Author: Laurel Holloway

A Site in Site

The Patriece’s Home team continues to present, question, revise, and present again their designs and research for an adaptable, two-story home. Visiting architects from across the country helped the team see opportunities to make an even better design!

The team decided to keep a defined room for living on the first floor that is open to the entryway and kitchen. This led to establishing two closed off rooms upstairs for bedrooms and an open space at the top of the stairs for more nuanced uses. For example, a desk could make it a study or office space, or a twin bed could turn it into a fifth bedroom. The team also realized that there is a 6-foot tributary area between the doubled-up trusses for the stairs, so they widened the dormer so that the open space can benefit from its light and the nook it creates.

However, when the team mocked up the dormer flashing detail, they began to question whether the benefits of the dormer could be achieved without the complexities created by breaking the roof plane.

That’s when help arrived from Mike Newman of SHED Studio and Katrina Van Valkenburgh of the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CS), both based in Chicago, IL. Mike suggested using a skylight to bring light upstairs without breaking the line of the roof. Katrina also suggested the team spend more time looking closer at the kitchenette and entryway to add opportunities for more storage in this home’s tight design. The visitors stayed a second day to host a mini workshop with the team and mock-up the skylight and storage. The outcome was the idea of having the skylight and window next to each other on the second floor—one for light and the other for framing the view as someone ascends the stairs.

Immediately after Mike and Katrina left, the team began preparing for the Studio’s go-to guy for masterful details, Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago, IL, “Detail Dan”. The team showed him 1:1 detail drawings for the dormer and skylights, then drawings on how those changes might affect the cladding strategies for the house. They also discussed possible ways the interior stairs can be finished with a heftier material to show their significance to the home and to combat wear on this heavily used surface. Dan reviewed the team’s eave details and gave advice about the construction and expression of home’s exterior. Dan also suggested that the team streamline their window strategy by using the same few windows throughout the home, aggregating them in different ways to create repeatable details.

After all this helpful discussion, the team concluded that a low, wide window without a dormer already gives the upstairs significant light and excellent sitting views in the nook space.

As an appreciated change of pace, the team lugged out their equipment and spent a day surveying their home’s site! They found out that the slopes drain well and that it is located on a road with lots of other houses nearby (good for the corner porch and a gable end approach).

Now there’s always more to do for the upcoming Executive Review in mid-March! We will get see where the home is best placed on the site and how the team is designing the foundation. They will keep drawing those 1:1 details and fine tuning the home’s systems to get the house to its best thermal performance come summer or winter! Thanks for the read, and come back soon!

three students pose in front of their drawings pinned up for review

Getting Stair Crazy

Welcome to the February grind time, where the weather is relentless and so are the 5th-years! As the Spring semester intensifies, Patriece’s Home team is working harder than ever on their project—designing and building an adaptable, two-story house for multi-generational residents.

A panoramic shot of three team members sitting in the Newbern Library courtyard while they have a team discussion.

The team was eager to dive into drawing details for the visiting reviewers. The group decided that the roof material should drape over the house and should be a different color and corrugation size than the metal siding. The porch interiors are also clad with wood “like a bite out of the apple,” as Director Andrew Freear likes to say. 

Another thing the Studio loves about this time of year is the weekly reviews from visiting architects and friends. Anne Marie Duvall Decker and Roy Decker from Duvall Decker Architects in Jackson, MS, challenged the Patriece’s Home team to consider the home’s performance strategies before they begin construction details; the team was asked to consider fire protection and ventilating the attic insulation in their approach enclosing the attic trusses, as well as to “fine tune” the passive cooling strategies of the home by carefully selecting where fixed and operable windows are located. In response, the team is working to use the chimney effect of the stairs to their advantage.

The team continues to examine ways to keep the home affordable to build, even with a large footprint. Because this house is thermally and functionally divided in half, the homeowner could choose to finish the larger or smaller unit upon construction and finish the other unit when their living needs change (kind of like the Myers’ Home “shell” research).

Not long after this review, the team FINALLY got to meet Patriece!! An exterior massing model showed her how the house would look from the outside, and an unfolding interior model helped the team walk Patriece through the home and show her adaptations to each room by moving modeled furniture. And she liked it! With her approval, the team can begin to conjecture how her family will use the home and how further decisions will keep it comfortable throughout her life. 

Most recently, the team had a day of review and workshops with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien from Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Partners in New York City, NY. They said that the team’s concept was very clear, so now they should loosen up a bit to make the social spaces of the home even nicer and more useful. Tod and Billie also encouraged the team to make spaces at the top and bottom of the stairs that use the light from the dormer window and allow someone to enjoy being on the kitchen landing. 

The team has a lot to work with from these meetings and much to prepare for the meetings to come! They are going to begin surveying the site to find where the best location is to place the home. The team is also going push the house’s details and construction decisions forward as they get closer to the final review of the semester. There’s much more to come for Patriece’s Home—thanks for reading and keeping up with us! 

Where Do We Stair-t?

Patriece’s Home team was busy over their winter break continuing to work on their adaptable, two-story house intended for multi-generational residents. With some insightful feedback from Soup Roast, Rural Studio’s final fall review event, the design has been rigorously refined and tested over the past month to make the home more easily adaptable. The laundry room in the house now has two potential locations, so it is accessible whether the home is used as one unit or two. The team has also begun drawing the home’s interior elevations to evaluate how comfortable the rooms are to live in, to determine the exact best placement of windows, and discover opportunities for storage in underutilized spaces. 

They have also gotten an early jump on engineering their attic trusses. The team’s design will use an existing bearing wall to decrease the lumber size of the trusses’ bottom chord.

Additionally, the team has begun drawing their construction documents and developing a slight roof overhang to protect the home’s windows from the wash of roof water. 

Last week the group had a review with John Forney, an architect and friend of the Studio based out of Birmingham, AL, that allowed them to prove that their research is relevant by using “scenario buffering” to scheme all of the possible adaptations for this house. 

In the next couple of weeks, the team will also make decisions on materials to begin drawings their details. They plan to meet with their client Patrice to learn how this home might actually be lived in and placed on the site. The team can’t wait!

Also, due to the upcoming weekly guest reviews, February will be full of old friends of the Studio as well as new faces! We’re excited to see everyone!

Ingredients for Stair Soup

Patriece’s Home has been diligently refining their plans (and sections and perspectives) to decide what scheme of a closable adaptable unit in a home works best. The team affectionately renamed their shotgun scheme to the “Hotdog” and the wrapping scheme to the “Hamburger,” and it was apparent before reviews began that the Hamburger scheme is what the team wants to continue with! 

The Hamburger has a corner porch that is an easier approach to place on a variety of sites while also condensing its main circulation in one path through the home’s center. The team has also taken the Myers’ Home team’s approach to rooms without names and applied it to their own definition of adaptability. Now the team is designing rooms that change names, so some living and bedrooms that are easy to rearrange without demolition or constructing immovable fixtures are designed so they can comfortably flip their program as the homeowner needs. 

A plan view of the team's hamburger scheme shows landscaping leading to a gable end approach. A closed door in the center of the plan shows the ground floor can be separated into two halves.

On the Tuesday of Soup Roast, the reviewers discussed the nuances of how the home will be used and pointed out to the team where their project could use some development. And to be even more helpful, the reviewers stayed in Newbern to do a workshop with the team. They got into the details of how eaves (or no eaves) could be detailed, the successes of the dormer, and encourage the team to get a closer view of their design by drawing all the interior elevations of the building. 

As the team continues to work through the Christmas break, come back in 2022 to see them jump into finer details of the project!

Free the Stairs!

Since Halloween Reviews, the 5th-year students designing Patriece’s Home have shifted their design focus of the extra unit within the home. The team is now exploring pushing the larger of the two units to the second floor.

But how would the home function if one family is using all of the spaces? With a helpful review from visiting architect and Rural Studio alum, Amanda Loper, from David Baker Architects, the team is cooking up two schemes that divide the first floor but keep the laundry shared. One scheme is a long shotgun unit and the other is a wider wrapping unit.

The strategy to keep spaces separate frees the stairs to be wholly used by the users living on the second floor. Next, the team will investigate opportunities and challenges of an open staircase in the home, including light, ventilation, storage, user experience, and (potentially) a dormer.

Vignettes of sixteen ways that stairs can be used other than circulation.

The team continues to cook these various schemes and analyze the connection of the interior to exterior porches. Keep watching out for Patriece’s Home team to see what these ideas bake into!

An arial photo of the four team members working at their desks in Red Barn.