AIA Homes Tour 2013...

...is this weekend! If you like to peruse high quality architectural residential projects, the details are here.

Some photos lifted from their site:

chains for rains

The rain chains came! The rain chains came! These are made of aluminum (aluminum = resilience and [relative] weightlessness) and are double circular loops connected by single circular loops. We picked them up from (ahem) rainchains.com where you can buy by the foot.

If you've never lived with rain chains before, you might be thinking, a la Hank on the Hill "What in the hell?", but they actually work. Water, through the miracle of hydrogen bonding, tends to stick to itself, so it tends to stick to the chains (and itself) on the way down to the ground. In certain cases, it's far more aesthetic to use a chain instead of gutter.

Although we missed Biblical Rains 1.0 several weeks ago, we caught Biblical Rains 2.0 last night: four inches of awesomeness all directed to our tank. The float be floating!



Cruddy photo and there's a real need for a rain chain, but some rain came early this evening and started filling the tank! I took this photo from a second story window and see that I need to put something under the right side of the "post" to level that sucker out.

Got about 3 inches in the tank, enough to float the float.


we got tanked last week...

Rainwater tanked!

Our rainwater tank got installed about a week and a half ago and our gutters got installed last Friday (at least the one for the garage that goes to the tank). Unfortunately, we missed the big rains that have passed through town the past few weeks (buh-bye 3,000 gallons of rainwater...), but we are ready for the next rains.

The first thing we had to do was clear a spot to lay down six inches of sand base for the tank:

We then had to have four yards of sand delivered to the house:

and then lay down a level base of sand in a 15-foot diameter:

With that done, the installers showed up and installed the tank:

The green stuff is there to protect the liner from the bolts holding the tank together.

The pipe to the right is the overflow pipe. The line of string running down is the level indicator.

It's a BIG tank: that sucker will hold 5,000 gallons of the wet stuff. It's a liner based system where the water is held by a liner:

Looking inside the finished tank. All that black stuff is the liner.

The white piping is for the overflow.

The lighted area is a screen and is where the water comes into the tank.

With the tank in, we could finally get the gutters installed. The gutters are the last item on the punch list with the builder and have been on hold until the tank went in. When the gutters on the house are finished, we'll be closing out (paying the last bit of the retainage) with the builder.

Here's what the gutter man improvised for the rainwater tank.

The vertical bit is vertical gutter but here is only being used to hold up the gutter extension over the tank. It looks good and looks like it will work good. We'll run a rain chain from the downspout to the tank.

Close up of the level gage. It's sitting on the ground cause that there tank is empty.

Back view of the tank. I turned the overflow pipe to be up against the tank and allow more of a path between the tank and the horno. Prolly need to paint that PVC silver...

Farther around the back is a ladder (cute!) which gains human access to the inside of the tank if needed (which is how I snapped photos of the interior). Hard to see, but to the right of the tank at the bottom is the outlet with a ball valve. That's where the water comes out when needed.

And there she is in all her glory! May the rains come soon!

I'll be giving a keynote at an upcoming American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association annual meeting in Austin and touch on our system in case you are in town and want to know more about the system or rainwater in general.


Wong's photos posted!

Was digging up the street address for the architects this afternoon and saw they had revised their web page. "hmmmm" I hmmm'd. I wonder if they posted Patrick Wong's photos of the house?

Yes, they did!

Here are the photos at their Web site and here are the photos at Houzz.

And here, below, are our faves. Those professionals sure know what they are doing!

haiku for the book "Writing About Architecture" by Alexandra Lange

buildings made of steel
towering above our heads
toppled by mere words...

I have to admit that I was initially disappointed in this book. The title, "Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities", led me to believe that it would show me how to write about architecture (and master that language!). But that's not what this book is about, at least not in a tell-me-exactly-what-the-hell-I'm-supposed-to-do manner. It's more of an analysis of key examples of architectural criticism and learning from those examples.

Those examples of archi-criticism are stunning: "House of Glass" by Lewis Mumford about Lever House, "The Miracle in Bilbao" by Herbert Muschamp about Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, "Save the Whitney" by Michael Sorkin, "You Have to Pay for the Public Life" by Charles W. Moore, "Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns" by Frederick Law Olmstead, and "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" [excerpt] by Jane Jacobs. The price of entry would have been worth it just to read these essays and excerpts. The book's author, Alexandra Lange, helpfully puts the writings into the context of their time (publication dates range from 1870 to 1997) and their authors' experience, expertise, bias, and approach.

Particularly savory, given my vaguely subdued hatred of Michael Graves' post-Modernism messiness, is the slap-in-the-face piece by Sorkin about Graves' design for an addition to Marcel Breuer's Whitney Museum:

"The violence offered by Michael Graves's proposed expansion is almost unbelievable. Adding to a masterpiece is always difficult, calling for discipline, sensitivity, restraint. Above all, though, it calls for respect. The Graves addition isn't simply disrespectful, it's hostile, an assault on virtually everything that makes the Breuer original particular. It's a petulant, Oedipal piece of work, an attack on a modernist father by an upstart, intolerant child, blind or callow, perhaps, but murderous."

ummm... Can you hear me now?

The Whitney Museum by Marcel Breuer (photo via Buildipedia)

Michael Graves' proposed addition (image from here)

Lange's message in this book seems to be this: There's no single path to writing about architecture, so just get out there and write about architecture. Some of the authors of her examples are architects, but others are simply interested souls with a creative knack for tying observations to words (calling the Prince of Wales...). An interesting observation Lange makes is that not many people write about architecture, in large part because there are too few big-media outlets that support this writing, one exception being the New York Times. Lange ends by encouraging anyone and everyone with any inkling and urge to observe, write, and publish observations and thoughts about architecture. Writing about architecture is, simply, writing about architecture. In that vein, the book is inspirational and, therefore, worth a read if, indeed, you want to write about architecture.


kentuck knob

After preening through Fallingwater, we checked into Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright house nearby. This house was built by the Hagans of local ice cream fame (and you can still get their cream, even at the house!).  They commissioned a house from Frank in 1953 and moved in in 1956. Their inspiration was Fallingwater as they were friends with the owners, the Kaufmanns. In fact, the Kaufmanns advised the Hagans to only tell Wright what half of their real budget was.

The house was bought by Lord Palumbo of England, who opened the house to the public in 1996.

The house is something of a higher end Usonian with the money shot shown above with the house appearing to be a ship breaking through the waves.

A cute little tidbit we learned about the house during the tour: Frank called built-in furnishings "client proof furniture". Ha!

Lord Palumbo is something of a Modern sculpture collector and has his collection sprawled about the land.