San Francisco Bay Area Studio
For Matt Taylor
Christopher Alexander et. al. have spend a life time researching and cataloging the basic patterns that make up truly human habitats. These patterns can be thought of as solutions to recurring generic problems. The Pattern Language indicates a way to proceed but each building has to employ them in its own unique way.
Alexanders Pattern Language is usually found in traditional buildings - after all most of the patterns go very far back in Human history. Architects - those of the organic school - like Wright, Goff, Schindler, Prince - and others - have employed these patterns extensively. Nevertheless, the Patterns have been slowing disappearing under the onslaught of modern architecture and developer building.
This will prove to be self-defeating in the end. These patterns are deeply rooted and intrinsic to how Humans embrace habitat. Somehow the desire for being contemporary has become confused with the way the patterns were employed. I believe the return to more traditional looking architecture is an attempt to get at the Patterns - unfortunately, they are as missing here as in the modern works. The pattern Language can be employed no matter the idiom or style of a work.
The Studio project demonstrates this.
They can be employed no matter the cost or circumstance. The fact is they are more often found in less pretentious works that have evolved over time - The Timeless Way as Alexander calls it. The modern notion of building a building all at once and finishing it (and then letting it and its neighborhood decline as the fashion does) actually works against the kind of processes necessary to discovering and building in these values. Surely, over time - and with new means - new Patterns will be found. Some of the old ones may give way as we change- but slowly and with great care and thought. There are some realms where change should be slow - this is one of them.
Often, many of these patterns are sacrificed because of misbegotten economy - which is no economy at all when you think of the Human toll.
My use of the Pattern Language is an application of it to this specific building. Some of the Patterns used below are on a different scale than Alexanders description. Many of his Patterns that are developed on the city, landscape or community level can also be employed (at least metaphorically) on the scale of a single building or group of buildings.
In the notes below, I focus on how I am interpreting and applying the Patterns and how they reveal principles of architecture important to this work. It will be useful for you to review Alexanders explanation of the Patterns to get the context in which this is done.
A note about design process. Do not force the Patterns on the work. Know the Patterns. More importantly, know what they represent. They will not add up automatically to a great piece. Their absence should raise serious questions in you mind about the livability and long-term viability of your work.
I did not try to incorporate the Patterns when I designed the Studio (at the present schematic level). I am using them, here, as part analysis and part means of explaining the work. The Pattern Language is a Language - and it should be employed as such. It is not a check list although it can be used to audit a result.
This process of design (synthesis) and audit (analysis) will be employed through many iterations until the work is built. It will be employed after construction as the work is evolved.
...Pattern Language Usage:
21 Four Story Limit
Four stories has long been accepted as the maximum walkup height that is practical without mechanical augmentation. In the case of the Studio, the order of the functional spaces, in the vertical, is carefully selected to reach a right level of convenience, privacy and exercise. Modern buildings do not require enough movement, while at the same time, being fatiguing experiences because of many factors - an un-giving structure being one (see: 208 Gradual Stiffening). Toxic materials another. Not to mention low stimulation (lack of variety - prospect), poor lighting and the sacrifice of true rest (noise, inadequate refuge).
The care that is required, in a conventional building, regarding space flow and adjacency is extended in the Studio to the vertical dimension, as well as, the horizontal. This allows a much more effective, dynamic and efficient arrangement. This is a Long Thin House - on end.
Activities focus at the center of the structure and migrate up and down at different times of the day. Rarely, is it necessary to go from top to bottom and back. Horizontal movement accomplishes functional access to the same kind of spaces and to those areas which have a close-coupling in their utility.
The overall height is kept, roughly, within the traditional four story dimension. The sloping terrain allows direct access to the outdoors on several of these levels. These access places flow through a gradation of exterior spaces.
Alexanders major point with this Pattern has to do with the isolation associated with tall building and their lack of easy contact with the Earth and community. Poorly designed, this can even happen in small buildings. Building should facilitate access of different grades and kinds. They should not impose one way. They have to balance prospect and easy access with refuge and protection.
See: 98 Circulation Realms; 107 Wings of Light; 109 Long Thin House; 111 Half Hidden Garden; 114 Hierarchy of Open Space; 115 Courtyards Which Live; 127 Intimacy Gradient; 131 The Flow Through Rooms; 132 Short Passages; 163 Outdoor Room.
24 Sacred Sites
52 Network of Paths and Cars
This Pattern will be accomplished by how and where the Studio is sited. The scale of the project will not effect these larger patterns themselves. However, this highlight two aspects of design: active and passive. Active is what you do. Passive can be how you respond to what is already around.
The experience of getting to and away from the Studio is an important consideration in determining where it is placed.
Transportaion units are considered an integral element of the Stuio environment.
56 Bike Paths and Racks
The Studio is a by appointment place and the number of cars allowed on site will be limited. Provisions for bike and other alternative transportation will be made including bathing and lockers for fresh clothes.
How this Pattern (as well as 52) plays out, will be determined by the final site selection.
Whatever the setting, urban, suburban or country, animals will find the Studio an oasis and provisions will be made for them. When cruising on CAMELOT or staying at our Sea Loft, the presence of animals has always been a constant pleasure.
The contemporary environment leaves little for animals. The sum of this is causing tremendous pressure on their population. There is no reason for this - just another case of bad design.
Living architecture serves all life. We have found that is is possible to reach accommodation with the animal population in terms of territory and food. Animals to not naturally over graze. Provide them steady food and a place - the population adjusts accordingly.
Animals are also an important aspect in creating a fully developed Permaculture. In my mind, every building should strive for an appropriate degrees of on-site food and energy production. This does not have to be taken to a fanatical degree nor dominate the program and design of the work. Some situations lend themselves to greater or lesser amounts of self-sufficiency. The sum of all the efforts, however, has a great effect on the Planets ecology and Human economy.
A final note. Over design can lead to exploitation. Utility can overwhelm. Plants, animals and Mother earth are living beings. They are to be engaged as such. Some approaches to ecological living can be as wrong-headed as our present use of industrialization. Balance is the key - and respect.
80 Self-Governing Workshops and Offices
The concepts employee and employee - client and professional have become old and dysfunctional. No matter the contractual relationship (which is strictly legal and pragmatic) the true working relationship has to be on of equals trading value among one another.
Architecture is a collaborative art.
It is the result of complex interactions between many individuals and organizations. This has to be self-organizing else the major effort becomes maintaining a high-cost organization rather than practicing the art.
All buildings should be conceived and executed based on a sustainable economic principle. This Studio, in addition, is conceived to make the Practice of Architecture sustainable. Most organizational problems stem from ill conceived economics and the dependencies that follow. This has no place in this environment and this practice.
It is important, for this reason, that each member of a working team have a space of their own, as well as, places to work together. (See: 82 Office Connections and 83 Master and Apprentices). This is an equally important consideration in the development of RemotePresence as a practice principle, the idea is not to just save travel time and stress (although that is important); it is not just to same energy and the crowding of transportation facilities (equally important); it is because everyone works better and lives longer in their own environment.
There is a point where the size of an organization forces change that no one wants. Many, small, self-managed organizations that have learned how to co-operate is a simple solution to this problem.
The principle is free-hold.
82 Office Connections
The flow between the various private and common spaces is important. Each private space has to feel private. And, they each need to cluster around the common areas: Main Room, Bathing, Greenhouse and Food Prep.
This sense of privacy and connected-ness has to be variable. Shutters and moving screens that open-close to the central atrium core area augment-attenuate, sound, sight and sense of together- apart-ness.
Spaces like this require Rules of Engagement to work harmoniously. These work and socials processes are an integral part of the design.
83 Master and Apprentices
The Studio is designed to be a place for apprenticeship which is still by far the best way to learn architecture. This is a specific aspect of the Program and it requires specific things from the environment.
In this Studio Practice, the relationships that are most important is between client (and/or partner/assocoiate), master and apprentice. The space has to be arranged for this three way dialog and work-development to take place.
In this Practice, work will progress, iteratively, in short intensive work periods. Much of it will be conducted virtually.
The Studios (MT, Student-keeper, Guest) will be mostly for private study, work and rest. The Main Room will be for collaboration, project display - and at the end of the work day - intertainment, rest and dialog.
98 Circulation Realms
104 Site repair
There is virtually no site that does not need repair these days and in an Urban place all sites do. The standard is that the site get progressively better over time because of the stewardship of the building and its occupants.
In the Studio Program, a steady effort is projected that evolves the site over a 100 years, preparing it for reuse or returning it to a natural state if and when the Studio is removed.
105 South Facing Outdoors
107 Wings of Light
The entire schema of the Studio is such to achieve this Pattern to an extreme degree.
Every major space is a wing that projects externally and internally into the Core vertical Atrium space. This provides a constant changing light-pattern in all areas.
109 Long Thin House
See: 21 Four Story Limit.
110 Main Entrance
111 Half Hidden Garden
112 Entrance Transition
113 Car Connection
114 Hierarchy of Open Space
115 Courtyards Which Live
Courtyards that live do so because they are full of life: animals, plants, people. This means full of activity. These are not pictures.
To the degree possible every area of a building should look into a living courtyard. The transition between the interior space and the courtyard must be carefully handled. It should be inviting and easy to transverse even if a journey is necessary (see: 120 Paths and Goals).
If the courtyards do not live what is inside probably will not either.
116 Cascade of Roofs
Rarely, a full expression of a shelter can be captured with one roof. The roof has to be proportioned to the space within. The interior spaces - to have distinction and to orient properly - have to be articulated and scaled to their task. This will naturally cause a series of roof of different sizes and heights.
The Roofs become, then, a true expression of the inside functions. They shelter these functions and the occupants. (see: 117 Sheltering Roofs).
The cascade of roof lines is a principal way that the building is brought down to earth and integrated with the site. In the case of the Studio, this is augmented with the earth-berms and landscaping so that building and site become one.
117 Sheltering Roofs
A strong sense of shelter is probably the most important esthetic requirement of a work of architecture. The roof is a sadly neglected aspect of the vast majority of works being produced today. When the roof is present in contemporary work it is too often an over-exaggerated look how big and expensive I am braggart than an expression of shelter. This is especially true when you discover there is nothing under these shouting roof tops but flat rooms.
A big roof alone will not get it done. Neither will large overhangs by themselves. The roof has to be an integral part of the living spaces which have to tuck up in the roof. See: 191 The Shape of Indoor Space).
The Studio project tightly integrates roof and interior space - they are hand-an-glove with one another. Even the cantilevered balconies are roofs upside down. The entire building is a study in hip and gable roofs (see: 116 Cascade of Roofs).
118 Roof Garden
120 Paths and Goals
125 Stair Seats
Whenever people get the chance they will use stairs for seats. You would think the opportunity would be provided more often.
In this work, the stairway is a road that travels from the lower garden to the top of the structure. It provides many platforms for quite sitting and for engaging in dialog with those in various parts of the Studio.
(See: 131 The Flow Through Rooms).
126 Something Roughly in the Middle
127 Intimacy Gradient
An important Pattern in any enviornment. More critical in ones that are small and employ muti-use spaces. I believe one reason that todays building are so large and chopped up into so many different rooms is because this Pattern is not understood and employed. Both Prospect and Refuge is necessary for comfort. Private and common spaces has to have both.
Intimacy is as important to some kinds of work as it is to other human needs.
An abrupt change from commons to private areas creates isolation - it actually defeats the purpose. Degrees of intimacy have to be intrinsic to the arrangement and structure of the builing and these have to be augmented with user-controllable devices thateasily make the sysmbol, message and reality of the exact degree of access-intimacy desired.
This is true within the building and outside, as well as, the inside/outside transition zones.
Light and darkness play an important part here.
128 Indoor Sunlight
One of the most important considerations of any building. A difficult design-problem for conventional layouts. In order to accomplish good indoor sunlight, conventional horizontal buildings have to be highly articulated - even so, which side of the building a room is on is highly critical. Another symptom of the prevailing horizontal-ness is the rarity of glass other than in the vertical plane.
This imposes a (horizontal) viewpoint and frames the view in a certain way - a way that can be a good way but not one that should be the only way.
Not only must there be adequate light in a room, it has to varied (135) and come from different places to different places throughout the room (and entire structure). Light can come from above and below, as well as, the sides - it is important that it does. From my writing desk in the Aft Cabin of CAMELOT, there are seven different places that light can come into the space. There is no point of the compass she can face, at any time of day, that denies light to the cabin. At night, moonlight can stream into the darkened room and slowly trace its way across the sky.
Light, science has shown, in the proper spectrum, is important to human health and happiness. However, it goes beyond just light - otherwise an artificially (but properly) lit space would do. The awareness of Nature and the passing of the day and seasons helps us maintain the necessary connection to the Earth.
129 Common Areas at the Heart
130 Entrance Room
131 The Flow Through Rooms
132 Short Passages
133 Staircase As a Stage
134 Zen View
The layout and configuration of the Studio will allow many Zen views. In no place will all that can be seen will be seen. To do this make what is seen static and destroys the process of moving through a series of intimate experiences as you move from place to place. To obvious a view kills place-ness. Each functional area is placed to be a special, unique, not-repeatable, experience. An experience that, itself, changes with the day and season and evolves over time.
With a project of this nature - where so much of the living takes place outside and on the outside of the structure - the Zen View in is as important as - out.
135 Tapestry of Light and Dark
136 Couples Realm
138 Sleeping to the East
139 Farmhouse Kitchen
I remember the mornings in the old Virginia farmhouses. The kitchen was the true center of the building with the cast iron wood-burning stove taking up one whole wall of the room.
Here family, community, food and dialog converged. the familiy, of course, was the whole working community of the farm.
In the Studio, the Food Prep Area is at the intersection of the vertical Atrium, the Green house and the the Main room. It is also, of course, close to the informal Entry off the Vehicle Dock.
As such, it is part of the center of the place.
141 A Room of Ones Own
Critical. Even for a short visit. Space to be alone and think - a rare experience in this modern world. Space to read and study. Space to daydream and sleep. Space to do private work. Space to bring ones lover.
Go through a 100,000 houses and count the times you will find a room that anyone truly feels is theirs. Shared rooms and spaces are as important - they are more common but just as neglected in their real efficacy. There cannot be one kind without the other. Privacy and commons are coexistent.
142 Sequence of Sitting Spaces
I count 12 major places where grouping of people will sit together on CAMELOT. Given the difference in size, the Same proportion would translates to 70 to 80 such places in, on and around the Studio.
If you watch carefully on CAMELOT you will see that where people sit is decided by a number of factors: weather, activity, time of day, size of group and so on. CAMELOT affords enough variety so that there are always appropriate choices - not only for groupings - but for individuals who want private time.
This was not always so, when we got CAMELOT, her traditional interior layout actually offered a narrow set of options - not good on a long cruise or with a large group. We actually had to make extensive changes to alter this dynamic.
And a dynamic it is. It is a sequence of process changes. If the variety is not there, the expereince is truncated and richness of interaction is lost. Most modern buildings are greatly impoverished in this regard. Dispite their size, there is too little variety. Too few places. The full range of human processes are not supported.
It seems that much of what modern architecture does is to remove the variety that people seek when they go on vacation. This is particularly true in the workplace and why the MG Taylor/AI environments are so highly prized.
Life is a series of processes. Some highly ritualistic and repetitive, some infrequent and singular. A building that does not accommodate these process is regarded as unfriendly - no matter its other attributes.
A program is a statement of what a building has to do - it is really an outline problem-challenge. To succeed, the designer has to translate this statement into an understanding of the many, many processes that will take place and build to augment these processes. How these processes are facilitated is the core of the experience.
143 Bed Cluster
144 Bathing Room
145 Bulk Storage
146 Flexible Office Space
147 Communal Eating
149 Reception Welcomes You
150 A Place to Wait
157 Home Workshop
159 Light On Two Sides of Every Room
160 Building Edge
161 Sun Place
162 North Face
163 Outdoor Room
167 Six-Foot Balcony
168 Connection to the earth
169 Terraced Slope
170 Fruit Trees
171 Tree Places
172 Garden growing wild
173 Garden Wall
174 Trellised Walk
176 Garden Seat
177 Vegetable Garden
180 Window Place
181 The Fire
182 Eating Atmosphere
183 Workspace Enclosure
184 Cooking Layout
185 Sitting Circle
Strangely, few building support dialog. This requires people, roughly, to be sitting in a circle where they can see one another and still be comfortable. The arrangement must not confront - but support.
The Studio Main Room will have a sitting pit for this purpose that allows a number of different arrangements and degrees of inclusion in the activity. It is important to allow partial involvement on from the perimeter. People will find their own place if given the chance.
186 Communal Sleeping
187 Marriage Bed
188 Bed Alcove
189 Dressing Room
191 The Shape of Indoor Space
192 Windows Overlooking Life
193 Half Open Wall
194 Interior Windows
195 Staircase Volume
196 Corner Doors
197 Thick Walls
198 Closets Between Rooms
199 Sunny Counter
200 Open Shelves
201 Waist-High Shelf
202 Built-In Seats
204 Secret Place
205 Structure Follows Social Spaces
206 Efficient Structure
207 Good Materials
The proof of a well designed (or evolved) city is one that you want to walk in. A Good Material is one you want to engage on a tactile level. A Good Material that you can afford is one that is sustainable in building cycle terms and Planet terms - this means recyclable and/or reusable.
I extend Alexanders dictum of site-built to include local shop-built. There is no intrinsic virtue in putting buildings together in the rain. There are things better done in factories, in shops and on-site. In general, the movement, however, should be towards decentralization and toward the local shop/field operation.
Ship ideas, manufacture/build locally.
It is often argued that good architecture is not affordable. Good materials and construction are the real issue. If good materials are employed in a life-cycle economic context, at a reasonable scale of building, with proper adaptation of the Pattern Language principles, architecture - on any level of art desired - is affordable.
The whole thing starts with materials selection.
Basic structures should be built to last a long time (or should be frankly designed for short cycles and recycling). They should be designed to be easily adaptable to new uses and technologies. There are scales of time that have to be considered and scales of impact that have to be incorporated in the life-cycle equation. This is not done today. From architect to engineer, to builder, to building department, to owner, to society-at-large, this process of building is a transfer of responsibility and accountability with no one, in the end, able to be responsible. We are all left holding a ubiquitous bag.
208 Gradual Stiffening
It is perhaps here that Alexander receives the most criticism. His concept of how to build a building flies in the face of Building Codes, Inspectors, Bank Mortgages and Instant Gratification (If the slow way that buildings are actually built can be called instant). Alexander is actually proposing that modern buildings be designed and built in a way that is far more spontaneous and evolutionary than is done today.
I have evolved a design-build-use habit that addresses many of Alexanders issues, as well as, those of contemporary society. The present official way of building, actually, mixes the worst of two extreme models. The mechanical and the organic (or evolutionary). The way buildings are built today is not truly effectient nor affordable - merely souless and mechanical. Well over half the time and materials used, in a modern building, fail to add significant value.
I propose and practice a high frequency, low magnitude rapid iteration approach that combines art, craft and attention with highly efficient component manufacturing. This is lean building. This follows the SCAN, FOCUS, ACT Model: spend lost of time in thought, less in design and drawing (this should merely create and document the problem for the ValueWeb that builds) and build fast and efficiently each iteration of actual construction - and, do this with great consciousness. Never build more than you have to. Live in the work awhile and do it again. This way every step is discrete and a building can more naturally evolve out of experience.
There is, however, another aspect of this Pattern that sometimes remains hidden. The natural consequence of building this way is to create structures - and a living experience - that are at differnt stages of finish. This Gradual Stiffening, then, creates a visural relationship between human and place that is almost totally missing from architecture today. Spend a week on a wooden boat like CAMELOT and you will know what I mean.
Our structures do not give. They are rigid. Why? On CAMELOT, the integration of structure, utility and art is total. Everything is in motion all the time. This is feedback from the environment. A level of information almost completely lacking from our modern dwellings and offices.
The different structural parts of the Studio will be engineered to move and give as is appropriate expression of their materials and for the specific function of different parts of the building. This way the building responds to what is going on inside and outside. This does not weaken but actually strengthen the work. CAMELOT, for example, is far more able to take on forces than most land-structures her size. This built-in ablity to respond to the enviornment and to human use put life in the structure.
The deep, hidden values of architecture that have evolved and endured over time can be identified and employed in modern structures. Efficiency and meeting codes and social accountability do not have to ruthlessly remove them for our habitats. This is a design issue and another example of why design of the process of building is intrinsic to designing the artifact itself.
209 Roof Layout
210 Floor and Ceiling Layout
211 Thickening the Outer Walls
214 Root Foundation
215 Box Columns
217 Perimeter Beams
218 Wall Membrane
221 Natural Doors and Windows
222 Low sill
223 deep Reveals
225 Frames as Thickened Edges
226 Colume Place
227 Colume Connections
228 Stair Vault
229 Duct Space
230 Radiant Heat
Almost all theStudio Superstructure surfaces will have radiant heat. The materials will be warm to the touch during the cool season. This allows an overall lower temperature in the building while keeping the occupants warm.
Radiant heat is the most natural that can be made. It does not blow on you nor dry the air. It does not require dust (and what else!?) filled duct work.
It give surfaces a living feel.
231 Dormer Windows
232 Roof Caps
233 Floor Surface
235 Soft Inside Walls
236 Windows That Open Wide
237 Solid Doors With Glass
238 Filtered Light
239 Small Panes
241 Seat Spots
242 Front Door Bench
243 Sitting Wall
There are several in this work. They occur at the intersection of the Earth Berms and the patterned block retaining walls that make the transition of the building to the natural environment.
244 Canvas Roofs
245 Raised Flowers
246 Climbing Plants
The Studio geometry is strong and sharp-edged. This is softened considerably by the landscaping in general but requires plants themselves to be in, on and around the structure.
247 Paving with Cracks
The driveway, guest parking and surface under most of the Carport will be paying stones with openings for ground cover.
248 Soft Tile and Brick
Texture, smell, touch and warmth. These surfaces have to be tactile and friendly.
The Studio does not have ornament it is ornament. There is nothing that only is ornament and nothing that is not ornament.
250 Warm Colors
Pattern on Pattern - light on light. Light reflecting, light shining through. Colors reflecting off of colors. Each color has its connotative meaning to each individual - they are associated with the natural phenomena and personal experience.
The Bay Area can be cold. The season of rain can be gray for extended periods of time. Mark Twain called a summer he spent in San Francisco the coldest winter he ever spent.
Warm colors are always important - especially so in these circumstances. Modern work keeps us indoors more than in the past. Light spectrum and color become ever more critical.
Modern workplaces are characterized by bland colors highlighted by harsh, bright splashes that assault the senses. This is not Natures nor is an improvement on it.
I prefer a large variety of closely matched, muted colors that play out in many ways. I prefer the colors to be in and of the materials not on them. I prefer each material to have its architectural assignment and it own color palette so there is consistency in the grammar of the building. I prefer light that is filtered through something, trees, windows... the reflection of water. (see: 238 Filtered Light).
This makes a natural place because it mimics Nature. There is correspondence between color and sound and shape. Good technique knows this and takes advantage of it, as well as, understanding the long tradition of Human meanings given these things.
This approach of color brings depth. Most modern buildings look like post cards. Surface stuff.
Colors change over time and this should be taken into consideration with their use. A well done building takes several years to mellow out. A poorly done building looks old the minute the bright wears off.
The Studio will employ a variety of colors and textures each assigned a role, each with a weathering agenda. This is all part of the tactile nature of the piece.
A great city is one you want to walk in - a great building is one you want to touch and go to sleep on.
251 Different Chairs
Different chair in various places and different built-in niches of different dimensions.
252 Pools of Light
Night lighting is critical to the success of this environment. Pools of light will have to created both inside and outside the structure - the whole environment has to be lit else those inside will feel exposed to the glass at night. There are spaces for creating a sense of space; spaces for utility and task purposes; spaces for transportation. Each of these spaces are of a different kind. They have to be lit differently than each other - and, within each kind, each specific space must be lit properly for its function and appropriate mood(s).
User-control of highly variable light is essential. In a complex space that serves many different functions, pools of light have to be movable user-controlled
253 Things from Your Life
Not only things from my life, in this Studio of my work-life. These things have to accumulate over time - some will come in from the beginning, but most will reflect the experience of this new practice and what it represents.
voice of this document:
posted March 9, 2000
21 , 2000
(note: this document is about 25% finished)
Copyright © Matt Taylor 2000
Total time: Notes to date: 15 hours