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FYI: Jacobs-1-derived home to be built in New Zealand
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Mobius



Joined: 24 Feb 2005
Posts: 149
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:23 am    Post subject: FYI: Jacobs-1-derived home to be built in New Zealand Reply with quote

The images are large, but the files sizes are not.



I'm unconvinced I should be posting, as my last post seemed to upset a few people. So I request please, in advance, that if my project upsets you in any way - then please stay quiet, boil your head, or whatever: just resist the temptation to hit the "Reply with Angst" button on this thread. There is NOTHING you can say which will affect my decision. You've been warned.



Here goes, for those possibly interested...



I will shortly begin to build a house derived from Herbert Jacobs first residence in Madison, Wisconsin. So it will not appear that this is a whimsical fancy, I need to tell you that I have bought around 30 FLW books over the last 16 months, read them cover to cover, including "Building with Wright": Herbert's own book about the first Usonian.



I have researched, quite intensely, the history, and houses of Lloyd Wright's Usonia.



Initially it was my intention to build a replica of Jacobs' first home - but this is impossible, as many features of the house can not be built within the New Zealand building code. So, if it is not possible to build a total replica, then an altered design is compulsory...



I have spent many, many months doing my own drawings, and refining them, in consultation with an architect who is an FLW fan, and very knowledgable.



Here is the model of my altered FLW design:





Construction begins in March, and will be complete in July.



Here's Jacobs original floor plan:





here's my floorplan:





You can see I haven't made THAT many changes.



Here are some more snaps of the 1:100 model:



east elevation

front, from east-ish

font east quarter

rear (south) quarter

south elevation

street-frontage

Looking down on model from directly above

west elevation

west quarter



I produced the model from the elevations I made in Photoshop, from the floor plan. I needed to make sure the 3 degree-pitch roof lines worked OK. I simply can not afford the extra $25,000 required to create flat roofs - much as I would like to. here are the elevations:



north elevation

south elevation

west elevation

east elevation



It has been a LOT of hard work getting to this point.



If there is enough interest, I will post the specification as it stands now, and begin to explain the changes I've made, so that the house truly is, of its place, of its time, and of its owners.
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rgrant
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First, I would say that it is much better to create something new than to copy an original, so your design adaptation is more legitimate than an exact copy of Jacobs I. From a design point of view, I would suggest that the slope of the roofs be just slightly greater. As it is, it almost appears to be a failed attempt at a flat roof. There's nothing wrong with a shed roof. FLW used them a lot in the 50s. But the slope seems to be a bit too modest. The huge garage door at the front is pure American Suburbia, and would be the first point of criticism that FLW himself would probably make. If an enclosed garage is either necessary or so much more desirable than a carport that it is inevitable, it would look better to have two smaller doors. With the garage as opposed to the carport, locating the front door where you have is obviously the only choice for such a simple design. But it should be noted that FLW referred to a front door as a "sock in the gut." To enter the Emil Bach House, one must make about ten turns to get to the heart of the house. Read Grant Hildebrand's book about mystery in FLW's architecture.



But these are 3 quibbles. The house looks good.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love it! I hope you keep posting your progress on this house. I would love to see interior details.
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JimM



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 1463

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I almost agree with rgrant concerning the roof, however, too much of a pitch could alter the characteristics and result you are trying to achieve; specifically a variant of Jacobs I. I'll leave the subjective critique of even attempting it to others. Also, increasing the pitch would either require more window treatment or possibly create visually dead space at the higher elevations along both wings, as well as probable additional costs. Even in a simple, well thought out design, the "chicken coop" effect can be difficult to overcome. I'm not sure what the roofing material is, which could also affect a decision, but all in all I think your solution trying to keep the roof as flat as possible is valid.



There is no known way to make a frontal garage door(s) attractive. Is there room to access from the side to accomplish a more horizontal and visually pleasing presence from the street?



Something I forgot to mention to you privately: I also used chains in lieu of ugly downspouts. While interesting (like those Italian oil lamps!), I bored of them and eventually discarded them in favor of only concrete drain basins. The free fall of rain from the gutters is very satisfying. I like those vessels you show, though!



You are certainly off in the Wright direction! Good job.
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Mobius



Joined: 24 Feb 2005
Posts: 149
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your feedback thus far.



The rooves are pitched at 3 degrees - as this is the minimum pitch which can be obtained with with any product without having to cover the roof with Butynol (rubber) and the associated cost of having to ALSO install heavy duty plywood underneath it. The roofing product is called "Trimdeck" and can be viewed at www.dimond.co.nz -- It is a "wide trough", long-run style metal roof, with permanently baked on colour. Initially, I wanted to have the garage roof maintain the height of the bedroom wing, but it would not fit: the overhang on the entry path would intersect the front of the lounge roof - a horrible look when I drew it. It meant having to raise the garage roof (and door height - good for boat and SUV access).



It is my hope that the low roof pitch will assist in making the roofline appear flat from some angles.



The one major advantage (apart from cost) is that persons approaching the house (and from the street too) can see entirely through the house at the ceiling height. This will make the entire lounge roof, and large corner overhang seem to float, almost unsupported, above the room.



The location of the home is just away from the base of the Canterbury Peninsular, at the ocean end of the Canterbury Plains - which extend, almost flat, but rising slowly, to the Southern Alps around 80 kilometres away. From the back yard, it is possible to see the outline of the alps in the distance, and the low, brown, and volcanic hills of the peninsular.



The profile, roof picthes, and steps in the roofline and stacked block central core are very reminiscent of the gently sloping canterbury plains, and the hills and mountains surrounding Christchurch. I am, therefore, quite happy with the roof pitch angle, and the general nature of the elevations.



Yes, the garage is ugly as sin, I agree. I thought long and hard about this too. I could create a side entrance for it, but that would involved mutilating the front lawn with a large expanse of driveway, which is even uglier - if that's possible! It would also mean presenting a nasty stacked block wall to the street. At least a garage door breaks it up a bit. Small consolation, I know...



If it was up to me, I'd recreate the carport, and add a work room for myself somewhere in there - but this is simply not possible: it would be impossible to sell the house. If a family home does not have a two car garage, then it is not saleable. Sad Additionally, the construction valuer I have retained has also said that the value of the house, without a twin garage would be significantly decreased.



Seeing as the project for the project is $500,000 (including land at $175,000) it is pragmatism which drives the requirement for the "sock in the gut" to the home.



The model is sitting on the section, so you can see there is no room for a garage at the rear of the property, nor is there room to the side of the house to get much of a car by (1.8 metres is the gap width) - nor is there $25,000 available to pave the driveway. If I had that money, I'd be making the rooves flat.



Building is stacked concrete block (using the "Stackbond" system) and Onduline. The blocks are made from local river gravel, from the mighty Waimakariri river, about 10 kilometres to the north. FLW would approve I hope. The Onduline cladding is a god send: it is a European product in use for about 30 years now, mostly as a roofing product. It is made from recycled paper, and rags, impregnated with bitumen. It has a wonderful surface texture, and the colour goes right throught it. It feels like cardboard, and is very light. I feel it's an ecological win, and looks great too. It has the advantage of appearing to be corrugated iron from a distance. This might not sound good - but New Zealand has a very long history of using corrugated iron on rooves, and even cladding. It is a nod to this long history, while making a subtle change.



The colours are those of the plains, and the mountains, in summer time. (Green and white don't really work!)



Gutters are hidden. I'm using a box section gutter system with clip on square-section panels which attach directly to the soffits.



Internally, colours are yet to be set, but will be passive, quiet and light. I can not afford to cover the walls with board and batten. My partner hates parge expanses of wood grain - something I find very odd!



The floor, which is a major feature of the house, is going to be StoneCarpet (www.stonecarpet.co.nz) It will not have the 4x2 grid pattern. :(



Stonecarpet is an amazing flooring system: river gravel mixed with a chemically inert epoxy resin, with the structure of the floor remaining totally open. It's like walking on a riverbed! It glows something fierce, and it is very easy to clean, as well as being utterly dust free. The kitchen, dining and bathroom areas have a smaller mix of gravel, and a flat surface, with plenty of grip. The surface is 12 mm thick, and is useable 24 hours later. It does not give off any toxic fumes at any time.



Stonecarpet, with its open structure, acquires the temperature of the room very rapidly, and because only about 30% of your feet contact the actual floor, it feels much warmer than you might think. Comparing a tile, or concrete at the same temperature - it feels like the stonecarpet is actually heated!



The cost of a polished concrete floor is not prohibitive, but the price of heating the slab with water IS. It is roughyl $24,000 additional cost,and requires complex systems (which won;t run trouble free) to be installed.



I agonised over the floor for months, until both Emma and I decided the stonecarpet was very attractive and affordable. It is only $90 per square metre, installed and finished.



The monolithic fireplace is gone from the original design. Instead, the end of the lounge acquires a small gas fire, flush with the wall, and it is flued externally, with no chimney. Above the fire is a recess to hide all the bits and pieces for a large and flat TV.



The fireplace goes to create more space for the 21st century heart of the home: The Kitchen. I find it interesting that Usonia 1 was one of the forerunners of the modern "work space" - and that the evolution of the kitchen has made it the new hearth!



The kitchen features a massive 4.2 x 1.2 metre stainless steel bench. The central core has an opening within it, along with wooden shelving against the concrete block, such that a cook can see parts of the outside world of the street, but it is difficult for anyone to see inwards - even when they are standing in front of the 2.4 x 1.2 metre pivoting front door. (I have drawn sight lines for around 30 positions within and outside the house. It amazing what you find out about a house by drawing sight lines, and then flood filing them. Super imposing the layers of sightlines makes for something which looks like art! HEH.



Features retained from jacobs, include the massive bookshelf in the lounge. We have a lot of books - and I'll need somewhere to put all my FLW books... Ours will be solid oak. Also, the cupboards in the hallway, and the shelves and narrow cupboard within the U-shaped block stack separating the dining and living area.



The walls will be simply GIB board (flat plaster sheets) and sound/heat insulation is by New Zealand wool called Bradford Gold. A local product, right off the sheep's back. Canetrbury is home to around 20 million sheep, and 700,000 people. Razz



Typically, NZ homes are insulated with fibreglass "Batts" - a horrible product. The wool is cheaper too. :)



Subsequent to completion, I may install wooden panels on the walls.



The exterior concrete work is where the 4x2 grid pattern emerges. The concrete is "exposed aggregate" which is also made from the lovely Waimakariri River gravel. The surface is sprayed with an agent which prevents the top 3mm of concrete from setting. It is then pressure-washed off, revelaing the river gravel. This will be very "sympatico" with the stone carpet. Both mixes will use the exact same gravel mixture. This is an attempt to blur the distinction between inside and outside, despite the (compulsory!) 50mm drop to the outside of the house.



All glass is argon-filled, double glazing, set into aluminium doorframes and windows. The large doors are bi-fold and trifold: creating huge openings in the house which further blur the inside/outside line, assisted by the large overhangs. We can't afford wood-covered aluminium doors and windows. That adds another $25,000 to the price. (It seems like every nice option for the house costs $25,000! SIGH) Colours are yet to be set, but I anticipate a brownish colour, slightly lighter than the roof and cladding (which are the same colour).



The house will be built very low to the ground. The house floor will be set no more than 20 centimetres (8 inches?) above the existing ground on the site. Landscaping and creating a lawn, will raise the level of the ground up to the height of the concrete surround - creating a very ground-hugging appearance.



The orientation of the house might seem odd: but remember, this is the southern hemisphere where NORTH is where the sun is. The L-shape faces west, where the house gathers loads of afternoon sun, while the overhangs protect against "overglazing", and allows sun to enter the bedroom wing during the late afternoon. Some sun makes it about 2 metres into the lounge as well.



We are waiting on a final price from our building company, and we are praying it will come in under $325,000, for the 219 square metres (slightly over 2,300 square feet I think). We will begin cutting corners, and leaving things uncompleted if the budget is totally blown.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:21 pm    Post subject: garage doors Reply with quote

I agree with Jim M's thoughts on front-facing garage doors in general. Things aren't hopeless though. I recently saw a historic (non-FLW) house with a 2 car garage which had its doors painted by a muralist. The colors were subtle and a fascinating arts and crafts effect (in keeping with the look and feel of the house) was accomplished.



Given that your home will follow Usonian ideals, perhaps something simple, inspired by modern art, may provide some relief -- for less than $25k.
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Collinst3



Joined: 06 Jan 2006
Posts: 42
Location: Lebanon, OH

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding gutters, we built a wright-inspired house and put in french-drains (tile buried in gravel) and it has worked far better than my experence with gutters.



You can how it looks it at www.rust-architect.com. Its the house at the top of the web page.



We struggled in trying to build this house--but don't give up. Its well worth it. The plans alone were 26 pages which scared most builders away.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 7:01 pm    Post subject: Jacobs III Reply with quote

Is that you, your own picture, on the elevations? Embarassed

Was Wright too shy to put his own picture on his elevations: is that maybe why he used a red square instead ? Shocked
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JimM



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 1463

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice to hear your thoughts. I was struck by your description of materials and technologies. When I was working to import a house product from NZ, I became very familiar with wool insulation and some of the other products. It reminded me how dated many of our building conventions are in the USA. While we have access to modern technologies and products, other Western countries are much more advanced in their use, especially electrical components, insulation, etc.



You seem to have things well under control.



Cheers!
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Greg Coatsworth



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 28
Location: The Great Lake State - Michigan

PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with what 'Collinst3' said - building a home is a struggle. If you have the vision, desire and fortitude that will be needed in abundance, the experience will be well worth it. Reach beyond your limitations.



Your model does not show perforated window screens on the North Elevation windows. I think that would dress up the front display considerably if they were added to the plan.
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Mobius



Joined: 24 Feb 2005
Posts: 149
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your input. Specifically:





For GUEST (?):



The garage door has vexed me somewhat. To date the specifiation is "Vertically descending sectional door with 2 remotes and door sensor.

510cm wide, 240 cm tall.

Cladding: UNKNOWN"



So you can see I have thought about this too, with no obvious resolution. I have variously thought to install onduline on it, and reflective flat iron, as well as mirrors! Crazy as that may seem, it almost seems appropriate to observe yourself while observing a building. It was, after all, FLW who installed the world's first all-glass doors in the Larkin Building.



It will be very late in the process that the garage door material is settled on, and it may change rapidly. I am "handy" as the model may indicate (I Hope!) and am happy to change the garage door cladding early, often and regularly (how Bush voters worked one can only assume) in order to, if not enhance, then at least change the appearance of the thing.



OFF TOPIC: one thing which is great in one regard, and yet frustrating in another, is that Emma abhors the idea of moving into an unfinished home, and she earns about 5 times what I do, which is double the average. Her utter lack of ability to visualise drawings and elevations caused me to build the model, in order to assure her that the kitchen (she is a fantastic chef, and hostess) is not dark, and that she will command the entire house from behind the massive kitchen bench.



Our budget, according to our banker is "slightly less than a million dollars" if we do not wish to burden ourselves with debt. We have, between us, $200,000 in cash, and an income of $300,000 a year. Our math shows, however, that borrowing more than $325,000 is sheer insanity, with 2 year fixed rates at 8.3%, and so we have limited ourselves to $500K, at least for THIS house.... 5 Years from now will be entirely another story however: I have a desire to go wild! :D



FOR COLLINST3:

That site is excellent - thank you very much.

If I were still living in Queenstown, where Schist is the predominant rock formation, then I would definitely build from it, in a rural setting - but I am not, and do not have a spare half a million dollars for a section. Sadly. Michael Rust seems to have absorbed what FLW was trying to teach. The NZ Building code does not allow what you suggest: recently it has tightened considerably, due to several billion dollars of (relatively) new homes rotting because of new construction techniques (monolithic concrete cladding) and old building techniques.



FOR JimM:

I'm interested in what house product you were considering importing. Please elucidate. In truth, the woolen insulation is Australian in origin, but manufactured locally. Not ALL good inventions (like the aeroplane, the jet-boat and giving women the vote) originated in New Zealand! ;)



The electrical specification is complex, and extends to 18 pages of drawings and notes. It is to be provided "ex-trade" from my oldest friend who is an electrician and lightning designer who works for Rexel. The specification includes, phone, Gigabit LAN, telephone, FM and TV aerials in every room, and in some rooms, 2 outlets for each. The sockets are "flush" as FLW would have intended. They extend only 2mm from the walls, and have advanced features like "LED on OFF" to locate lights at night, master switches, panic switches connected to the remotely monitored alarm system, and the heating/ventilation system is triggered by passive Infra Red detectors, so that fans, lights and/or heaters are automatically triggered by entering bathrooms. All downlights are 12 volt halogens and inidividually, and collectively dimmed from various points.



The external lighting is also triggered by PIR sensors, and the garden watering system is to be utterly independent, covering all plantings, including the "Fern garden" on the east wall, which the gallery, ensuite, and covered patio look out on.



For GREG:

I have enough vision, desire and fortitude for the both of us. This is a good thing: Emma will be working away from home 5 days a week during the majority of the construction process. This works perfectly, as it disinhibits her from worrying (a female passtime I believe?) and allows me to visit the site after the workmen leave every day. I can deal with the hassles of construction without her having to have a cow about the details and problems with will inevitably occur. Believe me when I say that it is best that she is not around for most of that time. It will be harrowing enough on me, without having to handle Emma (delightful, smart, and *, as she is!) at the same time.



I'd love to know what "Perforated window screens" are. Do you mean "insect screens"? They wouldn't show on a 1:100 model nor are they required in Canterbury, where insects are not a problem unless you like roses or clover.



Seeing your comment though, I have re-drawn the garage door with a row of clerestiry windows at the top of it - the same size as the clerestories in the lounge. I'm not sure about this though - as it almost seems to be an obvious fake: it's clear to see the place is a big double garage, and the windows would just be sheer "wank value"?



The photograph is not of me. It is some random guy I grabbed from the web, and shrank to indicate a 6-foot male. I seem to recall getting it from a real estate web site - so that is probably why he looks like a complete dork. Razz[/b]
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 10:53 am    Post subject: Hiding Garage Doors Reply with quote

One thing that we did--and you could do if you redistributed where the block and woodsiding is used--is to take a standard wood garage door and add siding to the face of the door so as to perfectly match the line of the siding. I have a picture of this but can
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flwright



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
Posts: 116
Location: Saint John, New Brunswick

PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Might I make the following suggestions:



As you will see in the Jacobs plan, there is a strong masonry element on the right-hand side of the carport and an enclosing wall "ghosted in" on the left hand side. My suggestion is to replicate this masonry element (in a single wythe of concrete block and terminate it in what appears to be a 24" [600mm] thick concrete block wall at the exterior) and allow it to project beyond the face of your garage door wall by 6 to 18 inches (150mm to 450mm). By doing so will give a good breaking point to revise the other two walls enclosing the carport to be clad in this Onduline product while still leaving a masonry element near the front of the house.



What I am trying to accomplish is, by also having you clad the garage door with Onduline and place the clerestory windows in it, so that the door blends better with the adjacent construction. Although you will still see the the outline of the garage door, it won't be in stark contrast to the concrete block as you have it now nor will it appear plainly as a garage door stuck in an opening in a concrete block wall.



If you can't get rid of it, I would personally rather try to disguise it as best as possible.
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flwright



Joined: 07 Jan 2005
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Location: Saint John, New Brunswick

PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As you will see, the above guest and I have similar ideas to resolve your garage door issues. But as you will see by the posting times, as he was posting his reply, I was typing mine. Isn't there an old saying about great minds thinking alike?
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Collinst3



Joined: 06 Jan 2006
Posts: 42
Location: Lebanon, OH

PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not Mike Rust--I just forgot to log-in when I replied. Mike Rust designed our house and is a former Senior Taliesin Fellow.



Let me know when you are ready to talk about interior details. I have much advice having struggled through it to get the look I wanted. Again--all well worth it.
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