does it make WaterSense?

I was at a shindig earlier this week when a slightly buzzed law professor turned to me and said: “Tell us in 25 words or less what you do.” (Seemed a little rude, but maybe he reads this blog and knows how verbose I can get...)

My answer: “Water.”

Indeed, my day job revolves around water, primarily on the supply side. This makes me a big hit at shindigs because it’s really hard to find a Texan not interested in water (I haven’t found her yet...). Given my honest interest in water and water conservation (my license plate refers to water, fer cry eye!), it shouldn't be a surprise that I've focused a wee bit on how our new house will use (or not use) water.

Broadly, residential water use can be divided between indoor and outdoor use. However, water use also appears in less obvious ways, such as embedded in power and the products we use, including food. 

In Texas (in general) on an annual basis about two thirds of water is used indoors and one third is used outdoors. Outdoor use primarily expresses itself during the summer such that summer use is typically twice winter use. Many water utilities decide how much to charge you for wastewater based on your winter water usage, so don’t let the in-laws linger over the holidays! Annual water use tends to go up during dry spells and down during wet spells due to outdoor water use. Typical indoor water use is about 40 to 50 gallons per person per day. 

Outdoor water use is mostly directed to irrigation, and this is mostly for lawns. Texans love their Saint Augustine, regardless of the climate. But the Augustine can be a thirsty turf, especially in the drier parts of the state or when the inevitable drought comes. 

In modern homes, indoor use is pretty evenly split between the toilet, clothes washer, shower, faucet, and leaks. Bath and dishwasher use are about a tenth of any of the previous uses. In older homes with less efficient fixtures, the toilet and clothes washer are the water hogs. Governmental efficiency standards for fixtures and appliances have stealthily resulted in considerable water savings. Studies show that houses built today use about 30 percent less water than houses built in the 1990s. If a home today is built using WaterSense fixtures and Energy Star appliances (for the clothes washer and  dishwasher), those savings increase to about 43 percent.

WaterSense is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program focused on water efficiency including the rating of water fixtures. A fixture with a WaterSense label uses at least 20 percent less water than the average fixture in its class. 

So what are we doing to save water in our house?

Outdoors, we are going to xeriscape the majority of the yard and only have about 200 square  feet of drought-resistant turf. We plan to have at least 5,000 gallons of rainwater harvesting with possibly up to 10,000 gallons. We'll use this water for the turf, the garden, and the hot tub. Our goal is to not use any city water outdoors. If you think about it, it seems a little goofy to spray drinking water on grass...

Indoors, we'll have dual-flush toilets in all of the bathrooms and (hopefully) WaterSense rated fixtures (see WaterSense assessment of our choices below). I think dual-flush toilets are the coolest, and they can save a lot of water. The EPA estimates that you will flush a toilet about 140,000 times during your life (the bride will probably tally out at 420,000...), so imagine the water savings!

The dishwasher du jour is very water efficient (federal requirements have gotten massive in this category...), and we will choose a water efficient clothes washer. Swank shower design these days call for vulgar multi-headed shower extravaganzas in luxury homes (Architect 1.0 kept insisting on multiple shower heads: I was, like, "Dude. I work in water conservation! I won't be able to have any of my watery friends over!"). Instead we have the one shower head (Party!!!).

Other elements of water conservation are hidden behind the walls and in the design of the house. We'll have small-diameter PEX tubing to carry water to the faucets. A small diameter means less water in storage in the line which means less running the fixture waiting for hot water. The design of the house around a core means the lines don't have to run very far, which means less water in storage in the line which means blah blah blah (see above).

Water is also embedded in a lot of things we use, including electricity. It (generally) takes water to create electricity (steam for steam turbines; water for cooling), and it generally takes electricity to pump, treat, and distribute water. This is something the cool kids call "The Energy-Water Nexus". For example, almost 20 percent of California's electrical consumption is dedicated to moving, treating, and providing water (source)! In Texas, we only use about 1 percent of our electricity for water [our water doesn't come from distant mountains or Arizona...]. Nonetheless, about 140 gallons per person per day of water is consumed for the generation of electricity (source; note that "consumed" means water "lost" to evaporation; ten times as much water is "used", but much of that water is used again or returned to the river or lake). Renewables such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric don't consume much if any water (solar requires some water to clean the cells; hydroelectric uses lots of water but consumes little).

Water is also embedded in our food, clothes, and electronics as well as the products used to build a house. Some attempt to calculate your "Water Footprint" based on your lifestyle (for example, here and here [warning: visiting these sites may cause immense guilt over eating hamburgers and drinking beer]). I have a few beefs (so to speak...) over these calculations (if it's "natural" water use such as rainfall that grows grass that feeds cows, should that be part of your water footprint? Methinks not...), but they're good to get you thinking about the use of water you never see.

So, how about an efficiency check on our fixtures? EPA lists its WaterSense certified products here.

Faucet for the powder room: Danze (D316244T) WaterSense certified!

Pooper for the powder: Duravit (Vero) WaterSense certified! Interestingly, the wall tank's certification is only valid if the basin is also WaterSense certified.

in wall tank (Geberit):

Faucet for the kitchen: Kohler Karbon. Unclear if WaterSense certified. EPA doesn't appear to rate kitchen faucets for WaterSense certification, which doesn't make sense, especially since they rate bathroom faucets.  Kohler offers a low-flow spray head adapter kit that restricts flow down to 1.5 gallons per minute. In fact, all kitchen faucets can have their flow restricted with lo-flow restrictors/aerators.

Potfiller for the kitchen: Danze (Parma) EPA doesn't rate potfillers, and it doesn't make sense to: the goal is to fill the pot, so it doesn't matter how quickly the water comes out. In fact, the faster the better!

Faucet for the laundry: IKEA (Tarnan) This is a kitchen faucet, so no ratings at EPA. Regardless, IKEA products are not WaterSense rated (it doesn't mean that they're not efficient; it could mean they've not submitted their products for rating). We're probably going to do something different than this anyway, and not being WaterSense rated seals the deal.
Faucets for master and guest bathrooms: Fresca (Orba) Fresca faucets do not appear to be rated under WaterSense. Aerators?

Tub spout for the master bath: Kohler (Laminar ceiling-mount) EPA doesn't appear to rate tub fillers, which makes sense. Just like a pot filler, the goal is to fill quickly!

Shower for the master and guest baths: Kohler (Loure, K-T14670-4) WaterSense certified!

Pooper for the master and guest baths: Kohler (Persuade Curv dual flush two-piece toilet) WaterSense certified! The bowl and the tank have to both be certified.

So there you have it. It's looks like we're making water sense!


but, honey, how will we fill our pots?

The plumbing bid came in, and it didn't have our bathroom faucets on it. The sub said they couldn't find them. I went to my link, and, sure enough, they were gone! That prompted a google-fest search for what was going on. Amidst my search frenzy I came across this crazy close-out deal at plumbersurplus.com for a Danze Parma deck-mounted pot filler for (wait for it, wait for it...) $82.41 (+ free shipping)! SOLD!!!!

I've been intrigued about getting a Danze Parma pot filler, but ultimately passed given the cost (sucker usually goes for $360). But for 82 bucks, what the heck! Maybe it's on sale because it's chrome? The cool kids like stainless or brushed something or the other. But just like he drools over the trim on old Caddys, Bubba likes chrome! [insert disgusting pig grunts here]

The sucker came in the mail yesterday and it is BEAUTIFUL-GORGEOUS!

The first meal in the new house shall be spaghetti! Or boiled turnips!


housework: the werk continues...

Busy, busy, busy...
  • Financing: After talking to our bank and calling a couple banks the builder recommended, we've thrown up our arms and are going to use the mortgage broker we used to buy the lot to help us find financing. We weren't finding what we wanted, and the options/rates/programs were starting to get dizzying (as were the sales pitches from the banks). Looks like a single-close to 30 is a no-go these days...
  • Action items: Sent the builder, the architects, and us a list of action items from last week's meeting. We talked about a lot of topics, so I felt the need to write it all down and get it all out. In general, this is a good thing to do no matter what you're working on. The challenge is getting people to read the darn emails! In short, what needs to get done:
    • Builder
      • price out storefront for the whole house 
      • price out custom cabs (can they use IKEA fronts? can they reproduce the look of thermofoil?)
      • price out the driveway, sidewalks, and Mies wall
      • price out an ERV system for the house
      • update the bid sheet with our allowances/upgrades
      • send over a contract
    • Architects
      • any issue with a wall-mounted toilet in the powder?
      • do plans need to be revised for storefront?
      • need details on the metal eyebrows
      • do the overhangs need to be re-detailed?
      • revise the electric plan once we provide comments on low voltage items
      • start permitting once we're under contract with the builder
    • Us
      • Figure out what we want for low-voltage and send to architects
      • Figure out what needs to be changed on the budget allowances/upgrades
      • sign contract with builder
      • get financing
  • Allowances: We've reached a point in the process where the process shouldn't be stopped while we figure out the rest of the specs. Therefore, we'll have to go forward with some allowances. However, we can put in more realistic (for our tastes...) allowances given what we know now. For example, we haven't finalized tile choices, but we have a pretty good idea of price points at this point. 
  • Landscaping: Got a bid back from the landscaper: 40 grand (gulp!). Take off the back wall, and we're probably at 30K. That's a lot of dough, but probably in the ballpark of what'll get spent to build the landscaping plan all the way out. Still thinking about how to proceed on that one...
  • Solar: Heard from a sunny pal that the solar rebates have gone dramatically down (she got this from one of the firms she had do a site evaluation on her house). Another sunny-in-a-solar-kinda-way pal said, yes, rebates are now lower, but only to reflect the better prices for solar. She also said what the city will pay for solar power is now better (probably has something do to with the recent electric rate increase). Sunny pal #1 said that the first company that looked at her house said that her place wouldn't qualify for the solar rebate; the second company said that it would. There you go...
  • Electric/low voltage plan: Got that done this afternoon. Whew!

"Computers replace architects"

An article published in today's Austin American-Statesman, originally pubbed in The New York Times [which seems to be a longer version], is sure to raise the hairs on the necks of architects everywhere. Under the headline "Computers Replace Architects", the article discusses software out there that allows layfolks to design their own homes. Architects are no longer needed! Press a few buttons, and you're Frank Lloyd Wright (goofy cape not included)!

Several friends strongly suggested that I design our home because "We know you can!" And although I certainly could design a house (or think I could design a house; lord knows I've read enough about it...), I know that I shouldn't because I couldn't design a fabulous, or even a good, house. Yes, I've dabbled in house design with SketchUp, but I did that for fun on a lot we abandoned and to get a better understanding on the plight of the architect, namely the balancing of efficiency, cost, quality of life, and aesthetics (among many other items). It's easy to plop down the rooms you need, hook 'em all together, and clink the champagne glasses. It's much harder to do it well and in what results in a beautiful and efficient space, both inside and out. In fact, unless you are an unusual talent, I would say it's nearly impossible.

There are some quotes in the article that are going to ruin several architects' day today. This one is egregious: You don't need an architect to tell you "that onyx is in" [confusing architects with interior designers, perhaps?]. The author goes on to state that not using an architect lowers the cost of a remodeled kitchen from between $30,000 and $40,000 to $7,000. Say what?

Jereon Bekkers, a turncoat architect from the land of the wooden shoes and biased hawker of design software for Jane and John Doe, states that the necessity of the architectural profession is overstated. As evidence, he points to quaint Greek villages built without architects. However, that architecture was developed and refined over a thousand years. Because it's refined mono-architecture, all someone has to do is copy what their neighbors have done. The lessons have been learned and the mistakes removed in a long-term architectural evolutionary process. Where does that exist in the modern world except in the architectural profession?

If you're designing your own house, more power to you. You certainly (hopefully...) gain some financial benefits (no architect fee), at least in the short haul. But I think you also lose out on the benefits of turning your project into something truly special that surely results in greater value, both in quality of life and hard cash during resale, down the line. As long you find a good architect!

Side note: The New York Times version of the article discusses how architects aren't keen on clients using design software even when working with an architect because clients tend to cling to what they designed. Knowing my own propensity for this, I purposely stayed away from any personal design work on our house. Sure, I thought about how the house might relate to the lot and the street, but ultimately I stepped way (way) back to let the architects architect. This design-clinging is even a struggle with architects (it must be human nature...); they are (hopefully) trained to step away from initial ideas to investigate other possibilities to ensure that they've arrived at the best solution. In fact, this very thing happened with our present design.

Another side note: Critics of International Style (including Frank Lloyd Wright, R.M. Schindler, and Rafael Soriano) often note that anyone, including schoolchildren, could do it. Now, I don't know about schoolchildren, but I have to admit that International Style expressed as pure functionalism isn't that hard. Hell, I did it!

(House I "designed" for the cliff lot. Corbu would be proud!)


counter culture

Whelp, we got our counter sample a couple days ago (Specchio White by Hanstone), and we are in love. You know, as you date countertops, some are ill-advised flings (Icestone), some are what-was-I-thinkings? (concrete), some are look-good-but-are-fatally-flawed-(but-still-look-oh-so-good) (Eco), some are yeah-OK-not-exacty-what-I-want-but-it'll-work-when-the-bar-closes (Caesarstone), and some are made out of old toilet seats (EnviroMODE). And there's the one...

The photo above shows the Specchio White on the right and the Caesarstone on the left. They're both very similar (recycled glass bits, including mirrors, lightish pallor), but the Caesarstone has a slight brown tinge that bothered us. The Specchio White doesn't have the brown tinge (maybe a gray tinge),  so it's more what we're looking for. It looks great with thermofoil white cabinets (shown above), especially when combined with a concrete floor. Yay! And it fits the budget. Double yay!

Here are some specs:

As it turns out, there are other decisions to make with countertops than just the material. For example, the edge finish:

The good folks over at BUILD LLC recommend an eased edge, although round square looks better to our eyes. BUILD also likes under-mounted sinks (check) and notes that it's good to overhang the cutout 1/4 inch over the sink to hide the sealant in the shadow lines. They also prefer a honed finish, although a honed finish requires upkeep. Wethinks we likes the gloss finish.

We like the edge to just be the 3/4 inch thickness of the slab (i.e., not doubled up to look thicker) and "floated" over the cabinets:

(Note: This is the countertop made out of recycled toilets. Not sure about a countertop made out of recycled toilets...[although it looks hawt! I bet the owners are flushed with pride!]).

Since we want consistency of materials throughout the house, we'll use this material in the kitchen, the bathrooms (including, possibly, the bench top in the master shower), and in the laundry.


$1.36 a year to charge your iPad

The Electric Power Research Institute just released a report quantifying the electric usage from various household appliances, and the iPad comes in at only $1.36. Given that people are probably using the pad instead of watching the telly or using a laptop or desktop, the iPad helps to conserve energy! In comparison, a 42 inch plasma television uses 30 times as much energy and a laptop 6 times. Your iPhone? It uses 25 cents a year of power.

Keep on (i)padding!

[photo from AP]


haiku for the interview "To Tell the Truth: Dione Neutra" conducted by Lawrence Weschler

born in Austria
and married an architect.
modern architect

While looking for photos of R.M. Schindler's and Richard Neutra's joint projects, I stumbled upon a stash of spoken histories recorded and transcribed by researchers at UCLA, including this one with Richard Neutra's wife, Dione, done in 1983. It's an interesting read.

Dione weaves her way through her entire life in this nearly 500 page tome with a lot of emphasis on her life with Richard, who she refers to oddly as "Mr. Neutra".

Some interesting trivia tidbits:
  • Neutra was good friends with Freud's son.
  • Neutra had a hell of a time getting a job as an architect, so he worked for awhile as a landscape architect under Gustav Amman.
  • Neutra worked under Mendelsohn for awhile and could have been a partner with him in his practice. Ultimately he left because he felt he would never be able to get out from under Mendelsohn's formidable shadow.
  • Neutra named his first son after Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Neutra first met Wright at Louis Sullivan's funeral. He saw Frank and thought he was a "dandy" (which he was, of course!).
  • Neutra was the first architect to publicize Irving Gill internationally.
  • Neutra's first students were Gregory Ain and Harwell Hamilton Harris. 
  • Dude stayed with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo during a trip to Mexico. Frida (that horndog...) hit on him.
I read this tome in large part to hear her recollections of Schindler and living in the Schindler-Chace House (The bride: "So this is what it's come to? Reading old interviews in the hopes of Schindler mentions?"). On this, Dione says that "...of course, we were absolutely overwhelmed with the house on Kings Road." Later, after commenting on the shared kitchen, open floor plan, and openness to the outdoors, she observes that "[t]his was a house that was made for an ideal world..." On Schindler, she notes that "...Schindler is a very difficult character, very non communicative, hiding his true feelings behind a smiling face. He has however such an infectious laugh, especially when Richard tells a joke, that it is a pleasure to watch him, and I like him very much."

Dione wasn't a fan of Schindler's wife, Pauline, and was clearly intimidated by her. Pauline questioned everything, whereas Dione didn't question much. Pauline, an activist in child education, questioned how Dione was raising Frank (neglecting a golden rule in human relations: never criticize how a mother raises her children). Dione notes that she could hear the Schindlers fight and speculates that Pauline promoted Neutra to make Schindler angry [Pauline promoted modern architecture in general]. 

Dione discusses the fateful United Nations project that ultimately led to the fraying of Schindler's and Neutra's relationship, where the project toured Europe without Schindler's name despite his contributions. Dione's parents purposefully left Schindler's name off the project based on Dione's letters to them minimizing Schindler's input and amplifying Neutra's. Neutra tried to rectify the situation, even asking for the project to be listed as Schindler/Neutra, but to no avail. Schindler ultimately never forgave Neutra. Dione blames Schindler's input on the project as the reason the project did not win a prize [tut! tut!]. 

Basically, Dione doesn't like Schindlers.

Dione talks about the Lovell Health House and how Neutra came to design and build the house instead of Schindler. She notes the roof collapse of the Lovell Cabin Schindler designed as well as the drainage problems with the porch on the Lovell Beach House as factors. She also observes that wives of clients tended to fall in love with Schindler, noting that "...he was a very erotic personality, and women would...just fall for him." According to Dione, this included Mrs. Lovell, so Mr. Lovell wasn't keen on doing another house with Schindler. She also claims that Schindler wasn't interested in doing another house with Lovell; however, that claim seems slightly suspicious since she also describes Neutra being conflicted about taking the job, concerned about how Schindler will respond.

She describes the triumph of building the Lovell Health House and the subsequent open house and press coverage. But then she also notes that Neutra didn't get a single job over the following year. Although this was not good, it ultimately was good for his career because he went on a world tour to promote his books, something that polished his reputation in Europe and, later, helped him when the American scene became enamored with European architecture, the "International Style". In fact, Neutra's books played a large part in lifting his reputation, especially in the early days when there wasn't much modern building. Neutra felt that leaving Schindler at that time (before fully mending fences) would forever sever the relationship. In that, he was correct. 

One pleasant surprise was seeing that Neutra designed and built a house in Brownsville, Texas, in 1936. It still exists!

A telling passage of how insecure the Neutras were re: Schindler concerns the publication of Esther McCoy's book on Neutra. Neutra had a strong sense of what he wanted McCoy to focus on (namely his  ideas on biorealism) and what photos he wanted her to use in the book. After pestering the publisher, they got to see the book and were unpleased at the lack of biorealism and the photos she chose. Dione notes that McCoy's book, "Five California Architects"which focused on the relatively unknown architects of California, including Schindler, came out later. Dione states that "Only months later, when we saw her book on five California architects, did we understand why she wanted to play down the role [Neutra] had played in the development of the modern movement in California and the USA." She goes on: "Well, I think, you know, that she was Schindler's girlfriend, and I think that Schindler was the architect she was really interested in. And so as she had this manuscript where...she wanted to play up Schindler and Greene and all the other architects and play down Neutra's role." 

The Neutras continued to badger the publisher about McCoy's book until the publisher, exasperated, pulled the book completely. Neutra wanted the book revised according to his desires, but ultimately decided that publishing the book as is was better than not publishing it all. So the book was published. (Well played, Mr. Editor, well played...)

Neutra worked all the time to keep his practice afloat, and his health suffered. During his later years, he had several heart attacks and spent the last years of his life in Europe working on a book as well as several houses. Not all was happy:

And we discussed this, of course, on our walks together, and he looked at life, how it is housed from the birth clinic to the funeral parlor: do all these activities which are being housed, did the architects design it from a biorealistic point of view or from "how cheaply can I build per square foot?" The last year we were here, he rewrote it again and labored over it, but he was not happy and said, "I am happy. I enjoy talking with my clients. I am happy to be an architect, and writing is just a side issue with me." But to be an author all day long didn't appeal to him. So on our walks together he would say so many times, "I wish I was dead, then everything would be easier for you." And I had to say to myself, "Yes, it would be." It was really very sad.

Neutra died from heart failure in one of his houses while arguing with a client about his fee.


housework: good (and gooder!) news

Been vaguely busy on the house the past several days. Lots going on! Here's the latest stink:

  • Met with the builder and architect to discuss the bid and path forward: The long and short of it: We're building a house! Our evil plan to design toward a spec house and then add gewgaws later worked wonderfully. Instead of being in a position of deciding what to cut from the house, we're in the much more pleasant position of deciding what to upgrade. Trust me: That's a much better place to be! What we need to do now:
    • Sign a contract with the builder (one will be forthcoming soon after some budget adjustments).
    • Start working on getting permits (the architects will take the lead on this...).
    • Get a construction loan (preferably a single-close loan).
    • Refine the plans a wee bit.
    • Start building!
  • Deciding what to upgrade:
    • Because the non-storefront window bid came in higher than expected, we're going to price out storefront for the whole house. At the very least, we'll storefront the windows in the front of the living room and the door for the master.  
    • Instead of feeding air into the HVAC system and creating a positive pressure, we're going to price out an ERV, a neutral pressure ventilation system where air is removed as it is added. The builder has put one in before and says it runs about 2 grand (less than the 4 grand I was thinking...).
    • Putting in the cubist pooper! (O hell yeah!) Will need to put in a "false wall" for the tank. Builder has done one before, so here. we. go!
  • Need to refine the plans a wee bit: We need to revise the electrical plan to include the speakers and surround-sound system (and make the other changes we need). 
  • Landscaping: The landscaper has gone AWOL again, so if we don't hear from him soon, we're bailing on him. The builder says he can install landscaping at most likely a lower cost. 
  • The bids: I don't think it's typical, but we requested to see the detailed bids for certain categories (HVAC, appliances, plumbing, cabinets) to verify certain things and get more information to inform design and material decisions. In response, the builder gave us all the bids. This was cool since it's neat (for me) to see the breakdowns. What we learned looking at the detailed bids:
    • We wanted to gawk at the HVAC bid to confirm that the contractor picked up on the flex-duct-no-longer-than-8-feet rule. Can't quite tell if they if they picked up on this... We did learn that the system is a Bryant system (not a Carrier) with 18 SEER and that the bid includes jumper ducts (awesome!).
    • We wanted to gawk at the appliance bid to verify that they had our cooktop (and to see why the darn thing was costing so much). The builder got two bids on the appliances, and he shared both with us. Half a year ago I visited with one of the bidders about the cooktop, and they did not want to talk to me about the cooktop (hence my suspicion on the bid). As it turns out, my suspicions were justified: Neither bid included the cooktop we wanted. Even worse, they substituted other stuff that was crazy high: $3,600 v. $1,500 for one bid and $2,200 v. $1,500 for the other. Looks like we'll have to order that top ourselves (if we can get it shipped to the U.S.; starting to wonder if that will be an issue...). Setting aside the cooktop, the $3,600 bidder had far better prices than the other, coming in $700 less (and they even included the garbage disposal!). In fact, we could get better prices online through Amazon than one of the bidders. So much for the builder discount... 
    • The garage door is not the one specified by the architects and has no windows. Will need to discuss...
    • The plumbing bidder (who is also the $3,600 appliance bidder) can get stuff less than I can online. Yay! Except for the tub (Boo!). They couldn't get the bathroom faucets, so they're not included in the bid.  
    • Solved the problem on the 23K v 30K (really 31K) cabinet bid. The builder didn't include the drawers in the living room in his spreadsheet. Stop a moment and do that math...  That's right: 8 grand for 12 (shallow) drawers in the living room (not including the shelves above). Holy buzzing bug butts! There's gold in them thar shelves!!!
  • LEGOhaus! I brought the LEGOhaus to the meeting, and it was a big hit (and a useful reference point as we talked about the house during the meeting). Camera phones were poppin', the architects were bopping', and the soup eaters were sopping'! The builder said he had been in the business for 16 years and had never had a client build their house out of LEGOs. Well, there you go. The architects were excited when we offered to leave the haus with them for a bit. They want to take some nice photos of it. 
  • Speaking of LEGOhaus: We went to the LEGOstore a couple weeks ago to get the windows I got hoobled out of as well as a number of other random pieces and LEGO versions of ourselves. Hey look! There we are! CELEBRATING!!!


haiku for the book "Schindler by MAK" by MAK

get a free MAK book
when you tour three Schindler homes
one for each ticket!

When we signed up to tour the R.M. Schindler home trio whilst in Los Angeles, we got this book (two of 'em!) as part of the package. I can't say I was terribly excited to have a book forced upon us as part of the deal (especially two of 'em...), but I'm happy to report that the book is worth the fee, whether part of a touring deal or on its own. Published by MAK, the Austrian organization focused on preserving the contributions of Schindler, it's 200 pages of Schindler worship. There's a brief history of the Schindler-Chace House and use of the house through the years as well as a mind-numbing (but easily skippable) blow-by-blow of the events that have been hosted at the house since 1994. I respect (and appreciate!) that the caretakers continue the Schindler-Chace House tradition of hosting events focused on the arts, but dedicating 75 pages of the tome to it? I don't know... However, the real value is in the project-by-project summary of Schindler's works with addresses and maps so you can go street-gawk. Nice! If you go to L.A. to see Schindlers, you definitely want this book. And even if you don't, the book is worthwhile.


superwindows to the rescue!!!

The good folks over at Green House Good Life posted about Superwindow, a window with an R of 38. No, that's not a typo: that's 3 freakin' 8! Those crazy Poles made a window with two panes 'o glass sandwiched with 10 layers of film (or microfilm glass according to a commenter) and a dollop or two of aerogel (the engineers describe it differently...). We're lucky to get windows with an R of 2 or 3 these days, so these things could be world-changing (I'm serious!) if they can be economically produced (a big if...).

Look! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SUPERWINDOWS!!!


de Stijl architecture

de Stijl architecture was one of the expressions of the de Stijl art movement. de Stijl is dutch for "The Style" (and is pronounced "deh style"; here's an example pronunciation, and if that's not satisfactory [which it won't be...], there's this). The movement started in 1917, during World War I, with a journal of the same name produced by Theo van Doesburg. Piet Mondrian, the famous painter, is probably the most famous de Stijlist:

Composition with yellow, blue, and red (1937-1942)

du Stijl is also known as "neoplasticism", a term coined by Mondrian. de Stijl fancied itself as expressing utopia through pure abstraction by reducing reality to the essentials of form and color. Mondrian described the "rules" of neoplasticism as allowing "only primary colours and non-colours, only squares and rectangles, only straight and vertical lines". The primary colors include red, yellow, and blue (green and neoplasticism never meet) and the non-colors are white, black, and (50 shades of) grey. Neoplasticism is also (generally) strongly asymmetric.

1918 cover of Doesburg's journal

Sculpturally, neoplasticism expressed itself in asymmetrical massing with balance achieved through opposition. Architecturally, neoplasticism expressed itself not only through massing but through the use of non-connecting planes.

The de Stijl movement was influenced by cubism. The architectural arm of the movement was also influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and Hendrik Berlage. The movement (as an organized movement) petered out in the 1930s, but there were still adherents in ensuing decades, and de Stijl made a lasting impression on architecture. de Stijl strongly influenced Mies van der Rohe and, in a feedback loop (although he would not admit it), Frank Lloyd Wright. Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier were also influenced by de Stijl. Any structure or space strongly defined by unconnected planes is influenced by de Stijl (whether they know it or not).

Examples of de Stijl architecture? There is, of course, the Rietveld-Schroder House, a structure some say is the only structure designed and built that adheres to all of de Stijl's tenets. But there are other de Stijl-infleunced three dimensional objects and designs out there. van Doesburg, J.J.P. Oud, Robert van't Hoff, and Gerrit Reitveld were active participants during the movement.

Theo van Doesburg and J.J.P. Oud (1917-1918)

Monument in reinforced concrete for the city of Leeuwarden
Theo van Doesburg (1918)

Robert van't Hoff (1918) 

George Vantongerloo (1918)

Design for a factory in Purmerend
J.J.P. Oud (1919)

Construction of Volume Relations 
George Vantongerloo (1921)

Gerrit Reitveld

Cornelis van Eesteren and Theo von Doesburg (1920s)

Colour design for the rear elevation of Spangen block VIII
Theo van Doesburg (1921)

Design for a water-renewal building 
(development from the elemental expressional means of architecture)
Theo van Doesburg (1922)

Study for purely architectonic plastic space proceeding from the base
Hans Vogel (1922)
Architectonical development of the Maison particuliere
Theo van Doesburg and C. van Eesteren (1923)

Maison d'artiste
Theo van Doesburg and C. van Eesteren (1923)

Theo van Doesburg: Maquette Maison Particuli√®re (1923)

Theo van Doesburg and Cornelis van Eesteren, Model Maison d'Artiste (1923)

Theo van Doesburg and Cornelis van Eesteren, Model Maison d'Artiste (1923; reconstructed 1982)

Theo van Doesburg and Cornelis van Eesteren: Contra-Construction Project, Axonometric (1923)

Theo van Doesburg and Cornelius van Eesteren (model by Gerrit Rietvold): Hotel Particulier (1923)

Theo and Nelly van Doesburg (1923)

Theo van Doesburg: Color study for Amsterdam University Hall (1923)

Hotel particulier
C. van Eesteren (1923)

Door for the engineer's house
set for the film "L.Inhumaine" by M L. Herbier 
Robert Mallet-Stevens (1923)

Theo van Doesburg and Cornelis van Eesteren: Perspective of shopping arcade with bar-restaurant, Laan van Meerdervoort, The Hague (1924)

Cornelis van Eesteren, Rokin (1924)

George Vantongerloo (1924)

Mies van der Rohe (1924)

Theo von Doesburg, Treppenhaus (1925)

Frederick Kiesler, City in Space (1925)

J.J.P Oud, Cafe de Unie (1925)

Piet Mondrian's Paris studio (1926; recreation)

Eileen Gray: Design plan (1926-1929)

Berlin Alexanderplatz
Lajos d'Ebneth (1927)

Gerrit Rietveld (1927)

Theo van Doesburg: Hans Arp, Strasburg (1928)

Theo van Doesburg v. Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona pavilion

Hotel Nord-Sud
A. Lurcat (1929)

Theo van Doesburg: studio house (1930)

Charles and Ray Eames, Eames House (1945-1949)

Joost Baljeu, single family home (1961)

Theo with his interpretation of a Barbie house.