Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Carport

Whenever I get to build, I have a need to really engage in the act of building. There needs to be something "built" about the project, something that seems "made," something that teaches me a new technique, something that offers a new medium to work with. In the Charlottesville house, it was the structural system: the house is essentially 5 pairs of brick piers spanned by huge paired wooden beams. In this house, it went beyond the setting of the modular boxes: it became the carport and the bookend.

We had a price from Bob Segalla to add a carport to the roadside end of the house. While we had drawn it into our pricing package, it was not part of the modular construction. I think he looked at it quickly and assumed it would be a straightforward garage structure, and he put a number on it. After the the house boxes were set, we re-imagined the carport relative to the new building. We lowered it's ridgeline to bring the height of the house down closer to grade. We still left it pretty tall, monumental in fact, so I could hit tennis balls and shoot basketballs within its cavernous space.

As for materials, we thought about everything, but nothing seemed to work. When Pilar made the decision to drop the ridgeline, something clicked, and it seemed obvious that we should make the supporting posts become steel columns, and the spanning beam should also be a deep steel beam. Painted black.
So here's another thing I love about Bob Segalla: when we shifted from wood construction to steel, he found it was cheaper, so he did the unthinkable: he gave us money back. That's right. Maybe I've been hanging with a lower class of guy, but that just doesn't seem to ever happen, in building or life. There's still one guy out there......
To end the house, I had fallen in love with the idea of a stone end. I remember on a boat trip to Shelter Island seeing the ruins of a magnificent barn: all that was left were the stone gable ends, perfect stone blades amid the overgrown vines. I remembered Kahn's dictum to "build good ruins." We looked into stone, got it priced, but inevitably, I seemed drawn to making a white white surface that shot down into the green grass of the field. I wanted it smooth, white, maintenance free. Stucco.
I considered putting a gigantic opening in this end, a giant glassless opening. Lots of people thought this should happen, but I didn't want a carport that totally failed: I didn't want to have to scrape snow off the truck every single time. And I really really liked the idea of a monolithic blade of white in the grass. So, it became just that. Now, every time I see it, especially up close, it makes me think I'm somewhere warm and sunny.