The wedge – the photo you see was a horrific event for many. It was a wildfire on the day when it jumped a ridge with 70mph winds. It caused several delays and led to the idea of what i call wedge roofs. The path was that after this day, they closed down roads, my demolition crew didn’t’ show, i took a chain saw and one of my heavy equipment operators who was working on the road couldn’t get back to his house…thus is the snippet of how designs change, and why.
Yesterday I saw this article, and had to smile, as seeing the actual building was sort of a green light that I am on the right path. You see, I designed a wedge a few years ago for the lab site we want to build in Colorado. The lessons I learned from taking off the grid technologies with our work with Agrowbox and agrowvillage, and then bringing a skunkworks rapid prototyping world of augmanity into one off the grid space – opened an entirely new way of working and thinking for me.
The original wedge idea really never came to life until it became a necessity. There is moment in life when you are creating and you “see” the idea, or a concept for the path for the idea. That moment came when I was hunched over a chainsaw, sharpening the blade and filling it up with gas and chain oil. Maybe it was that I was on my knees, almost praying, but when I looked up at the site to build I asked, “Have you ever seen a building that was simply a giant wedge?”
“What do you mean?” came the reply
I took out a stick and drew a very crude idea in the dirt, then saw how a sister building could be built near it. "Wow, that is actually really cool looking coming out of the forest like that."
You have to remember, the original idea was to create a stunning old barn type platform, with rustic, yet functional design. The man I wanted to build them is my friend’s husband, George. His geobarns idea is really a great idea www.geobarns.com
Why a barn? I simply love open spaces and feel cubicles and such kill the human spirit more than allow it to create and feel at ease with “space.” Most of my life I have sketches of barns, old factories and churches as ideas for homes and creative spaces to work in. The barn would fit rather nicely with the ponderosa pines and mountains.
The problem with the barn is that the roofline was 90 degrees off from the ideal placement of a barn into the land that would maximize the views of the site. The original blueprint of the interior spaces really has never changed through all this time. I would joke, “imagine being able to look at your favorite painting, but have half of it covered from your vision all the time.”
when we stopped working for the day, i took my solar shower and then put ideas of the wedge into the sketch book. "there is something to all this - the question is can it be built without needing a fortune?"
I could go on to explain the linear progression of how we ended up with the various designs and what changed them and modified them. The truth is that if you spend more time sitting and walking the land, it will give you clues as to where and what to build. The original owner aid he stuck a white PVC stake in the ground for where he would build. I never found it till I cut the last tree as we moved the idea for the building deeper into the forest. When I turned around, there was the white stake, almost right behind me.
When we got serious with biomass, the idea for the wedge and the other idea of using solar angles in the early spring, late fall and winter to push sunlight into the buildings from the south – while taking a page from the Hopi Indians and their desert dwellings that stay cool because they pay attention to the summer angles of the scorching sun – the need for all solar gave way to, “wow, with biomass, we pay less and get more power…duh…adding that solution is a no brainer, and we don't NEED the wedge anymore."
For the past few months, I worked out some interesting rooflines that work, could be rustic and look like a barn George can build, and provide a really amazing look to maximize the beauty of the land, views, and space to test all areas of agrowvillage, and allow for one high tech augmantity space.
That is until yesterday, when I saw the wedge. I knew it was a good idea when I drew it. It was the solution to our power issue at that time.
I will go back, as with the time in the past few years, working out the idea and solutions. All of the work has been invaluable in making one think about the future of fresh food production in the local markets, as well as how to make it work at a home or community level.
It wasn’t’ until a month ago that in knew a premix concrete truck could make it up the road. The concrete guys were nice enough to drive out and look at it, “it should make it up.” was the answer.
This unlocked the ability to bury most of the buildings into the mountain and gain some benefit of temperature stability.
Now I am going to see about actually burying ¾ of the buildings into the mountain with concrete and sticking that wedge out of the top of the foundation.
The problem was not that the wedge didn’t’ work, it was that there was a giant atrium of sorts on one side of the building, that no matter how I sketched or drew, made the wedge idea seem giant or grossly overblown with the site.
So last night, I saw the house, and thought….”why not bury the first floor into the mountain and have a walk out to the second? is that possible (insert sketch sounds of pen on paper)
“Wow, that provides for even more unplanned beauty.”
As for the lab, that space was found almost by accident. Once again, I was just tired cutting trees and sat down on a stump. Looked right, in front of me, to the left.
“Wow, this is amazing, imagine being able to work on designs here at this elevation." (insert sound of my brain starting to think) "uhm, yo einstein, just build it here! Duh!” (since that day of sketching, not much has changed in what the space will entail or look like)
The moral of the story is that most of the time, designs need time and space to move and change if you are doing something new. You will spend far more time thinking about the solutions than you do actually building – but you will get something that really is special and unique. With it, you can pass the knowledge to others and let even better ideas form.
Now I go exercise, and then pull out the sketchbooks to see all the variations and ways I tried to get the “wedge” roofline heights lower, and more managable."
“Just raise the ground up. “ I smile, “That appears to be the solution and give even more of a energy efficient and really cool looking space than ever.”
Have a great day. Now I have to decide which is the better of two good design ideas and paths - once again, this project gets more and more interesting.