2019 Semester in Sustainable Design/Build - Choosing Our Design

September 14, 2019
By Madi Visser, Semester Program Teaching Assistant


Written by Archie Keltz


After a weekend of completing the twelve-hour Lord of the Rings director’s cut with Trey, one quote comes to mind that applies to this week.


“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”



It is sometimes making that decision, though, that takes up all our time.


We spent the past two weeks gradually moving closer to a single dorm building design from two group designs, which were condensed down from a pool of individual design schemes. This week has been, as Britton says, “interesting” as we quickly come to see how quickly our attachments bond to our creative work. It was real savvy of Mac and Andy to step out for our first crack at the process.


Despite having a general “barbell” parti, the building we settled on was largely influenced by one decision–what the roof would be.


Some things we kept in mind when making roof decisions:

–the value of learning experience-if it’s all by-the-book-easy to build, how much did you really get out of the experience?


–building effort–If it’s hard to build it had better be worth it.

–concept communication–Does the form follow the parti? Or does it just look like a building?

–Vetruvius’ Theory: commodity, firmness, delight

–contextual in the campus of Yestermorrow


One thing became clear throughout this first chapter of the design process: Nothing is final. Going forward some decisions will change, so the only thing you can bank on is that time will run out, and the wheel will eventually come to a stop on one fate. This is why, when it comes to most creative fields, it is important to constantly organize one’s values into a hierarchy. It is the only way to ensure that the prominence of important elements (and level of craftsmanship), is oriented properly in the context of the building. In the shadow of a deadline, ideas will be modified and discarded, so it’s a good idea to make sure your values are voiced. 


The field trip to the Archie Bunker house on Tuesday was worthwhile despite being on the brink of rushing the design process. It was super important to see this building in person, since it makes such good use of space with a small footprint, communicates a strong internal logic, and goes through a metamorphosis on warm days–A wall slides out so one can seamlessly segue between interior and exterior for parties.


This was such a great experience for me since I got to meet the architect, Dave Sellers, just a couple days earlier, after he gave our class a presentation on his work and lended some advice about the design build. The house we visited definitely looked bigger in his photos, but it was very cleverly and intuitively designed, so that you just ‘almost’ hit your head on the stairs and the creative doorways, a surprising amount of times. It shows how well versed Dave Sellers is in the human experience. He is also able to balance Vetruvius’ three-fold theory of “commodity”, “firmness”, and “delight”.


On Thursday, we made some big moves. Enough of the class latched onto the green roof concept that a decision was imminent. After choosing the flat roof scheme, it was relatively simple to collaborate and get the deliverables completed for the 2:00pm pitch. I worked on the cardboard topography, and then jumped into making some window details on the model. After looking at the awesome model built by Aanika and hadley I am excited to finally zero-in on the smaller details next, come up with a reasonable aesthetic, and apply the building science we have delved into during class. Until next time!