Here are the promised exterior elevations/views of the house (for the most part). Check them out and let me know your thoughts.
The overall design of the house is very much driven by simplicity, taking a simple geometric form and manipulating it through a set of moves. As a result, the exterior design strategy reflects this same language and responds to this same strategy.
As mentioned in the previous post, the design of the house inherently becomes very linear in nature, due to the narrowness of the lot. As a result, the exterior material strategy responds to this condition, reacting to the linear nature while also reinforcing it in certain ways.
The material palette is limited, reflecting the minimal nature of the house. The materials currently being explored include: metal, fiber cement, wood, and perforated metal.
The primary exterior cladding is a vertical metal panel. The vertical nature of the panel responds to the linear condition of the house, not necessarily in opposition to it, but does serve to soften the length of the home and also provides a sense of verticality and scale to the house.
The secondary material is fiber cement lap siding and panel siding, a material very common in residential architecture. The horizontal nature of the lap siding serves as a strong contrast to the verticality of the metal, while still being subtle in nature, due to its dark color. The introduction of this material also serves as an opportunity to break down the exterior, providing moments of relieve from the primary cladding material and creating a sense of patterning on the facade. The panels give the sensation of the windows pushing down from above, up from below, or wrapping around the corner. This provides a sense of movement, activating the exterior.
The third material is wood. The introduction of wood at the recessed/carved out portions of the house serves to provide a sense of texture at the human scale. The wood is introduced at the recessed front entry and at the courtyard carved out between the garage and main house. These spaces are moments where the human scale is important, as they are moments of constant interaction and the wood provides that sense of warmth at these key moments where the user continuously interacts with the house.
The final material is a perforated metal. This metal serves as a sort of screen wall at the front entry. This entry is defined by the carving out of space, revealing the wood material, and the metal screen wall occupies the western edge of this entry porch. The perforations in the metal allow for a transparency through the space and a lightness to the space but still serve to define the front entry visually. Further, the perforations allow for the opportunity to use the material as a climbing surface, allowing vegetation to interact with the wall surface and also to soften this front entry.
As you may or may not remember, I had previously mentioned I was in the process of purchasing a vacant lot on Lexington Street in Fountain Square. After unforeseen circumstances involving existing unpaid demo fees on that lot, the brokerage firm was unable to sell the lot. As a result of this, I was forced to move on and continue the search for a suitable lot for my own house in Fountain Square.
This search for a vacant piece of property in Fountain Square has not necessarily been an easy one. Vacant lots on the open market are few and far between, so I’ve found it takes a little more digging and determination to find a piece of property. Alas, I have discovered my lot (a fantastic one…I might add), and the quest to build my own home continues.
The new lot location is on the west end of Hosbrook (955 Hosbrook) and is quite unique to Indianapolis (not 100% unique to Fountain Square though). Why is it unique? Simply put, it’s 1600 square feet. Yes, 1600 square feet for the entire lot (it seems many of the homes built today have a footprint of 1600 square feet, let alone the entire lot being this size).
Now, you may be wondering why I would be so interested and committed to building on such a small piece of property, but really, there are plenty of reasons to justify the lot.
The location is great.
The property shares an alley with the north side of Virginia Ave, meaning I am adjacent to the main commercial drag in the neighborhood. This means quick access to restaurants, bars, art galleries, the cultural trail, etc. I think you get it. All of the reasons Fountain Square is so great. It’s a completely walkable neighborhood, and this lot takes full advantage of this fact.
The view is great.
Because of the wonderful introduction of the interstate system through downtown Indianapolis (this is obviously sarcasm here), This property ends up with an uninterrupted view of downtown Indy (not dissimilar from the Shelby Street house). Further, you get nice views up Virginia Ave into Fletcher Place and Holy Rosary as well.
The neighborhood is great.
Fountain Square is definitely on the upswing, the residential areas are no different. This lot on Hosbrook actually sits within the small hood known as North Square. It’s a really great location as North Square has a small but active neighborhood association and has a great mix of people in the neighborhood. Also, it’s great to see the mix of architectural styles in the neighborhood and openness to new and contemporary ideas about home design.
The lot essentially forces the belief in house size and scale.
To me, this is by far the number one reason I love this lot. It’s a 20 foot wide lot (give or take a couple feet…waiting on the official survey), something not often seen in the flat and sprawling city of Indianapolis. Fountain Square, however, has a much higher concentration of these 20′ lots than most other parts of the city. Much of Fountain Square developed as a more working class neighborhood, resulting in much more modest homes, and often modest meant smaller in scale. As a result, the shotgun house typology was one often turned to for new homes in the neighborhood, and these were most often built on 20′ lots.
Further, not only is the lot narrow, it’s shallow (less than 80′ deep). Because of the way the street grid works, with Virginia being one of the four spokes out from Monument Circle, you end up this narrowing condition as one moves west along Hosbrook Street, each lot becoming shallower and shallower. This lot being at the west end of the street, is one of the shallowest lots on the street, and probably within the entire neighborhood.
I actually love these constraints. I often find the constraints open up new ways of thinking about design. They force us into a set of parameters, and these parameters are foreign to our typical day to day design processes. As a result, the design will necessarily be specific to its location and given condition, and will take advantage of these constraints (these constraints become opportunities to re-imagine the house and re-envision it).
It is my hope that with this house we can continue the discussion on how we live and how size factors into this. We have become so much a society built on material goods, constantly bombarded with advertising, products, electronics, etc. While I am not much different from the average person and often fascinated by many of these products, I want this house to be a testament to a smaller, more simple way of living, stripping the house of much of its unnecessary square footage and better understanding how to efficiently use space.
As you probably already guessed, I have been hard at work scheming away, and am definitely liking the direction the design is going. There are a number of factors at play with the design, beyond its site, including cost, materiality, form, scale, size, etc. As I continue to work through these schematics I will most definitely share these with you. Look for some plans in a few days (as I am almost set on their direction).
As you can tell…I’ve really been slacking on this whole blogging thing for quite some time. However, it seems like a good time to get back into the rhythm. Spring has made a few appearances, which means things should be picking up for both me, 701 Shelby, and various developments and happenings throughout the city. Spring is always a great reminder of the beauty and value in a place and a pleasant reminder why I am in Indy and all of the great things happening in the city.
Because it’s spring, it’s time for landscaping to happen at 701 Shelby. We have gone through various landscape iterations, with help from a few different people. A friend of mine, James Poisel, happens to be a landscape architect and has graciously lent his help on the project. Below is the current plan, minus a few very minor modifications (click on the link for a better quality image of the plan):
As you can see from the plan, there is a strong emphasis on native plantings and minimizing the use of turf. We all know the problems and issues that grass lawns create, and this house has always been about living the right way, living responsibly. The landscape is a direct reflection of this mantra, with a series of low maintenance, local trees, grasses, flowering plants, and plenty of space for raised vegetable garden beds.
Keep a watch on the blog for updated photos as the work begins. The landscape will really tie everything together and demonstrate the home’s strong intention to marry interior with exterior, house and landscape.
Also, there will be some updates in the near future on some changes in plans with the lot in Fountain Square…as some issues were encountered…though I still plan on building in the neighborhood…no doubt about that.
Thanks for following the blog and look for some more regularity being brought back to it!
I thought I would share a few interior photos of how the space is shaping up. While it’s still not quite 100% yet, you can really get a good sense for the quality of the spaces.
As you can tell in the photos, one of the biggest drivers for the the space was access to natural light. While we couldn’t break the budget on windows and daylighting, we understand the role daylight plays in creating inviting interior environments.
We will share more interior photos after the finishing touches are put on and also will share exterior as landscaping begins to happen in the spring.
After installation of the plywood second floor, we were left with a number of extra pre-cut 1′x4′ boards. As a result, I came up with the idea to produce a simple television console table. The table’s design is intended to be simple in nature, with the introduction of only two additional materials, scrap 2x4s for the legs and a sheet of pegboard for the sliding door panels.
The design speaks to simplicity in form, materiality, and finish (left unfinished), utilizing off-the-shelf products to produce a piece that complements the design of the home.
Check it out:
The piece was fabricated with the help of my friend and industrial designer Chris Stuart. Chris runs Luur, a design-build operation in town. He is a fantastic designer and we are lucky to have such a talent. Definitely check out his work.
Finally we have electricity in the house!
The lighting in the house is somewhat unique. We went with recessed LED can lights throughout most of the house and the cool thing about the lighting is the use of the Verve Living System. I’ve mentioned this system in previous posts but for those of you who aren’t familiar, essentially it is a lighting control system which allows for the introduction of wireless switches throughout the house. All of the fixtures are fed through 10 channel controllers which the wireless switches communicate with. The system gives you the flexibility to reprogram switches as often as you like, and also provides a master switch which allows for creating scene settings and then saving them. Additionally, as a part of the switch design, all of the lights are dimmable down to 5%.
Last week a Ben McGhee and I wrapped up an entry for a design competition focusing on $30,000 single occupant home. Let me know what you guys think. Ben did a post on his blog. Check it out:
We are hosting a gallery show in conjunction with the American Institute of Architect’s Home Tour. It will open at the Harrison Center as part of First Friday in September. Check it out.
Also, we are still accepting submissions for potential entries for the show until the end of July. If you are interested and have a great idea and vision for the site, submit it!
“The goal of this project is to explore the intrinsic differences between designers and how they approach creative challenges. We’re seeking 20 designers to collaborate with us to create designs for an urban lot in downtown Indianapolis. We do not own this lot, and we’re not seeking legitimate proposals for things to do with it – the site is just a representation of a common problem in an urban area. Rather, by asking all of the designers to approach precisely the same problem using the same format, we seek to draw a contrast between the designs themselves.”
I thought I would take a moment to update everyone on the current status of the house. As most of you have noticed…there has not been a blog post for quite some time now. This is a result of a stoppage in work on the house.
As you may or may not be aware, this project is being done through a local CDC (Community Development Corporation) in town. Additionally, there are Neighborhood Stabilization Funds (Government Funding) as a part of the project. As a result of this, the project really is at the mercy of both of these organizations, and we all know how quickly things move when the government is involved.
The house has been sitting…waiting…for a good period of time now on finances from both the CDC and the city to move forward with the completion of the project.
Additionally, there have been some internal changes in the parties involved and things have been getting sorted out. We have been at the mercy of the CDC and its contractors…which, frankly, has not been a great experience. There are errors that are slated to be corrected and the appropriate responses are now in order.
So…work should resume very soon, starting next week. When it does, I will walk you through the remainder of the process. It’s going to be a wild ride to the finish…as we are really pushing for the home to be done this summer…and it needs to be…for the sanity of everyone involved.
Thanks for your patience and continued following of the project.
With all of this said and done, I am still confident that the design will be a success in the end for my brother and will demonstrate the ability to produce a contemporary home at an affordable rate on an urban lot in Indianapolis. We have had our fair share of bumps in the road that were outside of our control but we are doing the best to deal with them in the most appropriate manner. Needless to say, this has been a very eye-opening experience toward many of the parties involved. We have learned a great deal and many of the frustrations we have been forced to deal with should not have had to happen…but that’s the nature of working with certain organizations and contractors. These setbacks have not, however, deflated my passion for this project or for future projects of this manner in the city. It is my opinion that Indianapolis needs more projects like this one and, honestly, I think there is a growing market for efficient, affordable, contemporary homes in the city.
Thanks again for following the project and all the craziness involved…it’s been quite a ride and we hope we can wrap things up within the next couple months (in time for the AIA Home Tour)!!!