Small House One

House one for my brother, Imperial Close Park Royal: Floraville.

This is actually house two. House one is the project home I helped him select. I could not compete. It was to be a rental house. Initial cost reduction was the most important thing.

The form of this house was determined by view sharing. We established the verandah level of the upper neighbour. We visited them and talked to them about what parts of the view were important. We set a level at their balustrade. This determined house three's highest ridge. We then set out the floor levels and worked out that the roof had to be very low. Flat. But flat roofs are not flat. I had both houses with very flat skillions with North clerestory windows. For this would be guaranteed North light. My father questioned the junctions of the clerestories. I think I idly drew in a very flat curve one day during this discussion and my brother seised the idea.

They are orientated to take advantage of the distant ocean views to the South. To achieve both North living and South view was a design challenge. We discovered on site that the toilet has a good view. It was so good my father re-designed the stairs so it could be seen when you arrived at the top. He forgot, I think, there would be a wc pan there. Perhaps a half barn door would have been good. But it would be odd, so it was not carried out.

They were meant to be small houses but by the time we had added the obligatory ensuites and robes (to meet the rental market and later resale) they got larger. JohnsHouse1Web.JPG

An error in the footings meant this house got even larger. Error in footings is very common. The so called standard project home for house one had an error and became 250mm bigger in the living area.

While under construction the builder, my father, objected to the stepped floor down to the living which followed the site. This change affected the fenestration. It also later revealed a bonus storage space to the adjacent garage. It was my idea to use corrugated sheeting as the soffit to the front overhang. My father's idea was to use UPVC storwater pipe to cap it. I had proposed plywood cut to the curve but my father did not like heights. It took us a month to pick the bricks. My father likes light colours. I decided texture was the most important which limited the selection. I normally would have selected the smooth weatherboard to go with the textured brick, however, the display at the hardware store showed, strangly, that the smooth looked dirtier than the mill finish (It was also painted a pale green). It is odder still that now I dont notice the texture at all. This may be due to the weatherboard being high on the wall and painted off-white which reflects so much light the feature is lost. I normally would select white, apo grey or anodised window frames, but after examination in all lights and some discussion it was decided the creamy pearl-white went best with the brick.

The glory of the house will be something I did not design really. I had designed the front stairs in keeping with the site, two small almost not there runs up to the lower living room level and then steps inside up to the main house level. My father built the living room up and forgot implications for the front stairs. I had been busy at the time. He realised it one day when he was looking out the front and thought 'that is a bit of a way down'! I and my brother rethought the situation and came up with a fairly conventional run than came beside the living windows to the high side. We struggled with the idea of going past the windows, but the alternative my father did not like, he wanted rail in front. I cannot who remember who came up with the curve. When it was there as an idea we went to the site and I drew it on the FC sheeting conceptually. We flipped it and then I put it at an angle. I offered a few suggestions as to how we could make them and my father came up with the idea of cantilevered steps off a circular tube. I went and hugged him. He thought it would be easy to make. Well it was not, but he's done it! My brother used a free CAD program and his mathematical knowledge of complex curves to work out the tread locations on the bent tube.

The reason why the house is built is that the subdivison developer's geotechnical engineer believed the site should not be built on. We questioned this, as above the site is a large framed house. We found a geotechnical engineer dug a few test cuts on the site and designed suitable footings and most importantly the drainage to remove the water from below the level of the footings. Ironically it turned out the part of the site that was flat was the most unstable being a filled in swamp (complete with curious bugs that burrow into the skin). It does cost more to build on sloping sites, especially ones with unfavourable geotechnical classifications. But anything can be done. And this site is stable compared to the mud of the hills that Los Angelos builds on!

The changes from the original plans show that just as a prophet is not without honour except in his own country, so architects generally are not the chief designers in their own house. Which in this case was not all bad.

It is interesting that in Genesis it is recorded that the Elohim (Gods) said "let their be light", and then there was light. It sounds like a decision was come to, verbalised, and then the work carried out. A bit like what happened here, except we hadn't the Power of the universe to carry out the work - and it took over a year.