Leopard Pod Greenhouse
click on drawing for larger view
note: the plan has been flipped, from what is shown, to better integrate
with recent landscaping and to avoid septic tank
Studio Addition @ House Front
  D E S I G N
program and schematic
This description of the project is illustrated with drawings subplimented with pictures from other projects, principally, the UnuCredit NavCenter. You have to put the both illustrations and photos together, in your mind’s eye, in order to grasp the special qualities of the design. Following the links provided will provide additional information essential to the concept.
This design is an adoption of the POD Greenhouse concept [link: pod greenhouse update]. It employs the latest version of the POD as installed at the UniCredit NavCenter in Torino [link: unicredit navcenter tour]. The picture, below, captures the quality of this POD in a greenhouse-like setting.
As illustrated by the plan view, above, the Greenhouse layout is offset from the house and connected by a glass walkway which connects into the Entry of the existing house. The floor level of the Greenhouse is the same as the floor level of the house.
The POD sits in the middle of a 20 foot diameter glazed-wall circle with the same opening dome over it as was used at the Palo Alto knOwhere Store in 1997 [link: palo alto knowhere store]. In this case, the Leopard logo will be embossed in the wood floor center section of the POD turntable. The glass dome can open 180 degrees to the fresh air and is a major element in the ventilation-cooling strategy of the environment.
The POD will look up into this skylight with light and view controlled by opening and shutting the POD ceiling lotus peddle sections. These are controlled individually so that the different aspects of changing daylight and weather can be matched with work requirements and mood.
The 20 foot parameter of the dome-skylight and the exterior glazing provides a three foot band of landscaping between the exterior glazing and three layers of sliding POD screens. When fully closed these provide a continuous skin around the POD; when stacked, half of the POD is totally open.
These three layers of sliding, patterned screens provide a variety of ways to open or obscure light and view by degrees. This is to the workspace what the convertible is to the car only more so.
Between just a sliver to half the PODs circumference opened, combined with the rotation of the POD floor and workstation, creates many options for looking out and allowing view and light in.
Several people can meet in the POD while still allowing 50% of its perimeter to be workstation. The POD can be configured in a variety of ways including a pull down table for guests.
In the case of the Leopard environment, there are two additional options. The Dining-Conference Room, in the main house for larger and more “public” gatherings or using the 14 foot by 14 foot Patio Room, off to the lower left quadrant, from the POD area, which has fold-out and pull-down work tops as well as room for several chairs.
In this case the Patio Room flooring will be Mexican terra cotta colored tile - or brick. Whatever is selected, the out door triangular Patio will have the same surface.
The Patio Room which provides storage, WorkWalls and open, flexible meeting and workspace - this is designed to support “walk-around” multimedia and teleconferencing as is being developed by MG Taylor and Tim Siglin based on IDIAP [link: so as we may (re)think] research and which we intend to test at the UniCredit facility [link:idiap visits unicredit navcenter]. I call this capability RemotePresence and Remote Collaboration. A significant piece of the 1982 technology vision can be realized today in a well equipped personal work environment. [link: matt’s 5th domain]. This will require a large screen that can be opened and closed. Like everything in this environment, out-of-use means out-of-sight.
This Patio Room, and the glazing-enclosed walk to the Master Bed Room, are covered with a flat landscaped, “green” roof with skylights alternating between roof joists as shown in the section view below.
To the lower right is a triangular Patio facing East and the Morning sun. A path leads from this area and connects with the front yard walking path. The entire POD Greenhouse complex is contained by a raised half-circle Garden sitting on an irregular stone-earth berm base. The Patio and floor and landscape patterns create a superimposed Scan-Focus-Act diagram - a subtitle reminder of the purpose of this place. The parameter of the raised Garden will be planted with deciduous trees to shied summer sun and to let in winter light and heat. The raised area itself will be a heather garden, from East around to West to the extent that strong sunlight exists. Shade tolerant ground covers will be used in areas of lower light. Throughout the raised area a profusion of flowers will provide color through the various seasons.
The Armature-structure of the Greenhouse is a ring of columns and beams of pre-cast concrete terra cotta “stone” filled with reinforced concrete following the construction method of the Cooper House [link: cooper house]. Attached to the outside of this structure will be wire tensioned suspended plastic glazing.
3d Model in Development
The columns and beams, that make up the Armature-structure will have a Stonehenge/Japanese gate-like shape to create a highly textured surface [at this point, the 3d Model is just showing basic shapes]. Radiant heat will be embedded in the interior surfaces and under the tile (or brick) floor. The illustration, above, is the beginning of a computer model which will show the structure of the Studio. The opening glass dome will open to 50% and will be high enough for the POD top to open fully [the POD is not shown - only its ring and turn table are indicated]. Below the dome will be the gate-like ring columns and beam structure - all forming the Armature. . This model will be more complete in a few days and a large scale view will be provided.
This is primarily a private work area. There will be occasions when clients or support people will come into the space to work with Stan and this environment will support these activities well. The luxury of this facility is that it provides multiple areas for study and work, allowing projects to be “out” for lengthy periods of time, while offering a high variety of tools and workstation set ups - all for one person alone. This is actually rare in our world give the utilitarian viewpoint which dominates of the idea and practice of work. A home workshop or kitchen is typically better set up than the average “knowledge-work” environment which is now too often subject to the dictates of technology.
relationship to main house
The Studio is located off of the now rarely used main Entry to the existing house. The goal was to provide Stan simple, fast and direct weather-protected access to his workspace without distraction and interaction with any other activities of the household. At the same time, it is designed to be a distinct place from the sleeping and bathing quarters. The angle of the house on the lot line and setback requirements prevented the connection to be made from the Master Bed Room. The trade-off of having to walk through the Living Room is balanced by three factors: first, the Entry is better in the case of business guests; second, this provide closer access to the room employed by Stan’s assistant which is off the Living Room by the Entry; Third, a door and walk will be provided from the MBR to the side of the curved stone wall and its steps up to the Garden and Patio. Thus, both direct, weather protected and open “walk in the park” paths are provided.
The act of walking through the double glass Entry doors into and though the 20 foot glass walkway - or, from the MBR doors onto the path - is a right-of-passage which shifts the mind from one frame - to another. In many respects, the Studio is the most private part of the house even as it will be the most dominate feature of the front of the house as seen from the road. The return does the same - preparing one for personal pursuits and leisure. Living and work should be integrated yet, like many functions, they are best served by environments which are designed precisely to support their specific activities and the unique requirements of each individual. The integration is achieved by how they are connected and the interface experience created by the physical movement of going from one to another. Much of modern architecture fails to pay attention to interface forcing people to shift modes merely by passing through a thin and often noisy door of little distinction. Stan and I went through many scenarios before settling on this location for the Studio. He wanted close access to the Master Bed Room and privacy from the rest of the house. I wanted the Studio environment to have a powerful sense of place and enough space so that Stan’s creativity and productivity was not trapped by four walls and a ceiling designed for another purpose. I also think the appearance of business guests may increase over time and become more significant than now.
connecting glass walkway
The glass walkway also servers to keep the two different architectures of the Studio and House clear from one another and therefore complimentary. The Studio can be 95% built without any serious disruption to the exiting building. The last connecting piece can be accomplished in a couple of days. The landscaping around the Walkway and between the two structure will serve to both screen and blend their structures together. The Studio creates a court-like space off of the Living Room and Bedroom while still providing selected long-vista views.
The resulting view from both Living Room and Bedroom becomes more private yet not totally obscured as the Studio structure becomes a pleasing backdrop with the light tower - at the Patio Room masonry corner - providing lighting for both the intervening landscape and the Studio structure complimenting the glow of the dome over the POD. Roof drainage remains as it is as the “platform” of the raised half-circle, upon which the Studio rests, is removed from the original building. The Studio is far enough away to allow natural light into the existing house during the various seasons. The new flat green roof will connect to the Entry just under the eves of the existing roof. This connecting roof jogs to the left to become the roof of the square Patio Room. The height of this flat landscaped roof is below the circular Armature ring-gate beam, surrounding the POD, that supports the opening glass dome. This makes the Patio Room and Walkway subordinate to the ring-gate framing the POD and the dome above it. The ring-gate and dome, along with the semi-circular base, will balance the vertical features of the existing front Entry and the mass of the MBR and Bath wing given that the ground slopes down and away from this portion of the existing front elevation.
The POD rotates 364 degrees and back propelled by a hand turned wheel. The three layers of screens slide by hand. The POD roof panels are controlled, up and down, by lanyards and held by jamb cleats like a sail boat. The idea is that Stan will be directly involved in the management of the space: light, view, orientation, protect and refuge. The involvement in the working of the environment is an important aspect of the POD experience. This counters the passivity of the present workplace and provides a level of amenity and variety that only a much larger space could if employing the typically “nailed down ” approach to arrangement. The environment and its “pilot,” therefore, can respond to the time of day and adjust the work environment matching circumstance, work requirements and mood. The Studio is fixed in location yet it “sails” through the days and seasons like a ship upon the sea.
pod configuration
The work top is basically a semi-circle spanning half the POD circumference and will be custom shaped to fit Stan and his hands-on, high-use equipment, tools and materials. The work top and shelves height and depth will vary, in order to do create this exact fit, with both fixed and adjustable elements. There will be a pull down table for meetings and to hold project and reference materials. Other free standing AI WorkFurniture, such as the mini Drafting Table and Project Caddies will be used in the POD and Patio Room.
The POD will also be configured to be a user-adjustable light and acoustic space. This is an architecture of physical and virtual layers. While not as experimental, complex and sophisticated as the EcoSphere [link: ecosphere] Project, many of the features of this design can be realized in this environment. With this capability, a greater realization of fitness is possible. External circumstances, mental states, work tasks and objectives can be more closely aligned. This augments work processes and promotes balanced productivity. The variety of work demands are matched by the inherent variety of the Studio environment s ability to respond. The is a departure from main stream architecture which has been trending toward low variety places and only adding variety by adding more space with specialized features. A traditional space which does what the Studio does would have to be many times larger. This is neither economical nor ecological. It is necessary to reduce footprint at the same time our times require spaces with more capability - not less.
pod view and expression
The outlook from the POD, through the clear fixed glazing which surrounds the outer gate-ring, views the entire front acre of the Leopard property which was extensively landscaped over the last year. At this moment, the house, as is, does not address the front yard to any significant degree nor make much use of it. The Studio will make extensive use of this landscape both as a setting and as an area for walking and our door sitting all within range of wireless devices. The Studio will also alter the view of the house from the front access road, providing a greater anchoring of the house to the site, and making a statement that moves well beyond generic domestic architecture to an organic expression of Stan’s private business practice. It will do this without altering the domestic character of the setting.
patio room
The Patio Room is precisely what it sounds like. An indoor area with the feeling of a covered greenhouse patio. Its planted roof alternates with strip skylights, at alternative joist lines, creating a trellis effect. The Room is designed to be used as a general purpose workroom. It has extensive built-in storage for supplies and pull-out equipment, pull-down tables for project work and guest helpers, seating space with WorkWalls for small team collaborative work. The outer walls are masonry at the storage area - the outside surface of which is covered with vertical landscaping - and a wood post and beam with a wood French door-window system.
material presence
It is important here to talk about the materiality of the the Studio environment. The issue with dematerialized architecture has long concerned me [link: materials: notebook page arch 53]. My recent trip to Spain and time spent in Italy has highlighted this issue once again in a positive way as I experienced projects and built one [link: unicredit navcenter coming into being february 2007] that have material presence. The Leopard Studio will be an intensely physical place. First off, the structure will be authentic. Its shape and materials will be the expression of, and response to, the structural forces as required to achieve stability over an extended period of time. The material will be selected to last and to be of low maintenance. This is a place you will want to touch and get close to not just look at.
earth, fire and water
This environment is a rare combination of elements which express the earthy and intellect. The structure is made of earth materials which is expressed in the form, color and texture. Both inside and out of the outer glazing ring around the POD will be a lively fountain and pond. This is intimate to the workstation and accessible depending on the orientation of the POD. Between POD and patio Room is fire - a 24 inch sunken gas-fired ceramic hibachi with a clay hood and stack suspended from the ceiling. The entire structure is surrounded by dense, prolific landscaping which changes with the seasons. In this case the house of the greenhouse is inside the green. The intellect is stimulated by the geometry of the design, the detailing and served by the arrangement of the space and tools, as well as, the total facility of the workplace. Like all my work, this is a place of strong memory anchored in time and history.
In the case of a future sale of the house, the Studio can be re-purposed in a variety of ways if an office space is not required - although this is difficult to imagine in the present era - or, in the case that the addition, designed before [link: leopard guest house and studio] is built, eliminating the need for a Studio off of the front of the house. The POD interior can be reconfigured to serve a number of functions requiring only a minor level of work will be required to make a setting-reading room, plant room, family room - even a semi-open-air sleeping room which was a common 19th Century practice.
heating and cooling strategies
HVAC will be supplied from the exiting house however this is primarily for peak demands, pollen season and backup. The primary heating will be radiant heating by electric wires embedded in the floor and inside masonry/cast stone concrete surfaces. The electrical supply will be augmented by solar cells on the south side roof of the existing house. Passive solar gain will also contribute significantly to heating. The house also has a stand by backup electric generator. Cooling will be provided by passive and forced ventilation employing earth-cooling-tubes, shading provided by landscaping and movable screens, and, if required, cool air from a geothermal heat pump. In all cases, the default heating and cooling range will be 50 to 85 degrees with on-demand, location-specific heating and cooling being provided. As Amory Lovins [link: rocky mountain institute] notes: The objective is to heat or cool the person not the volume of space around. This is basically a greenhouse environment and it will be extensively landscaped inside and out.
construction method
There are several design-build strategies, intrinsic to the concept, aimed at reducing costs and time-to-build while achieving a high level of quality - quality being defined differently than the norm for the construction industry today: Drawings which reflect an exact work breakdown of labor, materials and time-to-build agreed upon by all workers, builders and manufactures in advance of starting. Complete and accurate field layout so that the building can come out of the ground level square and exact in its geometry - thus eliminating excessive cut and fit work. A careful selection between shop built and field built items with the choice determined by both quality of result and economy of installation. A reduction in the number of materials used and, consequently, of trades. A radical reduction in the time-to-build of field work. Natural finishes of field built materials with a level of hand crafting which reflects their nature and role in the building. Manufactured components which can be installed to fit without field modification nor delay. Avoid extensively-branded, high-margin, heavily-advertised and packaged materials, components and materials. Build the basic structure with a small crew of skilled craftsmen capable of performing all of the basic building trades. Use sub-contractors for technical work (electrical, mechanical, etc.) and provide them with a clean site and the ability to complete each cycle of their work without having to pull on and off the project. Consider this project as a prototype for a product offering in the Bay Area.. These design-build strategies represent the “swimming pool” method I pioneered in the 60s which radically reduced time and costs on projects of this scale and complexity [link: swimming pool story ]. This experience defied conventional wisdom and demonstrated that time saving, quality increase and cost reduction not only can be achieved all at once but that they actually aid each other in achieving these goals. It is only by working this way can this project realize the quality desired while coming in at the budget allocated.
The Studio is designed to be a world within a world. Self-contained yet capable of opening to the environment around it. A private space that can graciously admit friends, colleagues and clients upon occasion, yet... for not too long, or often. It sits, robust in its structure and jewel-like in aspect, on its own green platform, connects back to the house and embraces the acre of land in front. It is a place of authentic natural materials, hand and machine crafted, of rich textures with a gradation of finishes from rough hewn to high furniture finish. It is an environment of many layers with light filtered here, directed there interrupted and reflected somewhere else. It is a quartet of sound, smell, touch and sight - all in harmony, all in playful interaction. It is a changing environment reflecting the seasons, the times of day and night, the activities it houses, the moods and works of those who employ it. It is a magic place - a place of dreams and focused action; of designs and their engineering; of the learning of new ways; the documentation of a life. It is armature for plant life and a haven for contemplation - a place for strong memory. It is bold - a piece of built philosophy that stands proud for what it represents. It is demanding - and supportive. Organic - and machine-like. Provocative - and restful. It is alive in its own way as it must be if it is to support life and the making of new ideas. It is an artifact. A work of art. A metaphor. A sermon on the art of building. A message from the past and a vision of the future.
Return To: INDEX
GoTo: DesignDevelopment Work
GoTo: POD Greenhouse WorkSpace

Matt Taylor
March 3, 2007


SolutionBox voice of this document:



posted March 3, 2007

revised May 6, 2007
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note: this document is about 98% finished


Copyright© Matt Taylor 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007

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