply, the containers will adapt to the existing conditions according to their won requirements as the trees and rocks have. And so dwelling lightly, secure in their own internal motive force, the cabins make no absurd claims of ownership or dominion over these rocks and trees.


If every gathering–every picnic and camping trip, each trip to the ballpark or day at the office–has an implied political dimension, then the space of this gathering must be charged with some of the responsibility for defining it. In the case where a transient micro-community is isolated in nature–the campsite, the outpost–this truth is most clear. Every weekend a new crowd arrives, and a new, brief community is established. Each community is different; the continuous variety of its citizens and their small number ensures this, and the novelty of the dwelling arrangements and context of relative privation have a greater effect than usual on the character of that difference. What the community is reflects its accommodation with these.

Since everyone, including the owners, is a visitor (these are cabins) each of these communities starts out as an outpost. The metaphor of the home is not appropriate; beyond raising the question of whose home, or the assertion of an undesirable sense of dominion over the land (as property), the idea of domesticity seems out of place in the dramatic context of the site. Viewing the community as an outpost casts all the visitors as adventurers, as explorers or at least guests in this territory, and even the owners can feel this each time the visit.

A vernacular evolves, unconsciously, as an expression of dwelling efficiently in a particular location. The contemporary possibility for such unconsciousness, or even for evolution, is remote. The contemporary mind is too self-conscious, and a society which defies novelty allows nothing to just evolve. Furthermore, contemporary society has formalized a technological ability to ignore local conditions and create the same environment everywhere. The International Style expressed a utopian vision of universal physical harmony in which the particularities of place were bled out of architecture. It supposed that every-one, everywhere was equal and that this should be celebrated in a universal Architecture. But, in fact, difference abounds, and technology’s command over nature is only partial and temporary; the International Style has lost its pretension to universality. Still, the possibilities for a traditional vernacular are not improved.

A new vernacular has evolved in the wake of the International Style’s disappointment. If anything, its regard for the nature it might proudly wear on its sleeve is even less than that demonstrated by the heroic. if misguided, attempts to dominate her. The contemporary vernacular is the product of a speculative, real-estate developer consumerism which is self-consciously by unwittingly devolving into a kitsch pastiche of formerly legitimate postures toward dwelling. The unconsciousness and ubiquity that makes this a vernacular does not reflect the traditional pervasive concern for efficiency and attendant sense of appropriateness, but a marked-driven vision of what that should be, as capricious as the consumer pool and the advertising dollars which stir it.

How is homo-comsumerus to be re-introduced to the nature that has been forsaken? Cautiously, with respect, as a visitor with vague memories of a long-ago familiarity, to be teased out with hints and gestures in small ways here and there. As a visitor now, the human is even more dependent on the technology she once thought had greed her from nature. To survive there she must be equipped.

High Sierra Rock Cabin

In this equipment the seeds of civilization are found. The absence of television and Big Macs here forces more mundane gear to shoulder the burden of making culture. As the Greek temple once refined a vernacular into the terrible Order which ordered the horizons about itself, giving compass and direction to the unruly environment, so the sunshade and handrail are being asked to order this outpost.

The seeds of this project are more humble, they have no intention of organizing anything beyond their immediate charge. Yet, the responsibility to constitute a civilization at this outpost bestows upon these humble pieces an exaggerated importance. With limited means at their disposal, the corrugated steel, structural shapes, plywood and glass–some plate, some spun–and paint can accept this attention only by re-asserting the traditional vernacular’s unconscious goal os suitability. Where efficiency dictates humility, there is no room for flourish or indulgence. there is no ownership here to be flaunted. This humble equipment serves all the visitors equally.

formal humility throws the responsibility for appreciation back on the reader, empowering her to be the author of her own understanding. This essentially political transaction is thus re-founded on a more equal footing, one without a singular overt architectural authority but rather an immanent authority, teased out of the equipment itself.

The gear is able to bear this responsibility only if it is honest and good and clear. Only if it is free of other, personal messages can it sustain a lively, continuing readership as the basis of an active community. Only so can it stand in the necessary peer relationship, un-indentured to an author more visible than the object itself, and in this relationship be an interlocutor in its own right, rather than a mouthpiece for another.

So, there is the thing, there. How is it more worthy of attention than any other thing, here? By the quality of the relationship it makes with the other things–by the community they create among themselves, of which it may be an exemplary member. The angle becomes the angle, or the channel uniquely the channel, in adapting to the rights or demands of tother angles, or in the way it forces them to adapt to it. In its interaction with the other elements it demonstrates the unique demands of its own geometric nature: it can be fastened only in this attitude; only these faces, the back of the web and the outside of the leg, can receive another face in a bolted connection, while only the extreme edges of the legs like a weld. When these requirements are set against the similar of different demands of the other shapes, and satisfied, a construction with the sort of integrity that is self-validating results. Evident is the entire logic: the constituent pieces and the distance they have come in the assembly describe a history that gives a sense of the remarkable to an object that is otherwise grounded in simple utility.

While this is not dissimilar to the effect achieved in the traditional vernacular by working the material–carving it or polishing it or otherwise shaping it by hand–it is more general. The hand of the individual craftsperson is less apparent than the shapes themselves and their geometries; there is an implication of the larger forces at work in creating the shapes supplied. And these larger forces open up the dialog; since the craftsperson is effaces, but no the craft, the viewer is freer to introduce herself into the equation, rendering it less personal so that all may be equally addressed and may equally assume a right to answer.


Cardiff Bay Opera House

It spoils the fun to a certain extent when the architect himself sets down the formal associations of his design and tells the viewer how it should be read. It feels somehow improper. After all, if it has to be explained or pointed out, then such allusion has already failed. With that reservation noted, though, we can admit some ideas. Perhaps it is enough simply to point out the tendency to soaring forms in the proposal’s massing, and hope that this might be generally evocative. And if this is seen to be suggestive of sails, and Cardiff’s maritime traditions, or of the loftiness of the opera itself, or even of the cathedral-like importance of this building within the culture and life of the city, then so much the better. Our reticence to exaggerate the formal claims of the scheme is certainly not intended to shirk a responsibility (at least as part of the architectural competition) for contributing to the contemporary discourse. Indeed, the folded character of this complex, near-figural massing, and the manner in which the primary volumes of the public auditoria (including those rehearsal spaces that may conveniently be opened to the public) are cradled-within-transparent-layers-of-supporting-structure-like-ships-in-drydock or some similarly precious cargo are unabashedly current. Clearly, it is only by contributing to the debate that the hopeful march of the opera’s new House into timelessness will begin in relevance and advance with integrity. The many past examples of paradigm-defining competition winners, particularly those who did not perhaps begin life as obvious winners or crowd favorites, attest to this. We are only concerned that what might appear fashionable in the design be seen as contributing to the operational efficiency of the opera as well, if not primarily.

For example, the twisting composition permits the major programmatic elements contained by the Cardiff Bay Opera House to maintain separate identities within the same overall form. The entrances to the three principal constituencies are assigned to three principal corners of the site. They are lodged behind the three main facades of the complex folded building form, each addressing a defined urban space of a scale appropriate to the institution and the facade representing it. The largest is of course the entrance to the House itself, which faces off across Cardiff Bay over the Pierhead building. This clearly iconic facade rests upon a podium served by a monumental entry stair. Such an arrangement asserts this facade’s preeminence and formality, and sets the opera experience just ever so slightly apart and above the humdrum bustle of the street. This facade addresses the Pierhead Building, forming with it an urban space-making couple that defines the principal plaza on the Oval Basin, where the auto arrival and coach drop-off are located. Facing off perpendicularly to the main House facade, toward

James Street, and second in scale and clarity—but not in the designer’s heart—is the Welsh National Opera facade. It fronts on and defines a plaza directly at the Oval Basin terminus of the new Bute Avenue esplanade. This facade overhangs the plinth and is visible down the length of Bute, announcing the presence of the National Opera, its house, and their plazas at the Oval Basin. Finally, “around the back,” at the intersection of James Street and East Bute, is the stage door entrance, where the Cardiff Bay Opera House Trust has its front door in symbolic association with the artists. A small plaza, scaled to this more intimate urban condition, assures an appropriate decorum.

Though unexpected in a dedicated opera house, the verticality of the proposal is not without sense or usefulness, beyond the urbanistic assertiveness and operatic scale. Certainly the site might otherwise allow a more stumpy, sprawling partis, with more apparently conventional horizontal adjacencies, but a vertical organization of the program is in many ways more direct and convenient. In fact, many newer houses around the world, including several on unconstrained sites, have elected this manner of organization. Given a reasonably sized vertical conveyance, integrated carefully into the scheme (as, we believe, in the present case), then the changes in level are no more inconvenient than the long corridors which bedevil the typical horizontal layout; rather, they provide some positive organizational and functionable benefits unavailable to the horizontal scheme. Not to mention possibilities for dramatic public spaces and views across the bay and back downtown.

In keeping with the importance of the building, only real materials, used as themselves, are proposed. These are, simply, classically: steel, glass, and concrete. In fact, if the local conditions permit, we would like to see a weathering steel, since it need not even suffer the indignity of paint. Weathering steel wears as well as stone, and like stone it quickly invests the building with the timeless dignity of noble materials placed in negotiated balance with nature. For the glass areas—so important in communicating the interior life of the building to the plazas surrounding and feeding it, and in creating the sense of night time magic—we propose Dichroic glass, as part of an innovatively detailed and richly configured curtainwall structural system. At the base, for the parking plinth and elevated entry plaza, concrete with a suitable level of finish seems most appropriate. Budget permitting, stone, of course, would be preferred here.

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Lake Superior Freshwater Aquarium

Lake Superior Center was established in 1989 to increase awareness and promote responsiveness to the economic, biological, aesthetic and spiritual worth of Lake Superior in particular and fresh water in general, The Center resolved to build the Lake Superior Aquarium as a vehicle to that end and situated it on the northern shore of the lake in Duluth, Minnesota.

The severe northern climate and brutal temperament of the lake form the project’s natural context. The civic aspirations of the reemerging city of Duluth, typified by the waterfront improvements that replaced abandoned industrial structures, represent the man-made context. The fourteen-acre site, a waterfront recreation and festival grounds, provides many advantages of a lakefront site–prospect and proximity without the potential for damage to the lake’s sensitive shoreline ecology.

22,000 square feet of exhibitry from the core of the facility. It is divided into three components: (1) husbandry exhibits representing various lake faunal communities, (2) “science” exhibits illustrating physical properties of the lake, and (3) exhibits regarding societal influences and impacts on the lake. Outdoor exhibits allow the facility to “expand” to accommodate the increased crowds in summer. Public space components also include a resource center, theater cafe, book and gift stores. Educational facilities are the second major program component and there are limited accommodations for visiting researchers. Support functions account for the final, third component of the 45,000 square-foot building program.

The entire building is conceived of as a reconciled addition to the aquatic ecosystem and the civic community–a coming together of nature and man at the edge in physical terms, and some would say, at the precipice in historical terms. It is a building with an overriding responsibility for the biome it is settling into and an overriding concern for the need for responsible action to preserve an invaluable natural resource.

The client’s desire that the building itself be an exhibit, and not just house exhibits, was understood by the architects as an injunction to create an intellectually challenging as well as visually engaging building. To that end, the building appropriates the properties of water in its various states, offering opportunities for experiences critical to an empathetic understanding of the subjects exhibited. As detailed in the diagrams which follow, building form and organization resulted from a consideration of contemporary cross-over theories as they might apply to this aquarium program–such as the Flounder catastrophe and the presentness of wave dynamics.

What might not be communicated in the diagrams, though, is the extent to which the architect has attempted to achieve a condition of NEAR FIGURE in this design. Ideally, such a condition would hover, freely, between the authoritarian dictates of traditional strong formalisms, and the indifferent mush of contemporary “weak form” architecture. If reading is dependent upon the perception of intention in the object, and “weakness” is ultimately a refusal of all the repressive implications of a received intention, then weakness’ “liberating” openness is as subjugatory as randomness or indifference. NEAR FIGURE attempts to achieve weakness’ critical goal without abrogating architecture’s public responsibility to engage–and at some level–satisfy reading. The NEAR FIGURE opens up reading, loosening the author’s controlling death-grip on meaning without relegating the result to mush: is it a stealth building, a piled collision of fragmentary ice,

a crystal church or modern expressionist icon? Is it in the process of becoming, dissembling, is there a process at all, or did it simply land there? Is it emerging form or settling in, moving towards stasis or away, imploding or exploding? There is enough intentionality in the building, enough apparent figure, that reading is provoked. The building demands interpretation in its role as a catalyst toward a frame of mind appropriate to viewing and contemplating the contained exhibits and the adjacent lake.

More traditionally, but no less valid for that, the architect has attempted to support the exhibit program by organizing the visitor’s experience to parallel the exhibits’ intent. The visitor enters after queuing up alongside an outdoor wave tank, following the progress of the wave shoreward, at an intermediate elevation where he is confronted with a vast volume of water: divided into “core” samples of lake biomes, each including exhibits from the surface to the bottom of the lake. This is the lake in section, the subject of study, too big to comprehend, dominating the open exhibit area of the building and linked to the horizon beyond. The visitor follows the exhibit program down a ramping floor impelled by gravity, like water, incrementally discovering the lake/tank in cross-section. From the initial acquaintance with the more familiar shore/surface or littoral condition, the visitor is led down and around to exhibits detailing pelagic, benthic and abyssal bio-communities. These vast tanks tower over and then swallow the visitor in their depths, dominating experiences with their ever-present statement of magnitude. At the conclusion of the core exhibit program, the visitor finds himself at the substantial rotating exhibits space that will host exhibits prepared by other aquaria around the world. A tour through the space and the seasonal outdoor exhibits accessed from here, returns the visitor back to the entrance via a short decompression experience imparting the significant message that despite the impressiveness of the lake, its precious fresh water is a drop in the world’s saltwater oceans–a resource to be carefully conserved.

In support of the husbandry exhibits primarily contained in the mother tank exhibits and interactives are scattered down the sloping floors to reinforce and broaden the community tanks’ messages. This didactic program is supported by the emphatic presence of the life-support technology that makes the live exhibits possible. This technology, which is hidden in traditional aquarium design, is celebrated in order to encourage awareness of the complexity and magnitude of the effort required to maintain healthy ecosystems artificially, and by inference in the natural world.

An aquarium provides an interesting study of this logic because of its nature as a double encapsulation: in an aquarium “natural” biomes or communities are captured as discontinuous samples within artificial tank objects. themselves captive within the building object. The aquarium building, as a building, as architecture, is traditionally complete, while in its tanks the live exhibits flow on continuously in a silent critique of the apparent fixity of their containers and the building. If this fixity is relaxed, to suggest the possibility of continuation of the building’s development beyond its present state, then the viewer loses his privileged position relative to the exhibits and finds himself part of the flow of the life though the building. He must then attend more consciously to events, since he is involved, and so become aware of the active nature of his reading.


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