The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Monday, August 27, 2012

Great Designs in Wood (30) - The Yin-Yang House

Here's a different perspective on an interesting use of wood in a contemporary, energy-efficient home design. The Yin-Yang House of Venice, California was designed by Lawrence Scarpa of Brooks + Scarpa Architects.

From the firm's website description of the home...
"The Yin-Yang House is a single-family home in a quiet Venice, CA neighborhood. The design objective was to create a space for a large and growing family with several children, which would create a calm, relaxed and organized environment that emphasizes public family space. The home is also meant to serve as a place to entertain and a welcoming space for teenagers as they seek social space with friends."
 "Many of the materials used, including the bamboo interior, composite stone and tile countertops and bathroom finishes are recycled, and reinforce the environmental DNA of the house, which also has a green roof. Blown-in cellulose insulation, radiant heating and a host of other sustainable features aids in the performance of the building’s heating and cooling.
The active systems in the home include a 12 KW solar photovoltaic panel system, the largest such residential system available on the market. The solar panels also provide shade from the sun, preventing the house from becoming overheated. The owners have been in the home for over nine months and have yet to receive a power bill."
This house intrigued me because of what it isn't. It isn't a house designed specifically to showcase great wood architecture, specialty woods, or even wood as a focus of the green design of the house. The materials paragraph above doesn't even mention wood (unless you count the cellulose insulation). But what the many pictures of the home reveal that wood lends its character to a space that has been designed specifically for modern, even future, visions with their requisite restrained functionality.

Spock was always tense. No wood on Vulcan.
As a Star Trekkie, I always thought there was one real big gaffe in the set design for the USS Enterprise...there were no wood paneled walls or teak railings! Surely, I thought, even if the writers were making some obscure point about the possible extinction of forests on Earth in the 23rd century, we could assume that some beautiful exotic woods could be harvested from Omicron-3 and incorporated into the command decks or captain's quarters of Imperial Starships. In fact, Captain Kirk was found chopping wood in retirement at his hacienda in one of the Star Trek movies, just before he was brought back out of retirement to save Mr. Spock, if I recall correctly. Irrefutable proof that man will still need to Go Wood in the 23rd century.

So, the Yin-Yang House proves that it will be so. Wood is a natural yang to the cold, sterile yin of concrete, steel, glass, and plastic.

Beam me up, Scottie. I've got a load of nice quartersawn oak for the holodeck entryway.

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