NEON Architecture, come check it out.

For all of you out there following urbanhomeINDY, it’s time for you to check out the newly launched neonarchitecture.com. NEON Architecture is our new venture and we thought it makes sense for us to transition the blog to the new site. We are super excited about NEON and what we will be bringing to the Indianapolis area. The new site is where you will find all things related to 955 Hosbrook and all of our future projects (we’ve got a few good ones in the works that you all are going to want to watch go up).

Thanks so much for following urbanhomeINDY. It has been quite a great run and afforded me the opportunity to connect with a lot of really great people. While it’s a new home, you will find more of the same construction updates and design discussions on NEON that you have come to know on urbanhomeINDY.

NEON_Full-ColorEveryone should also follow us on our various social media platforms:

Instagram:     NEON Architecture

Facebook:      NEON Architecture

Twitter:          NEON Architecture

Thanks to everyone who has followed this blog. As you know, it’s been quite an adventure getting to this point, but the fun is really just beginning.

Foundation Work

955_foundation_1

The foundation work has been underway this week and will be done by the end of the week. Block work started on Monday, insulation work was yesterday, and, weather permitting, they should be wrapping up the remainder of the work by the end of this work. Guess what this means?? Yep! The house will be delivered and set next week. We are quickly going to go from nothing to a two story structure in a matter of days. Ah…the beauty of prefab.

955_foundation_2

955_foundation_3

As you can see, we opted for a crawl space on this house. This was partially driven by economics and also by the prefab process. When working with prefab homes, you have to go with either a crawl space or a basement, as a slab-on-grade simply won’t work. This is because of the way prefab homes are manufactured. In order to build walls (both interior and exterior), you need a floor structure on which to build them in the factory. This necessitates building the floor structure in the factory. As a result, a slab-on-grade simply would not work.

We will wait to do any concrete pours (the garage, garage apron, front porch, sidewalk) until after the house gets set. By the end of next week, the site is going to look dramatically different. Keep your eyes open and look for the crane mid week next week!

 

 

Take the Leap

 airplane-silhouette-in-the-sky-aircraft-hd-wallpaper-1920x1200-3408

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!

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

 

 

Prefab, Part 2

Hey everyone, we are taking another journey up to the All-American Homes factory today to talk further regarding the house, contracts, etc. Also, we will have the opportunity to see one of the new homes for Tryon Farm under construction. Looking forward to this. Look for some photos and an update soon!! The wheels are still in motion…getting closer.

tryon farm house

House at Tryon Farm

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

House Plan

I’ve been hard at work on the right plan for 955 Hosbrook. When you are dealing with any lot, you immediately look to the context and site constraints for influence. This lot is no different. The first thing you will notice is the size and scale of the plan. When dealing with a lot with a total width of 21′-6″, this absolutely becomes a driver for the design of the house.

Instead of approaching this width as a hindrance, the design for 955 embraces the concept of the narrow house, borrowing ideas from the shotgun house typology, a typology already in existence in Fountain Square. For those of you unfamiliar with the shotgun house, these are houses built primarily in the South following the Civil War and are characterized by their narrow width and minimal street frontage. They were designed for the working class, and are very small and modest in nature. Much of the reason for their narrow width is a result of taxation rules of the time, which were determined by amount of street frontage. Therefore, the narrower the house, the cheaper the taxes.

First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

The name “shotgun house” is often thought to be derived from the notion that one could open all of the interior doors in the house and a shotgun could be fired from the front door through these doors and straight out the back door of the house. This concept is the initial driver for the design of 955, the concept of continuity from front to back. As a result, the dominate design feature in the house is focused around the creation of a continuous line of casework along the western interior wall of the house, on both the first and second floors. The continuity of this feature reinforces the idea of continuity from the front door through the house to the back door, creating a pathway cutting through the house, a visual continuity along this line.

Further, this casework acts as a sort of buffer between the house and the close proximity of the freeway to the west. The casework acts as an almost thickened wall, in a sense creating a sort of buffer zone, while still being punctured in moments to allow for daylight and views of the downtown skyline. This line of casework contains much of the functional components of the house. Key functions include:

First Floor:

Coat Closet: Adjacent to the front entry is a full height coat closet, addressing the entry sequence and need for storage.

Kitchen: Just beyond the coat closet and entry is the kitchen. In a small house where space is at a premium, it makes most sense in this scheme to combine the circulation pathways needed within a kitchen space with the circulation pathway needed to move through the house. The kitchen component contains all of the necessary cooking components, including a full height pantry cabinet. The refrigerator is located on the opposite wall under the stair to allow for this casework component to be streamlined, with minimal interruptions to its continuity.

TV/Entertainment: As you move toward the living space, the casework transitions into the casework serving the adjacent living space. This casework serves as the location for the entertainment components of the living space, including television, music, and associated storage.

Work Space: Beyond the living space at the emergence of the outdoor courtyard, the casework transitions into a work space, containing desktop space providing adequate work space for computers and associated necessary storage.

Mud: At the point where the casework terminates into the garage, drop off “mud” space exists to allow for coat and shoe storage as one enters from the garage.

Second Floor:

Wardrobe Closet: The main bedroom on the second level contains a continuous run of wardrobe closet, providing adequate storage space for clothing, while still allowing for additional storage space or the option to incorporate a space for a television.

Laundry: A stackable washer/dryer element exists directly at the top of the stairs, providing direct access from the upstairs bedroom.

Books and Window Seat(s): In the corridor connection to the roof deck, the caswork becomes a sort of library space, with space for book storage and additional shelving space while also providing related window seats to sit up, read a book, and enjoy great views of downtown.

As this continuous line of casework is the conceptual framework for the house, the remainder of spaces connect from this circulation pathway, keeping interior spatial organizations simple and connected. You will notice the house occupies the majority of the site, from front to back and outdoor space is at a premium. As a result, the desire to still connect to the outdoors is one of much importance. The main living space directly flanks the outdoor courtyard, providing for an intimate green space and lots of natural light into the space. Additionally, the use of the single story garage allows to make up for the minimal ground floor outdoor space, providing a large second floor roof deck.

So, what do you guys think? As I’ve often stressed, the scale of house here is very important to me. This house is small, but serves the concept of living quite well. Let me know your thoughts. Elevations (exterior and interior) to come very soon…

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).