Archive for April, 2011

Updated 3D rendering

April 27, 2011 1 comment
Final 3D rendering

This is it!

Some minor changes were made. I wanted a more organic proportion to the roof eaves. The new approach employs the golden section or golden ratio to give a natural, growing look to the roof overhangs.

Some variation was added in the height of the brickwork to make it more pleasing to the eye and to give the effect of organic natural growth of the planters themselves appearing to sprout up from the land.

And the wood siding was replaced with stucco on the upstairs office room wall as we were still short of the 65% masonry requirement the city demands. Ironically the stucco is between half and a third the price of the wood so it makes the project cheaper. All to keep the neighborhood suitably upmarket……

The architects changed the proportions of the celestory windows on the right which are the master bath windows. They do seem to look better, but I didn’t ask for that.

Pictured in early morning summer light coming from the East.


New 3D rendering

I just received a new 3D rendering from the architects. The outer of the house is eco-friendly Accoya wood, however the architects discovered that the city require a 65% minimum masonry requirement to ‘keep the neighborhood upscale’ (note, windows count as the same material as the wall they’re in). So the back is now stucco (considered masonry, whereas fiber cement board, which is we did consider, isn’t) and the base of the front has more brick. I feel the brick works, it helps to anchor it to the ground. What do you think? I don’t think it makes it any more upscale but that is weird city planning rules for you.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

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First post of my blog on our Lakeway Usonian house

April 8, 2011 3 comments
Lakeway Usonian

Front elevation of our Lakeway Usonian

Our house is based on the architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright known as Usonian. Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) wanted to create a style of architecture that was distinctly American, but he preferred the term ‘Usonia’ for United States of North America, and hence Usonian means American. Despite this, Usonian architecture, which started with the Jacobs house in 1936 and continued on into the early 50’s, was heavily influenced by Japanese architecture, although FLW never admitted that, and claimed to have invented it independently, despite having visited Japan many times, the first time in 1905 and working extensively there in the 20’s. (Most of his work there was destroyed in the 1926 Tokyo earthquake).

The Usonian style influenced Eichler in California and other mid-century modern architects and could be said to have pre-dated and started the currently revivalist mid-century modern movement and ultimately the ranch style house so common in Texas.

Usonian houses were intended to be modest abodes for middle-income families, but in reality they cost rather more to build than the average house and usually went over budget, so only fairly wealthy clients with an interest in architecture could afford them. They were generally quite small, mostly around 1000-1500 sqr ft and on one story. Each one was uniquely designed for the client. They were usually ‘L’ shaped with the living areas on one leg of the ‘L’, sleeping on the other, and the kitchen in the middle of the ‘L’ where the two lines meet. This at the time was novel. Previously kitchens had been hidden away as they were staffed by servants (even for middle class people). FLW had the idea to replace the servants with the lady of the house aided by technology¬†and to move the kitchen from being hidden to the center. The servants would be replaced with new-fangled technology like washing machines and dish washers (FLW liked new technology). His dislike of servants may have been motivated by the 1914 death of his mistress Mamah Borthwick (who was possibly the only person FLW ever loved other than himself) along with 6 others by his servant Julian Carlton, who set fire to the house and hacked them to death with an axe as they tried to escape.

Our house design is not an authentic Usonian, but is intended to be a modern interpretation of the style. FLW loved gadgets and new ideas so wouldn’t build the same house in 2011 that he built in the late 1930s. It is mostly one story, but has one room that’s upstairs (not the first Usonian with 2 stories though, the Pew House was 2 story), but it is long and low with a flat roof in the Usonian style. It is not as small at 3050 sqr feet, but follows the Usonian principles of small bedrooms to free up living space, no attic, and flat roof with large overhangs. It has a carport rather than a garage, something that Frank Lloyd Wright invented, for which he coined the term ‘carport’. These were often cantilevered with no supports, looking really cool, but they all eventually sagged. So ours has a support post. That’s if Lakeway City allows us a carport, as their building ordinances call for a minimum of 2-car attached garage. It is now known that attached garages are very unhealthy.

The house will be constructed with a steel frame and using the UltraFrame steel structural insulated panels (SIP) from Transcon Steel in Georgetown Texas, about 15 miles north of Austin. This consists of a steel stud with 6 inches of polystyrene foam. The external cladding (siding to Americans) is eco-friendly Accoya wood. The architects are Bercy Chen Studio. Calvin Chen is the principal architect, aided by Daniel Arellano. Our lot is 2.47 acres of wooded land in the center of Lakeway, with a creek (stream) at the end of garden which flows into Lake Travis.

The plans are mostly complete, we are just waiting on the structural engineer to complete the design of the steel frame. I will try and update this as progress begins. I just bought a time-lapse camera to take a photo every 1 hours during daylight hours.