Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Conceptual Design for Ghost House Addition

Below is our proposal for a new addition. The owners, Mark and Jenny Johnson, wanted us to propose a way to both preserve the historical house and identify a way to integrate new construction on the site. The original house is four rooms: 2 downstairs living spaces and 2 upstairs bedrooms. The kitchen and bathroom were housed in later additions. As the house will be returned to its original structure- the south wing of the house is too far gone to save- we have proposed a new addition to house modern systems. We will not introduce any HVAC or plumbing to the original house. The proposal for the addition retains a memory of the south wing through a roof which stretches across the footprint of the building. The addition is a discrete object under the roof. In the upcoming weeks we will be refining design for the new addition to be constructed at a later date.

Conceptual Site Plan and Program Strategy

Through studies of both the project site and the surrounding neighborhood we have proposed a conceptual plan for both new buildings and how the site will be used.

Below is the strategy guiding the site plan and our overall thinking of how the landscape can provide the setting for a historical home and it's re-birth as an active space for both intimate gatherings of family and friends and spirited events which embrace Marfa culture and the surrounding landscape of Padre's, the Crowley, the railroad and the church bell tower.

Site Plan

Entry sequence
To restore the historical approach to house the front will be deliniated through low adobe knee walls set into a low maintenace garden. The approach is centered on the historical house's front door and privledges pedestrian access to the house. The house it set on a 6 inch elevated pad constructed of plate steel, back filled and finished with gravel. Low plantings can be added in specific places, but the intent is to keep plants away from the house. The pad concentrates circulation around the house on the east side, which will lead to the site of the future house. Inspired by an exisitng peach tree, the eastern side will be established as an orchard.

In the back of the house the pad completes the voided space created by the L-shaped arrangement of the house, by generating a courtyard. This space will be shaded by a new tree and act as a space for family outdoor dining and sitting around a fire. The courtyard will act as an extension of the new additions living space. Family gathering will be focused in this space. The breezeway acts both as the outdoor kitchen and a connection from historical house to new addition and connection from the courtyard in the event/ play field.

Private Courtyard - Daytime
Private Courtyard- Evening

Event/play field
On the west side of the house a flexible space will be established through a 12 foot tubed steel square arch. The arch can hold swings for playing, it can act as a support for a temproary shade structure,or a spinnaker panel can be stretched across to allow for an outdoor film screening. The field will be a compacted gravel surface and moments of soft native grasses.

Event Field- Film Night

Behind the arch structure is the location for a future airstream trailer. It's relationship to David Beebe's trailer will allow the field to contain some of the spirit found in nearby El Cosmico. Car parking is located behind the new addition. As the surfacing carried over from the field it has the ability to transition into more than 3 spaces if required and could accomodate a covered structure in the future. This space is ampleenough to contain any neccesary shed or water cisterns for rain water collection.

Future House
The decision to locate the future house in the south east corner is a motivated by both a desire to build a strong relationship with the historical house and to maintain a buffer between Padre's and residential spaces. The future house will appear to peek from behind the historical house, as opposed to sitting on a discreet lot if it were located on the west side. The future house will share the courtyard space and maintain quick access to cars for packing in and out of visits.

Fencing strategy
Through a sequence of 3 foot adobe walls, 5 foot tall fence panels and landscaping the site will maintain zones of privacy, neighborhood contact and screening. The panels will transition between three states: first privacy through denser material; second, transparency will define clear boundaries; and third, panels disappear while maintaining the posts to allow for access. Low adobe walls at the front will allow neighbors to see the historical house with no barrier and will be used to create more intimate space within the courtyard. Planting can be used in certain locations to provide additional coverage and soften transitions.

Rental Property
Though some screening will be desirable to cover the side of the Padre's building. David Beebe's trailer will be embraced by the site, and neighborly access will be accomodated through openings in the fence panals. If full fencing is desired in the future additional panals can be added to the exisitng scheme.

Our Contractor

This is Ty Mitchell. He's as West Texas as they get. He is responsible for the remodel of Padre's and very soon Ghost House! We are very excited to be working with him and his crew. A cold beer at the end of the day is twice as rewarding when Ty is filling your head with cowboy stories and tactical lessons on killing mountain lions.

Adobe Workshop at the Haunted House

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Someone sent us a message.

Casting Adobe - the adult version of making mud pies

As we are taking on the restoration of a 105 year old adobe house. David, Rachel and I have had to learn about adobe as quickly as possible. We started out the summer with attending and International Conference on Earth Architecture in El Rito New Mexico where we met the notorious team from Cornerstone Community Partnership, along with a cast of characters; our favorite being a lime plaster "scientist" named Paul White. Marfa has proven to be a generous community with local trades people dropping by the site to offer assistance. Mr. Joe Urunga (as seen in the following images with David) is one of those locals, who comes from a long line of adobe makers and mud/lime plasterers. As the convention in Marfa is to cover adobe with concrete, which completely undermines the adobes integrity and the thermal function of adobe, we were excited to meet someone enthusiastic about going back to the old traditions. David and I built a form and hand casted 18"x14"x6" blocks reconstituted from old adobe around our project site. The following day, Joe brought out his hydraulic compressive earth block machine and over saw our test block making. One exciting discovery was that crushed glass made a fantastic aggregate (usually gravel is used). As the notorious dance hall and bar, Padres, is next door, we were able to tumble the beer bottles and add them to our adobe mix!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We've arrived...

David, Rachel and I are spending the summer with one of the oldest houses in Marfa, Texas, which has been recently purchased by the Johnson family of Houston. The house will tell us what it was and what it wants to be, before we determine how to bring it back to life for another 100 years. Currently it stands as a shadow of a time, only remembered by passing trains and pick-ups driven by Marfa's oldest generation. The house is a two story adobe home, painfully neglected but still loved by all who know it and those who come upon it on a visit to this mystical, West Texas town. The house asks us to question our ways of building, our need to preserve and how we make decisions through listening to the experts, the local crafts-people, the fourth generation neighbors, the tall, weathered cowboys, the stories lost in photographs, the artifacts we uncover on site, the dry dust inside of cool morning air, and the walls constructed of the same dirt from which it stands upon.

Our work will find itself inside the verses of Walt Whitman.

All architecture is what you do when you look upon it;

Did you think it was in the white or gray stone? or

the lines of the arches and cornices?