Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Phew. I have worked out that I can write my blogs in Notepad and paste them into the Blogger. It's way easier. The compose function is a nightmare. :(

Expect more frequent updates now!

So I was describing the house ...

We wanted the ground floor of our house to be reasonably accessible to people with disabilities, so we enter via a ramp on the north side of the house.

In the early stages of our design, I agonised over a side not front entrance. I worry that they don't feel as safe at night, and that they don't feel as welcoming. But with a narrow building envelope, a front door was going to mean we could only have one east facing room at the front and I really wanted to maximise our access to eastern/morning light.

Thinking back, there were a million such dilemmas in the design phase ... for example:

  • I wanted bedrooms to get eastern light / I wanted a front door on the front of the house (result: front door on the side but signposted by ramp)
  • I didn't want to see a toilet from the bath / I didn't want an enclosed toilet because it wouldn't be accessible (result: bath upstairs / accessible loo downstairs)
  • I wanted to be able to see the lounge and dining rooms from the kitchen / I didn't want a closed off kitchen (result: a major design backflip on my part last week means we have - gulp - gone entirely open plan).

I guess everyone has these kinds of decisions and compromises when they build. Ours were, I suspect, even more complex because they were informed by not one, but two sets of principles about house design:
1) passive solar
2) pattern language.

You can read about passive solar principles in lots of places. I like "Your Home, a technical manual" for starters. http://www.yourhome.gov.au/technical/index.html

Pattern Language is a set of principles for designing liveable spaces. It starts with world government (!) and goes all the way through to designing stair cases and alcoves!!! An extraordinary body of thinking and theorising by a Christopher Alexander and five colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure in Berkeley, California in the late 1970's.

Read more at: http://downlode.org/Etext/Patterns/index.html

A lot of the patterns are very culturally laden - a fact they still don't seem to acknowledge (although it's quite possible I just haven't read enough). But that aside, there's certainly a lot of food for thought, even if you don't agree with it all.

Just a few of the many 'patterns' that guided us were (I paraphrase):
  • Sleep to the east
  • Light on two sides of every room (OMG I just realised we have actually achieved this, except for one bathroom!!)
  • Incorporate niches and nooks, especially for children
  • Begin with the entrance and the most public parts of the building, then lead into the slightly more private areas, and finally to the most private domains.

Of course, there were also patterns that we chose to ignore or couldn't incorporate within our building envelop and/or budget. For example, we favoured large windows for solar access over small ones that made views more tantalising. Maybe in part because we don't have views. Well rather, we do, but they're mostly awful. }:

Aggh. It's 10:30 and I still haven't described the house. I got distracted by deciding to go back and look at patterns again ... I need to revisit them now we are in the fine detail stage; there's still a lot we could incorporate if we try.

So I will stop here. I think I might have enough brain space to try to work out the upload of the plans.
Then I won't need to describe it all in words - you can just look at the pictures.

Getting into the swing of this gig now. More later.


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