Tuesday, May 11, 2010

House, by John Randal McDonald

07
John Randal McDonald was an American practitioner of Organic Architecture who confesses he read The Fountainhead while in the navy, “and that absolutely blew my mind away. I had to be Howard Roark, I had to be an architect, I had to do it my way." His favourite words?

"My favorite words—mark this down—my favorite words in this world are, 'Would you be our architect?'"
See more photographs of his work here, and a 1999 interview with him here. [Hat tip Prairie Mod]
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19 Comments:

Anonymous Gerrit said...

That is one butt ugly house.

Question. How come these revered architects never use that most interesting set of drawing instruments called french curves?

Lloyd Wright is another who can only draw straight lines. Where is the natural flow to follow the contours of the environment that they are creating arcitecture in?

I guess in the modern age architects have yet to descover how to create a spline curve on the computer?

5/11/2010 07:56:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Gerrit

Curves are all very well............especially when you aint the one paying the builders.

In the modern age architects need to consider the cost of the build and the depth of the pockets of those doing the paying.

LGM

5/11/2010 12:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Gerrit said...

This looks much nicer (inside and out) then anyuthing the straight line architects have ever designed.

http://dornob.com/shell-house-design-spectacularly-curved-architecture/

or the McLaren car factory

http://www.pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyId=19941

Yes if the owners are only interested in maximum space for the dollar then you will design monstrosities such as the featured house in your posting.

Surely the architect has a duty to combine both the eye appeal with the pocket constriction.

Hopefully that prison block going up at Mt Eden is not one of your designs.

5/11/2010 01:15:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Gerrit: Your last name is clearly not Rietveld. :-)

And you might not realise there's been no shortage of beautifully-curved buildings on display here that you might enjoy.

Off the top of my head, for example, buildings by Bruce GoffBavinger House, Felix Candela and Santiago Calatrava, Zaha HAdid, Sarah Schneider, Hans Scharoun-- not to mention several by FRank Lloyd Wright, including his Guggenheim Museum in NY.

That said, you'd be quite wrong to call Mr McDonald's house a monstrosity. His use of natural materials and his sensitive integration of site and architecture (not to mention his ability to design small rather than large) gives the lie to such a charge.

And you'll notice that since most building material is 'stick'-like, if you want to express that appropriately you'll be building in straight lines, and when you're building in curves you'll find that your palette is going to be more limited.

Which is why so many curved houses have been made out of truly monstrous building materials like fibreglass!

But each house is designed for each client, and each context, so if you're happy to stump up the extra to build the curves . . . ;-)

Anyway, all that said, it's certainly true that so many of the computer-jockey designers of today have been using their computers less to push the boundaries of their profession, and instead to build and re-build the same CAD boxes ad nauseum. Which is hardly very inspiring. (I bet that on this at least you'll enjoy the post on Unhappy Hipsters. :-) )

5/11/2010 01:47:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Gerrit said...
I guess in the modern age architects have yet to descover how to create a spline curve on the computer?

I am not a CAD user, however I believe that spline algorithms (different variants) are already available in CAD software of today, such as covered in this AutoCAD ebook here, inside autocad's multilines & splines. So, I think that it is a matter for the user to invest time in learning those features (ie, curve interpolation) in the software to be able to master them in their design work. Splines are a must have features in modern CAD software products or otherwise, those vendors whose CAD products where splines functionalities are not available will not be competitive in the market.

5/11/2010 02:45:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

FF

If 3D curved surfaces are what is required, then you can employ the likes of Solidworks, Rhino 3D, Catia, ProEngineer etc. Nice part is that they'll do all the stressing (by way of FEA) and airflow (including CFD if you want!!!) and heating calcs for you as well. I am not aware of many architects using these. Then again, for a house they don't really need to. Complete overkill and a very expensive way to go (a SolidWorks seat is over NZ$10k).

Oh well.

LGM

5/11/2010 05:50:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

Gerrit

The McLaren HQ was really a money no object exercise. McLaren has an annual budget in the hundreds of millions of pounds to run only two cars in a few races per year (put it this way, their expenditure in operating two cars in a few races and tests each year was higher than that of the entire SR71 Mach3 aircraft operating budget during the same year- one can only imagine how much more it is presently). On top of that they have other business interests and property interests as well. Recently they paid the FIA a fine of some GBP150-million, just so they could keep spending money on racing two cars for the next season. While that pissed them off, they could and did afford it. No worries. They have that kind of cash to hand.

Ron Dennis could afford to let his achitects make the McLaren palace as extravagant and over-designed as they liked. That's not to say its the best design possible, merely that it is expensive- hence "curvey".

And for the proposed production rate of only 20 cars a day, that facility is completely and totally over the top. The ROI is likley to be woeful. Then again, Ron has the resources already. He can afford it and don't really care about the expense.

Surely the context of Ron Dennis' super-wealth shouldn't be used as the standard to which one judges all architectural clients.

LGM

PS. BTW the most difficult motor cars to design well are the cheap, small ones. They are also the most difficult to package and frustratingly hard to make profit on. Luckily McLaren stays well clear of such things. Nevertheless it is worth considering whether similar difficulties confront architects designing within strict budgetary and other limitiations.

5/11/2010 06:19:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

Gerrit said: "I guess in the modern age architects have yet to descover how to create a spline curve on the computer?"

Oh dear...... It's people such as yourself, who assume that something can be built, just as easily as it can be drawn on a computer (or piece of paper) - that are responsible for a lot of aborted projects and cost blowouts.

Drawing it is one thing, building it affordably is another - and it sounds like you know little about the latter. However you're be no means alone; many architects and engineers in NZ who are held in high regard are equally lacking.

5/12/2010 10:13:00 am  
Anonymous Gerrit said...

Mark,

Huge assumptions on your part.

I manufacture components from CAD drawings and solid modeling software using CAM.

Have a few clues in other words.

You sir are knowledgeable about??

And yes even in the engineering industry we have designers who (because solid modeling software makes it so easy) who will put a 2mm radius fillet at the bottom of a 100mm deep pocket without even knowing how to machine it cost effectively.

Solid modeling software is a great boon for 3 dimensional machining but in inexperienced hands can be a cost increaser.

5/12/2010 10:02:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

Gerrit

You wrote: "I guess in the modern age architects have yet to descover how to create a spline curve on the computer?"

You also wrote: "Huge assumptions on your part."

Had it occurred to you that second comment may be directed towards its originator?

Just asking.

LGM

5/13/2010 08:11:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

OK Gerrit, perhaps you do have a few clues. But there's a difference between producing some metal component in an engineering workshop, and building a house or structure. The latter can't be 'manufactured' like some machine component.

And whether you intended it or not, your initial comment did suggest that the only challenge was drawing it, and that the poor buggers who had to try and build it (or fund it) weren't really a concern.

Time and time again I see architects under-estimating the cost of implementing their designs, because they don't understand construction practicalities (or worse, they think it's beneath them to even consider it). And that's even without the extra 'curves' you'd like to seem them add.

And although I'd never thought of it in those terms before, I think PC is right that the fundamental reason for curves being so difficult is that "most building material is 'stick'-like". To some degree 'curves' are trying to make building materials do something unnatural.

I don't disagree with your comment that the "architect has a duty to combine both the eye appeal with the pocket constriction" - which is what I seen in the McDonald house, executed superbly.

Although even this would be far from a cheap house. At a guess it would be maybe 2-3 times the cost of 'standard' house of similar floor area.

I think you severely under-estimate the impracticality and cost of building the way you'd like. Perhaps you'll find this out for yourself first-hand one day when you go to build your own house. If you can afford to pay maybe 10 times the normal building cost, then good luck to you. :-)

5/13/2010 08:14:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

Whilst we're talking matters architectural, I should take this opportunity to put in a plug for PC. In terms of keeping things real and understanding construction practicalities, PC is one of the best architects I've dealt with. And he gives you a superb design that works for 'you' (unlike most architects, who get lost in their own fantasies).

5/13/2010 09:05:00 am  
Anonymous Gerrit said...

LGM,

Is concrete form work build to a curvature that much more costly to produce then the flat shutter formwork?

No I had not considered the comment in that light.

You dislike fibreglass. Why is that?

Timber can be easily formed into curves, many a boat has been build using steam to form curved timber structures.

With the advent of modern adhesives, laminating timber into curved structures is not that difficult.

Can clearly remember my third form art teacher expounding the truth that nothing in nature has a straight line. Everything is curved, hence my like for a bit flow and curved form.

Mark,

What you see as superb design in that house to me looks like a golf club house, designed by a committee of fifteen.

Comparing one construction method, (engineering) with another (house building) is futile. Each has its own constrains that need adherence to.

We may have a mechanical structure requiring up to several thousand components, each with a tolerance of 0.01mm being build by several dozen different firms.

You may have a building worked on by several dozen different trades.

Each has their own set of problems.

5/13/2010 11:20:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Gerrit

You ask, "Is concrete form work build to a curvature that much more costly to produce then the flat shutter formwork?"

You've answered your own question already. In general curves are more costly to produce. The difference in cost is enough to lead to the results encountered in housing- not so much curvature around, not as much as straight anyway.
---

"You dislike fibreglass. Why is that?"

I dislike fibreglass? Really? Bullshit! You made that up.
---

"Timber can be easily formed into curves, many a boat has been build using steam to form curved timber structures."

Easily? It is a particular skill to do that and not one that is commonly employed in house construction (BTW try building a boat that way and see just how "easy" it is). It is much more labour and time intensive (hence expensive) than are conventional house construction methods.

Size for size boats are extremely expensive compared to houses. They also require much intensive on-going maintenance of a scale houses are not expected to ever receive, let alone require. Remember the saying about boats being a hole in the water into which the owner throws money? There's truth in that.
---

"With the advent of modern adhesives, laminating timber into curved structures is not that difficult."

It is difficult enough to require extra $ sufficient to see other construction techniques and materials dominant.
---

"Comparing one construction method, (engineering) with another (house building) is futile. Each has its own constrains that need adherence to."

Perhaps you shouldn't have done it then.

LGM

5/13/2010 01:33:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

Gerrit

"You dislike fibreglass. Why is that?"

Well OK then. I usually prefer to specify carbon composites of one sort or another, but not always, not every time.

I have nothing against fibreglass.

LGM

5/13/2010 01:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Gerrit said...

Sorry,

PC said

"Which is why so many curved houses have been made out of truly monstrous building materials like fibreglass"

5/13/2010 02:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Gerrit said...

"Comparing one construction method, (engineering) with another (house building) is futile. Each has its own constrains that need adherence to."

Thart was a reply to Mark who infered that building construction was way more complicated then engineering.

Seems I hit a nerve here.

5/13/2010 02:39:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

@ Gerrit: You misunderstood me. I implied nothing about house building being more complicated than what you call 'engineering'. I am a civil engineer for christs sake, and I know every discipline has it's particular challenges.

But LGM is correct, you need to listen to your own advice. It seems to me you started off assuming that shaping bits of metal in an fabrication shop (into curves and shit) can be done with as much ease as building a house. A house is not a bit of metal you can bend or weld. The same applies to the sort of engineering structures I'm involved in (bridges, etc).

And to answer your question to LGM about curved concrete, the answer is YES, it is much more expensive. Hugely so. Strucural analysis is very complicated, difficult in bending/placing reinforcing, having to 'bend' the formwork, etc.....

You can either go on believing that everyone except for you is an idiot, or you can accept that maybe, just maybe, there's a good reason not many houses are 'curvey'.

5/13/2010 04:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerit has received a smackdown - haha! Oh, and BTW, McDonald DID design a number of curvilinear homes, several of which were built. One of them was featured on the Wright and Like tour in 2008.

7/03/2010 07:53:00 am  

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