Plan-Section sketch by Scott Arenz
September 7th, 9th, 2003
Home Addition Workplace
Perspective sketch by Scott Arenz
April 27th, 2004 - link: April Update
This project by SFIA Architects-Master Builders is a packaged product for the the home industry designed to address the issue of the home work environment.
It is intended to to combine elements from modern Taylor-AI NavCenter environments with the 19th Century Conservatory to create a new kind of home workspace.
While employing shop-built components, the design is oriented to a high level of mass customization in ways that will be outlined below. The idea is to get the advantage of manufacturing combined with the ability to fit each installation with its local ambiance, conditions and architectural setting.
In doing this, a number of architectural options, that are now missing from the housing market, will be introduced in a way that is likely to be acceptable to this market. The home workplace will be enhanced, while consequently, the home market may be influenced to embrace, in the future, a more open, values-oriented, organic philosophy regarding the built-environment.
The design brings together two idioms - one new, one traditional - and does so in a way that can be made compatible with a broad range of exiting structures of various styles. The Taylor NavCenter is, of course, relatively new - having been built at some scale (and represented in various forms) over the last 15 years. The glass conservatory has a long history, from the 19th Century to today, and is almost iconic in its pervasive social meaning.
Several elements make up the grammar of this piece: extensive interior and exterior landscaping; the transparent and translucent greenhouse of steel, wood, wire and glass structure and skin; the AI WorkFurniture composed around three major statements: the curved Radiant Wall, PODmaximus and Armature.
The Conservatory of glass, wood and steel is shop built and can be custom designed so that the appropriate idiom is reflected in each application. This will mostly be accomplished by how the glass, itself, is treated in terms of shape, patterns and transparency/translucency. In this way, the architecture of the urban setting and that of the house, itself, can be be subtly reflected without being crassly echoed. At the same time, the basic idiom of the CONSEVORTOTY, with all its historic meaning, can be referenced. By placing the WorkConservatory away from the house, and connected by a wide glass hallway, two things are accomplished; first, a semi-sheltered Patio is created that has many applications and uses, and secondly, this separation makes it easier to facilitate the integration of the Conservatory to the existing structure.
This product is conceived to be first introduced into the “upscale” Southern California marketplace in the immediate future. The buyer is the same family that would purchase a high-end full-featured Home Theater, Kitchen or Bath. While this is a specialty market, the business goal is to use this offering (the Home-Office) - which has immediate appeal and has not been creatively addressed to date - as a means of accomplishing three objectives: first, to build name recognition in the housing marketplace; secondly, to build up the AI Shop capability to the next level over Armature - that of the exterior structure and skin of the building. Third, to build the marketing, installation and service capacity necessary to any future housing offering. This is a rapid-prototyping path to a number of future possibilities including the new “Usonion House” [link]. It also builds on my prior swimming pool and landscape practice that netted two interesting, “counterintuitive,” insights: that with production of units in the hundreds (not thousands), a ValueWeb of producers [link] can be attracted, trained and made capable of producing high quality semi-custom work at common production cost levels; and, that the buyer is much more likely to accept cutting edge, radical and “organic” design in those items adjunct to the house than to the house itself. The strategy is to to use this product as an introduction, to the market, thus creating innovative design alternatives while building capability and avoiding the risk of a frontal attack on the existing housing paradigm.
Section by Scott Arenz
September 14th, 2003
This scale drawing begins to show the scale of the WorkConservatory in relationship to a standard two story suburban house. It also indicates the structural system and internal scale of the environment.
Recessing the POD into a step down level is an important design decision. It places the POD in a special area while resolving what otherwise would be scale conflicts by keeping the greenhouse intimate yet spacious.
download pdf of section
wall copy from Septermber 6th design-session
Matt Taylor, Matt Fulvio, Scott Arenz
The function of the WorkConservatory has many dimensions. The theme of the environment is an image from Omar Khayan, a Zen Garden, a piece of Xanadu [link]. The environment is to be tactile and sensuous, high touch and to be, visually, “frozen music.” It is to bring to work the concept of leisure and to bring both into the home. It is “Victorian” (in the best sense of the concept) in sensibility and detailing.
While being primarily a place of work, it can also serve a variety of other uses: greenhouse, aviary, fish pond, library, conversation area - a place for napping, contemplation, music, exercise. These are program elements that will be unique in combination to each user. It is important that these aspects be deliberately designed-in to the program. Ubiquitous “be-anything” space, so common in the modern house (later to be “decorated”), is to be avoided. Our offering is just the opposite in intent and spirit to the mass conformity found even in expensive and so-called “custom” environments. This product offering is a means to put soul back into the dead spaces people now call home and both serenity and excitement in the dull spaces they call workplaces [link].
The WorkConservatory is also to be a place of seamless, embedded technology. A true multimedia and integrated computer work environment that supports RemotePresence and Collaboration - the first home work environment that is fully robust and capable of all levels of integration and participation. Here, the potential of the 5th Domain is realized. Here, a person can work at home without sacrifice or compromise of capability. Here a cybernetic greenhouse [link] is created at last. Here, the promise of technology - that of relieving and augmenting human work - is fulfilled.
A place to work - intimate, yet spacious, adjustable to the many tasks of modern work - a private place, and a place to meet, open or shut - as required...
Armature and light and WorkWalls... tools of work presented with beauty and as an invitation - not as a demand...
WorkFurniture that adjusts, is comfortable, and requires movement and different postures...
Plants in abundance... Nature brought into the workplace and the workplace exported into Nature... One an integral part of the other without false division...
Large enough for several to gather...
Pesonal enough to be an intimate work-home...
Glass on glass - pattern on pattern - reflecting, refracting, diffusing, glowing... Never ending variety...
Variety inside and outside, many viewpoints and impressions... Utility space, visual space, space for movement, space for separation, space for inclusion...

Books, throw carpets, plants, glass, rocking chairs, a view to a landscape...

Simple materials, craftsmanship, thoughtfulness, arranged to delight and stimulate the mind and senses...

Natural light and human-made light, changing by the hour - night and day - reflecting the moods of the users, the passing of time... and of the seasons...
Place, and media display - freedom to move while working remotely... Space to adjust to oneself and one’s requirements...

WorkWalls, plants, media, Armature, varied light sources, shade and shadow, prospect and refuge, natural wood...

Materials used in harmony with their nature...

Six in a contained conversation...
A backdrop when empty...
These views, of course, do not show the full dimension and potential of the space to be created. They are snapshots that indicate a design intention - elements that must be there but must be rendered in an entirely new way. The process of Design Development will bring these nuances into being and we will discover new combinations of enduring Pattern Language and forms that create new ways of experiencing life.
PODmaximus, with its unprecedented capability for user-adjustability, its scale and capability for making a room-within-a-room, placed inside a cathedral-like space of glass, light, plants and a few chosen pieces of art - with water, fire, books, embedded technology, rocking chairs, soft seating, expansive WorkWalls... This is a new workplace, in a new setting, to support a new work-process.
This product will do for the home workplace what the NavCenter is now doing for the corporate workplace. It will bring knowledge-work home and reintroduce leisure to work. It creates a true modern environment while bringing forward continuity from the past. It is an environment that rejects the work-play, soul-body dichotomy. It is based on knowledge-work not on the industrialization of intellect and talent.
There are multiple tracks that make up the implementation path. Refinement of the PODmaximus concept is necessary; this involves design, detailing and production issues. Presently, PODmaximus is being developed for the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Executive Offices [link] which are scheduled to open mid-August of 2004. There are eight PODs in this design. Goodness, will be to manufacture a ninth so that we have material for a LA prototype.
Many of the HVAC and technical issues related to the project are similar to the Cincinnati NavCenter [link]. With the WorkConservatory, technical systems will have to be independent of the house as they are a different level of technology than the typical home. The glazing systems for both projects have many aspects in common, however, the Cincinnati project will require commercial-grade glazing and the WorkConservatory will not. No matter these differences, in many R&D aspects, the development of the Cincinnati project will be mutually informing with the development of the WorkConservatory.
The development of the structural wood, steel and glass “greenhouse” system will be of the same order as the master’s Academy NavCenter which will be built at the existing school over the next several months [link]. The grammatical elements of these two projects are almost the same and the intention with both is to work within a system that the AI Shop can build and install. The Master’s weather-energy environment (in Canada) is a much more stringent one than Southern California, however, the design issues are basically the same.
The R&D, development path for the WorkConservatory is likely to be a 6 to 9 months assuming it can be co-developed in concert with the projects mentioned above. This means that the prototype can be ready in timing with a sub-division, model home project that is now in the early stages of concept development and financing. The business objective is to find such a project that is suitable for what we have to offer and where interests are mutual. We offer a developer a new category of enhancement and the excitement that goes with it. In turn, we can get exposure to a broad market opportunity.
In order to sell the prototype, we will have to do a level of Design-Development that enables us to accurately price the product, represent it adequately in graphic form and have a reasonable grasp of the time from order-to-delivery when in production. In addition, we should have a Business Model (and nascent ValueWeb) of how we will support sales, installation and service in the Southern California region. There are a number of existing specialty businesses, in the region, that can supply the infrastructure and components for doing this. We will have to work though the selection process to find these and develop a financing and business plan that makes sense for all the players. There should be adequate time to do this between the initial order and the delivery (and subsequent exposure) of the prototype and, thus, significant sales.
The immediate task, then, is to develop marketing materials and the Business Model necessary to finding the developer (or developers) with the right opportunity and interest in the prototype. This can be done with 3d drawings and a mock up in the Shop of the POD set in a simulated conservatory-like environment. Some prototyping, “stage-setting” and careful lighting and brought-in landscaping can be adequate to “shoot” the product and produce a sufficient media expression.
ValueWeb Assignments:

Peter Ponton:
LA market survey and analysis; Pricing Model; Developer contacts; Venture Partners.

Scott Arnenz:
Design Development and 3d Model.

Matt Fulvio:
Research into glazing and HVAC systems.; Documentation of Prior Art.

Bill Blackburn:
POD development.

Brian Ross:
POD development; Manufacturing feasibility of POD and greenhouse System; Prototyping; Mock-Up for Promotional Materials.

J. Baldwin:
Glazing design, fabrication processes and design consulting.

RK Bruce:
Financial controls; financial Model; Cash Flow Management.

Lisa Hmelar:
Specialty Market Model; Market Research; Producer Network Filtering; Design and Coordination of Marketing Materials.

Robert Darling:
Create the backdrop and “set” for the prototype shoot for creating the simulated images. Develop the landscaping concept - interior and exterior.

Alisa Bramlett:
Web site and media clips from “shoot.”

Tim Siglin:
Remote Presence, Remote Collaboration; Integrated Multimedia Technology; technical system integration.

Matt Taylor:
Business Model; ValueWeb Development: Patents; Production Modeling; System Integration.

Dave Johnson:
Contracts; Patent Filing; Enterprise architecture design.

We have to test for interest so as to get a good sense of what the potential is for this product will be at the present time. This will give us the information we need to set the right schedules and priorities. Moving to this scale of work is the “next step” for AI. The WorkConservatory is consistent with ongoing SFIA Architects-Master Builders Plans and MG Taylor NavCenter projects. The issue is one of arriving at the correct timing and investment of focus, energy and dollars. Even on a slow track, however, the project causes us to be alert to the broader applications and market potential of work we already have underway with the VCH, Cincinnati and Master’s projects.
PODmaximus prototype
design by Bill Blackburn - 2003
March 2004 Update
The POD as it is today (now in the second iteration of the prototype) - this version, designed by Bill Blackburn, will go into the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Executive Offices. The setting is the second iteration of the greenhouse by Scott Arenz and Matt Fulvio. Scott built a basic 3d Sketch Up computer Model of the project for meetings that Peter will have the last week of March. Based on this feedback, the schedule is to complete, over the next 30 days, the greenhouse design, build a detailed computer Model of it attached to a typical house and develop a comprehensive cost breakdown and construction process model. At this point, we will be ready to create marketing materials (as described above) and should then quickly find out the level of interest in the Southern California region for this kind of home-work solution.
There are several indicators, which have grown stronger since last September, that show feasibility for this project: the visits to my web site and the articles that are being accessed [link]; the development of the POD itself as we ready it for production and peoples reaction to it; the continuing work-at-home trends combined with the post 9-11 family capital spending shift in priorities; increasing public concern and interest in green solutions; and, interest that Peter has received from various developers and builders in the LA region. There is no question that, in general, the market is ready for this initiative - the open question is where is the best entry point and what is the best offering for this specific time and place.
There are a wide number of applications for the Work Conservatory Including additions to houses, industrial buildings, Lofts and roof top penthouses for living/work habitats.
The PODS themselves can be equipped as offices, Baths, kitchens, sleeping rooms and intimate dining areas. The “room-within-a-room” concept has long been a highly regarded architectural value since Wright developed it in his Oak Park home before the turn of the 20th century. What has been missing is a systematic way of accomplishing this pattern, with economy, and with variety.
The greenhouse shell will have operable windows, interior and exterior screens and skylights as do the PODS. Together, these make up a layered strategy for selecting and augmenting view, airflow, light, shade/shadow, sound, temperature, sense of prospect and refuge. By employing different fenestration patterns to window and screens, different idioms can be referenced allowing an almost unlimited range of expression.
A wide variety of glazing strategies can be employed from multiple layers of glass, hard plastic panels to plastic “bags” filled with inert gas. All these can be clear, translucent, opaque and made up of many colors. Many of these strategies can be used in one installation in response to exposure and required R values as well as cost considerations and the potential delight of the users. Internal and external lights can provide more than utility; the sense of space, openness and enclosure, can be fine-tuned by the appropriate use of light to account for weather conditions, season, time of day thereby fitting the mood and the tasks of the occupants.
Compared to the typical house or office, the variety possible with the Work Conservatory, the ease and economy by which it can be accomplished, puts this environment in a class of its own.
The POD is on a turntable operated by an electric motor. Two layers of screens rotate independently of the floor and the workstation components. Each workstation top, shelf, storage unit can be adjusted for location and height easily without a tool being required. There is a pull down conference table that accommodates three. The screens can be fabric, paper, plastic all in a wide variety of patterns, colors, textures and degree of transparency, translucency or opaqueness. Embedded 12 volt lighting provides a variety of ambient, mood, highlight and task lighting. All controls are located in one place for easy user access. The POD comes with a built-in sound attenuation system, stereo, digital media access and video conferencing capability.
This is the first work environment that users can adjust to intimately match their requirements.
By extending the entry to the greenhouse a courtyard is created between the greenhouse and the house. This can be landscaped to create a natural micro climate. This strategy also makes “fitting” the greenhouse environment to the existing building an easier task. As noted before, different patterns that make up the greenhouse structure and skin can meet a variety of structural, weather, view, sun, wind exposure requirements while offering a near infinite idiomatic and esthetic expression.
Because all components other than foundations, floor finishes and the fitting of the greenhouse to the main structure are prefabricated, the build time from disruption of the site to finish will be 10 days under normal conditions.
August 2012 Update
The POD as it was installed in the UniCredit navCenter in Turin, Italy 2006/07. This setting provides the best example of how it would look in the greenhouse and also a total interior landscape like the un-built Children’s Hospital Project. We have built only a few of this PODs, as they are too expensive unless placed in a setting which makes full use of their rotating floor and and multilayered sliding screens. All PODs are “a room within a room.” This POD has the added feature of being able to rotate, open and shut its top and side screens so that it can interface those using it to their immediate environment thus matching background, middle ground and interior space with the different uses of the the POD. This is a degree of adaptability almost never seen in architecture today.
In this post 2008 Housing and banking (if it can be called that) funny money crash it is thought that there is no market now for this kind of product. I do not believe this to be so. We forget that a serious recession is a few percentage points reduction in the rate of grown which - given what we call a healthy economy - does then not match the growth in population. This last “great” recession actually had a brief period of negative growth. Along with the mismanagement of the financial markets there is also the ongoing transformation of the economy. This is hitting many sectors who did well for a half a century but did no see the radical shift coming in time to retool. A study of history will reveal we have had many such shifts like this and it is always painful for those no adapting particularly those who did not have the means and access to tools and Capital to do so. This is a real social-economic problem and I address it elsewhere. Counter to these negative economic conditions (no problems) are many factors supportive of this product. The shift to working in the home where privacy, presence, and state-of-the-art tooling is necessary. Often in times like this, people who are doing well will upgrade what they have rather than “move up” as they might in a more robust economy. There is, all over the world, a resurgence of this kind of architecture after several decades of “show” housing which terminated in the Mac Mansion and its many cheaper knock-off derivatives (to go with the financial scam, I assume). Developers will be looking wider and will be more willing to “risk” innovation in order to achieve distinction for their developments. This work greenhouse, as pointed out above can be adapted to a wide variety of settings and built economically as one-off projects.
I never understood why this project faded away in 2003/2004.  In housing, innovation is rare in boom times. In bad times it is even rarer. Yet, when the economy starts to recover and when people realize that the old success formulas no longer work, then there is a brief window for something to happen. This window might be the time. This is an “up scale” product and this is where innovation is done. Once prototypes are made and shown, the market opens as new expertise, techniques and tools, competition and lower costs makes the innovation affordable to a larger number of people. Another important point to remember that this design is an integration of a more than century old iconic architecture and a 21st century work environment. this can ease the resistance to change in an industry noted for its conservative approach to design. This design can be made to fit into almost any setting without doing violence to what is there or to itself.
Return To Index
Return To EcoSphere
Return To Master’s NavCenter Model
Return To VCH Executive Offices - INDEX
Return To Return of the Usonian
Return To post Usonian Prototypes
Matt Taylor
September 13, 2003


SolutionBox voice of this document:



posted: September 14, 2003

revised: August 24, 2012
• • •
• • •
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•2012 •

(note: this document is about 99% finished)

Copyright© Matt Taylor 2003, 2004
Copyright© 2004 SFIA Architects - Master Builders

Aspects of work shown here are Patented by iterations and in Patent Pending



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