Thursday, July 19, 2012

People and their Houses, Timber Frame or Not

Arzt Timber Frame House in Homer

We just returned from a trip to Alaska where we visited good friends of many persuasions. My doctor friend (it’s good to know a doctor if you fish like I do),  a ship pilot,  a contractor, a (newly trimmed) bearded timber framer, a soon-to-be-on-TV real estate agent, an artist/guide and others. Besides the fine Alaska fishing, of which we all share a love, and the fine wine my friends collect in order to encourage gentility in the Great State, they have in common an attraction to the built form and specialty construction methods in general. I believe the younger, single artist/guide is likely interested in a different type of built form…… but I digress.

Two families are previous clients, now living in their (exceptionally extraordinarily terrific) timber frame houses who graciously invite my wife and daughters to visit yearly. Sometimes they let me come along too.

Judd and wife Lynn at house above

I have found that people who live in their own space see themselves as staying there forever. By own space I mean a house that not just feels good, but reflects their own leanings, proportions, and especially how they see themselves now and in the future. Mountain homes have ski things and outdoor personalities. Alaska homes typically have all from native art to many fish and wildlife references. Why, you ask? Because those types of people live there…..for a reason. When people for some reason must consider moving, they often believe that they will never get their space again.

This year a talented general contractor friend  who built one of my timber frames in Soldotna, completed his own house (not timberframed) in Sterling, overlooking the Kenai River, valley and mountain range you might see in paintings if you were so lucky. Even though it is not one of my designs… ehem…. it is a beautiful, well designed, detailed, and dramatically perched piece of modern architecture created by my friend and a talented local designer with whom he regularly works. He planned it out for six years, and built it in a year to a polished and unique finished product (besides that big chunk of exposed concrete downstairs that he loves so much). With a combination of heavy timbers and steel structure the large glass windows and complex shape expose a view to die for. When you see him and his family in the house with big smiles and easy grace you know it’s their own.
Bad types on the Kenai River

When designing for people and families you try to interpret their movements, interactions, as well as their tastes and needs, in a way that allows you to foresee how they will be friends with their house once it is built. If the architect  gets invited back, he gets to actually see for himself whether the house fits the owner (success).

Every house done is a huge learning experience both for the architect and the owners.

Hint of the day: I’m really liking wine cellars.