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A Place of my Own – Understanding Architecture

A Place of my Own - Understanding Architecture

Architecture in words

This week Janie Hinton, (our course tutor in Architecture, year one, Falmouth University) set us a reading; A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan

Out of this reading came some interesting information… “Architects do their work on the frontier between the ideal and the practical, translating wisps of ideas into buildable facts, and carpenters are among those lucky souls whose handiwork actually adds to the available stock of reality.”  Michael says of his book; “is not so much a how-to-do-it book but a ‘how to  think about it’ kind of book! “

Looking along the cardboard draft model of the Writer's Cabin to through the windows to the writers' desk - Julia Preece

Looking along the cardboard draft model of the Writer’s Cabin to through the windows to the writers’ desk – Julia Preece

Janie has asked our class to respond to three questions to help us broaden our grasp on architecture. Here are my thoughts after ready Pollan’s preface and Chapter 3:

1. What stood out in the reading as being interesting or unexpected or which challenged your preconceptions about design?

A few gems of ‘architecture’ knowledge sprung form this reading mostly in respect of reference to the work of   Christopher Alexander A Pattern Language (published in 1977):

  • “People will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides and the leave rooms which are lit from one side unused and empty” 
  • Alexander also contends, says Pollan, that “the most successful built forms share certain essential attributes with forms in nature…  both natural and man-made forms serve to reconcile conflicting forces (a tree’s need to stand up with the fact of gravity, say, or a person’s conflicting urges for privacy and social contact); the forms that do this best are the ones that endure.” He also points out that a chair placed somewhere near a window would be sufficient “to keep you in a state of perpetual conflict and tension.” due to need to sit and be comfortable but also to see the view and be in the sunlight. Combining the two is the key.
  • Alexander focuses on “Entrance Transition“; e.g., following a journey to your perfect destination of the chair in the sunlight by the window with a view after having relaxed from the tense atmosphere of the outside world.

These three things gave me plenty to think about in respect of my design for my Writer’s Cabin. I am hoping that I have managed to incorporate them into my project.

I also really liked the references to the Golden Section which was one of the key considerations in the project brief for our Writer’s Cabin.

And one other point was the idea on which Michael reflects in the respect that buildings are but signs or metaphors; some more exaggerated than others, This made me stop and think of examples and how I might use this in my work.

2. Is there something that you disagreed with or found irritating?

Only the fact that Michael Pollan has had the time to fully analyse some very interesting architects and their philosophies, and that I have to take much more time to understand each of the points he is making!

3. What learning can you transfer to the development of your own designs for a writer’s cabin?

Architecture Detail Michael Pollon Charles R Myer Writers Hut 'A place of my Own'

Architecture Detail; Michael Pollon Writers Hut ‘A place of my Own’ (Arhcitect Charles R Myer)

The way that Charlie (Charles R Myer, the Architect) made a booklet of images to be considered by Michael at the first stage of his design process reminded me of the Petcha Kucha presentations we have had to make for our own projects and the way in which our Project Reports are compiled.

Interesting that the basic elements come from the way in which Michael described how he wanted to ‘experience’ his new hut and how Charlie, through the use of examples of other places and buildings, extracted his “unconscious experiences of space”.  Charlie sketched and sketched until a full ‘interpretation’ of these experiences drew a stronger picture of the plan for the Writer’s Cabin. The architect then attempted to present an elevation impression of how it may look. After some careful thought, a little time to reflect and a return to site the two realised that this first design was the ‘wish list’ and not the final solution. Scrapping the first attempt and going back to basics with rules to guide them from the previous exercises enabled a much stronger final design to emerge.

Just by drawing a simple key detail of the building the whole concept came together and the way forward appeared much clearer for both the client and the Architect for this – now well known  – example of small architecture.

Studying light and nature

Roof Structure - Julia Preece - 'A Writer's Cabin - study of light

Roof Structure – Julia Preece – ‘A Writer’s Cabin – study of light

Okay so I haven’t mentioned much about lighting… but as in the book nature takes the lead and dictates how the project will evolve. I will have more to say next time as my final model takes shape and the new roof design is tested. There it is; my key detail!

Here is my first Sketchup attempt… phew! Architecture is so much fun!

Next week’s blog:

Who knows!! Could be a model and a final view of my Writer’s Cabin :o)

(4) Comments

  1. Lorraine Field

    on   said 

    I would like a multi function cabin in which to paint, sew and learn (relearn) piano – with places to store all associated paraphernalia! Is this a ‘wisp of an idea that may be able to be interpreted by an architect or is my desire too demanding?

    • Home Cornwall

      on   said 

      I think my friend Zsa has an example in her garden of just the thing you need… I will send you a picure! (Psss I think we all want one of these!)


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