Architype Dialogue presents
What was the most difficult issue about working on this building or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
The need to keep everything as simple as possible and still achieve the goal of creating a small house that could influence the way houses in the future would be thought of and built. Beyond the obvious the difficulty of building a structure that is not legally built in over half of my home state, created all kinds of logistic problems. Bigger is supposed to be better but we tried to show the opposite. All the codes and the zoning ordinances are geared to the big concept. Bankers did not know what to do with it what are the comparables in a housing bubble market. After my first client could not finance the project I had a little house setting in a field where the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair was held and they wanted me to move it off their property. So I would say that we grossly underestimated the complexity of getting a little sustainable house built. The financial restraints and government red tape were the biggest challenges we faced after trying to design a house that was based on only meeting the four primary functions of living, eating bathing, sleeping and communal gathering.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
I think that it was the first project that every inch was designed. Our team or designers and builders were very cohesive and allowed allot of work to be worked on as a study model with a 1inch to 1 inch scale. With that emphasis one can touch and feel your design, testing it for the standards and quality you are after. We had total control as Architect, Builder and Developer, without any one of those we would not have been able to achieve the results. I feel that the Architect has to be part of the educational cycle developing Ideas that clients have not specifically asked for yet but would benefit society. The Architect cannot be afraid to take more responsibility in order to achieve more. I also feel the architect has to jump right in to the process of completing a project, proving his worth and adding value to the project.
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in sustainability and technology inspired new thought and solutions?
As art of our team we found that the integration of CNC cutting we could do things we could not achieve otherwise at any price and found that the repetition became very affordable. WE found that most people we subcontracted with they could sense the importance of good execution of the design. WE used the skills of people so that the sum of the parts was greater than value of the parts individually.
What advice or lessons learned would you give to another designer or client pursuing a similar type of sustainable project?
I think if we had it to do over again I would try to have the site set before we started. WE were trying to show that sustainable practices could have innovative and good design. Most alternative energy proponents don’t care what the building looks like as long as it has photovoltaic panels and does not burn any coal. I think we showed that the building could do both. Above all as with most Architecture be sure you visualize the end before you start to build. I also feel the Design Build Process was vindicated during this project to get the project completed with the shortest distance from an idea to the actual construction.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
I think the biggest influence I have had is to surround myself with bright young people that love Architecture. When the project hit ArchDaily the apprentice who spent the summer with us from Kansas U phoned me from Germany where he was studying abroad to tell me that it was really neat to see other people recognized the project. My son is constantly sending me emails with what is going on. When I meet with most other Architects my age they have never heard of Gion Caminada. The young guys are so good on the computer that it is hard to justify time learning to do anything on them at my age. At the same time students email me to ask if they can use the EDGE for part of a project they are doing for school. It has also given us a lot of recognition so that students have a chance to see what we are about.
What unique or different sustainable practices or sustainable materials played a key roll in this building and in your firm’s overall body of work?
Our biggest thing is to stretch ourselves, trying to improve and grow from things we have previously learned and completed. Trying to be open to things we can adapt to our system to gain a bigger vocabulary of tools to work with. Trying to be more efficient so that we are sustainable (still alive) as a business providing design and construction to our clients in a very difficult time.
What books are you currently reading….or would like to be reading?
“The basic wisdom of Mother Teresa,” to gain a better appreciation of the things that I have, and the focus on being a better servant to our clients.
Architype Review thanks Bill Yudchitz for his interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.