ArcoFlecha

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The husband, a real estate developer, saw the potential in a corner site that had been overlooked by most for it’s seeming lack of privacy.  The design solved that by creating a barrier to the street, with mono-pitched roofs that rise to capture high views on the street- side, and come down low to shelter the house from the sun on the south and west.  Thus, in the private pool area, the house creates a wall that frames the high views while providing complete privacy for the users.

The plan is a loose arc, each element having a different roof so as to avoid expensive junctures.  The arrow to this bow is the lap pool which the whole house is sited off of, since it aligns with a view corridor that slices through adjacent lots so the view will always be preserved.  The wife was an interior designer that captured the home’s sensibility perfectly, as the images demonstrate.

 

Four images by Michael Mathers

Mexican Sedona

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The clients were art collectors and very experienced in the world of design, including being familiar with the work of famed Mexican modernists such as Luis Barragan and Ricardo Legorreta. Although I don’t approach design in terms of “styles”, but rather respond to the situations of site and client requirements, I refer to this as “Mexican” because it was the first project where I was allowed to fully use all the materials, detailing, and design sensibilities of what I had grown up with and what, in a way, comes naturally to me.

Although the house has large expanses of glass, the focus was nonetheless on the shelter and embrace of large walled areas in rustic finishes that contrast with refined, modern detailing. And although it has Mexican roots, the house is very much of Sedona, especially in relation to it’s thickly wooded site where the house rambles and dances around trees, including the creation of surprising internal courtyards that preserve many of these.

 

Two images by Michael Mathers

Architectural Musings

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This blog is for musings on architecture since I have as much of an interest in the history of arhitecture and archaeology as I do in creating architecture.  It is not meant for anyone in particular, since few might be interested in the particular topics.   In any event,  it’s just a place to have fun putting thoughts on architecture down permanently rather than just have them flitting in one’s  mind. And by putting it out there, the opportunity is there to share it with someone else who might enjoy these musings.

To Musings

Private Residential

Sketches

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I use to sketch quite a lot whenever I traveled, hiked, or visited architecure I liked.  It will be at least a year until I am able to access old sketchbooks to scan some of this work, but the images here give a flavor.  Besides physically moving through architecture, there is no better way for an architect to understand it than to sketch it.  Things are revealed that escape the casual glance, and impress it in the memory far more than the taking of a photograph.  As to whether the drawing of the nature makes one more in tune and harmony to design for a particular place is, in the end, an unanswerable proposition.  But that it makes one love a place more and value it is a cetainty.

Tlaquepaque Art Village

“…the principle of the second man: it is the second man who determines whether the creation of the first man will be carried forward or destroyed”
Edmund Bacon, “The Design of Cities”

 

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Tlaquepaque is probably the most loved architectural complex in Sedona. Created by Abe Miller, a retired developer, on land by Oak Creek, he traveled to Mexico several times to collect antiques for the project and then he and his architect and builder created numerous fountain courtyards woven around the magnificent sycamores on the site, They built in vernacular fashion, without levels or plumbs, and created a magical environment that is the best urban design in Sedona, a place where people can experience the pedestrian lifestyle that all old towns use to revolve around.

Thus, the first rule of design in such a situation is to defer to the existing buildings. Various antiques and a large mural were saved from the demolition of a patio screen wall and relocated in various locations on the new building. We had to work hard to make these buildings appear aged naturally over time as the existing ones had, but we knew we were successful when, newly opened, some visitors did not believe they were new buildings and additions to the complex. We don’t do traditional design like this for new buildings elsewhere, but we were more than happy to do so for this project, and were grateful to be able to add to and preserve Tlaquepaque’s unique magic.

Visit Tlaquepaque at www.tlaq.com

 

Fire

“Architecture appears for the first time when the sunlight hits a wall.
The sun does not realize how beautiful it is until after a room is made.”

Louis Kahn, architect

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Architecture has always reveled in the play of light. There is the practical planning of keeping the sun out in hot climes in summer, and welcoming it into the house in colder locations in winter. There is a deep satisfaction in living in such a place that cannot be captured in photographs. Then there is the aesthetic play of shadow and form on the exterior and the delight of playing with light on the interior in innumerable ways.

I have always been fascinated with the shaft of light, both to illuminate rooms in gentle or dramatic ways and to make one conscious of light itself and the passing of time: buildings then become clocks for the day and the round of seasons. As all light is extension of fire from our sun, there is fire itself, contained light that we burn at our convenience. Despite our modernity, there is a deep, atavistic pleasure in watching a burning fire as well as the comfort of it on a cold night.

 

Water

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water”
Loran Eisely

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Water. There is nothing so magical in desert climates. I became an architect because I wanted to design fountains. I became enchanted by the whole of architecture and the immense world it encompasses, but have never lost my love for water. All the swimming pools are by commission, in other words at the client’s request. They can be spectacularly beautiful, but, in a way, are the ultimate luxury: they are not necessary, but they are a joy to design.

But I find it hard to live without a fountain: for such a small thing, it give out pleasure and creates an enchanted aura far beyond it’s size. And simply by doing two fountains, one can create the impression of living in a water gardent. Yet oddly enough very few of the fountains I’ve designed have ever come to reality: by the end of construction, most people are concerned with interiors or furnishings or landscaping, or just being done. Costs and worries about maintenance are also a concern. However, as someone who cleans his own fountain, the pleasures of it are worth every ounce of effort.

We are also privileged in our time with the magic of water in the home. Unless one has gone without water for a long time, it is far too easy to take such treats for granted. Ideally, design helps one appreciate the miracle of instant running water in ever more creative sinks, tubs, and showers. And it doesn’t get much better than an outdoor shower with beautiful red rock views.

Air

“The space within became the reality of the building…”
Frank Lloyd Wright

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The creation of space is the most unique element of architecture, yet the hardest to capture in images.  It simply has to be experienced in real life, through movement.  This is why the art of procession and sequencing is so critical in architecture… and so pleasurable.

Although these images might fail to convey the spatial quality, they are an attempt.

There are also the “air” and space qualities provided by that most modern of materials, large plate glass, and, in Sedona, the relation to distant views— there are few places where capturing the view is so important for an architect.

Lastly, I have an abiding love for covered porches, for a glass house cannot compare to being in the open air:  to be able to feel the breeze, to hear running water, to smell the different plants, to enjoy the outdoors without being baked in the desert sun, to sit dry in a rainstorm and watch it’s changing manifestations are all the pleasures of good, sheltered outdoor living.

Earth

“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet…”

Khalil Gibran

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There are too many materials of the earth to express them all in photographs:  adobe, plasters, tiles, and stone.  In Sedona, the latter is the most expressive of the nature of this place.  If costs can be prohibitive to build an entire house of rock, its ready availability still allows the use of amazing pieces of stone in key locations, rock that would be hard to come by in most places.  The use of rough hewn, natural materials of the earth can help ground houses that are more modern and balance the use of large expanses of glass in order to create warm and sheltering environments.  And of course the limitless use of colored plasters and tiles can serve the same purpose, as well as expressing the unique taste of each client.

Charles Van Block   Architects, Inc.  -  2675 W Hwy 89a #1239  -  Sedona AZ 86336  - Tel: 928-607-6446 -  Email

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