Take the Leap

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Yes, its true. 

This week marks the start of a brand new business venture, one that has been a long time coming and one that affords me the opportunity to pursue concepts and practices in architecture I have been passionate about for quite some time.

Neon Architecture. Yes, Neon Architecture. Why Neon? Why not? Neon exemplifies and represents much of what we are striving for. To stand out. To be bold. To go against the norm. To challenge the status quo.

The modern lifestyle of today is much different than it was even 3 or 5 years ago and its our responsibility as designers and builders to respond to this shifting trend and to do so in a thoughtful, conscientious, well-designed manner.

People want to live in cities. People want to live in urban environments. People want to live in homes that reflect their lifestyle and reflect the way they truly live, from the quality of space to its size to its relationship to the outdoors. They want smart spaces; spaces that are efficient and useful; spaces that they can live in and grow in.

As many of you are aware, 955 Hosbrook is the first house we are executing. It is the prototype for our foray into both the design and construction world. It represents many of these ideals mentioned above and serves as a benchmark for our future development.

955 Hosbrook - site of initial prefab home

955 Hosbrook – site of initial prefab home

955 Hosbrook is built by prefab (modular) methods, meaning it’s primarily built in a controlled, factory setting. Why, you might ask? Prefabricated homes simply afford a greater level of control and precision, being built outside of the elements in a controlled environment with a streamlined process. To us, it just makes sense. The prefabricated, factory built model is a better use of resources, taking advantage of the industry and producing a better built home. We design it, the factory builds it, you buy it. Simplify the process, simplify the product, tailor it to the 21st century…I think you get it.

So, if you, or someone you know, wants a pretty sweet little home…now you know where to look! Ha, but seriously, we feel that designers and builders have genuinely been hesitant to touch this market and this demographic. We can’t continue to do so…and…frankly…why would we want to neglect the way people live today and continue to give them the same home we saw 15 years ago? I know we, at Neon Architecture, don’t think that’s the responsible way to work in the world today.

955 Hosbrook is under construction in the factory and things are in the works. Site work is commencing and, before you know it, the crane will be rolling down the street to set the home…these are exciting times. We are continuing to acquire lots for building and are in the early design stages for future homes to build this year. We’ve got a lot in the works and would love for all of you to come along for the ride.

So, stay tuned for lots and lots of new info in the coming days and weeks. We will soon have a fully operational website where we will be transitioning much of this blog as well as tons of other great info. Let’s do it!

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Architects’ Home Tour

All, I am chairing the 2014 AIA Architects’ Home Tour. The event is a bi-annual tour which showcases architect designed homes in Indianapolis.

One 10 Studio

One 10 Studio – Chatham Arch

This year’s tour is a bit unique, in that it focuses on homes in the city and homes in distinct Indianapolis neighborhoods. You’ll find homes in Fountain Square, Chatham Arch, Cottage Home, Herron Morton, Glendale, Broad Ripple, and Butler Tarkington.

To me, the tour is a great opportunity for the general public to see what an architect designed home looks like and to better understand the value that architects bring to the residential world. The tour showcases the ability of architects to bring creative, unique solutions to the house.

If you enjoy this blog and enjoy the work happening here, you most certainly will enjoy the tour. Please check out our website for more info, a sneak peak of all the homes, and to purchase tickets.

Architects’ Home Tour

Also, we are planning a film screening the Friday night before the tour. Keep your eyes and ears open regarding this!

AIA_ArchTour_072014_A0082

Demerly Architects – Broad Ripple

 

 

Full Steam Ahead

In case you haven’t heard, full steam ahead with prefab and All-American Homes! We submitted the deposit at the beginning of last week and are eagerly awaiting their drawings for review. After we received these and talk with them, I’ll update you on where things stand.

All-American Homes Factory...Impressive!

All-American Homes Factory…Impressive!

Keep your eyes and ears peeled as progress continues forward…more and more posts will happen as we near the start of construction! Get excited!

Factory Meeting

Building Blocks

It seems to be a good time to update everyone on what has been going on behind the scenes for my new home in Fountain Square.

As many of you know, the process of designing and building a new home is a challenging one, especially when dealing with many of the constraints of 955 Hosbrook, primarily being the lot size and budget constraints. But, as you know, I am a firm believer in designing compact, contemporary designs that don’t break the bank. As a result, I have been hard at work behind the scenes weighing options, tweaking design elements, exploring construction techniques, etc, etc.

One method of construction that has quickly moved to the forefront of options and is almost finalized in becoming the chosen method of construction for this house is prefab/modular construction. I have met with All-American Homes (factory in Decatur, IN), toured their factory, and been in numerous talks with them regarding my house. It just so happens, by the way, that the dimensions of my house lend themselves almost perfectly to their construction techniques.

While much of their work is more traditional in its aesthetics, they have certainly not ignored the contemporary housing market and have been involved in a few really interesting projects:

Michelle Kaufmann‘s Smart Home at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago:

smart home

 

Tryon Farm by Edward Noonan & Associates in Michigan City, IN:

tryon farm

As you can see, these projects lend themselves to a very similar aesthetic. We hope to be able to determine if this is our best direction in the very near future so we can then move forward and proceed with the start of construction.

Stay tuned! These are exciting times!

House Elevations

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.

Northwest View

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.

North Elevation

East Elevation WestElevation

New Lot Location

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).

955 Hosbrook

955 Hosbrook - Close

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.

(Google Street View will have to do for the moment)

(Google Street View will have to do for the moment)

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).