architecture

Fall in Boulder, 2018

Flatirons Fall 01.jpeg

Autumn has fully come upon us along the Front Range, with the usual frozen mix of snow and rain and the rustle of leaves blowing around the now dry grasses.

We have a couple of new projects in the office and maybe nothing is more exciting than those early days of a project, meeting the homeowners, traversing the site. For me, the only thing that compares is that moment in construction when the final project begins to take shape. This is not just at framing or drywall installation, but when the final finishes are beginning to show up - the tile, cabinets, countertops - those elements that give scale and color to the realized space.

 beautiful bookcase in afromosia veneer by Laak Woodworks and a white painted fireplace

beautiful bookcase in afromosia veneer by Laak Woodworks and a white painted fireplace

This project is a renovation and small addition to a 1960-’s tri-level house in South Boulder’s Table Mesa neighborhood. These are particularly difficult houses to make changes to, their original plans and constricted entry and circulation making the work challenging. In this case, we turned the standard Living, Dining and Kitchen areas ninety degrees, running them the depth of the property instead of parallel to the street.

Chen construction 02.jpeg

This increased the circulation areas and the bedrooms remained largely as originally constructed and the entry was increased by adding a few feet to the front of the house.

I am very excited to see this project come close to completion. A great client and a great contractor, Modafferi Construction, has made for a successful collaboration and nice outcome.

 blue-gray painted ceiling seen through the reveals between maple veneer plywood ceiling panels

blue-gray painted ceiling seen through the reveals between maple veneer plywood ceiling panels

Another ongoing project is another collaboration with ACI design:build on a complete renovation and large addition on an old house near downtown Boulder on West Arapahoe. The framing is moving along and we are in the process of experimenting with different paint removal products and techniques.

 That’s me inspecting paint removal coatings on the old, painted brick

That’s me inspecting paint removal coatings on the old, painted brick

The above project is at about the halfway point and just getting dried-in for the oncoming weather.

At the earliest stages of construction, the Palisade Farmhouse project is just getting underway with framing. Located in Western Colorado on a family-owned peach farm, this house is a multi-generational dwelling sitting on the edge between the orchard and the life-giving irrigation canal. To this dramatic landscape of mesas and lush, green orchards, we are adding a traditional, gabled farmhouse to serve as a family gathering place. MacPherson Construction is heading up the work and we will be posting images of the ongoing construction over the next 6 months or so.

 main level floor framing being installed in Palisade, Colorado

main level floor framing being installed in Palisade, Colorado

Fall leaves 01.JPG

New Harmony, Indiana

New Harmony, Indiana

Recently, I took the opportunity to break up a long road trip to visit one of my favorite Midwestern places, New Harmony, Indiana.

Sitting on the border between southern Illinois and Indiana, along the Wabash River, sits New Harmony, Indiana.  Founded in 1814 by a group of religious separatists similar to the Shakers, the town consisted of 180 buildings, but was bought in its entirety by Robert Owen, a wealthy industrialist from Wales.  His communitarian society was an utopia experiment in social reform but was short-lived. What they left was a remarkable series of buildings and realized urban plan:

New Harmony house 02.JPG

Throughout its history, New Harmony has attracted philosophers, theologians, scientists and most importantly reformists, interested in the ideas and promise of communal living.

That spirit is incorporated in the Working Men's Institute building and in Philip Johnson's 1960 interdenominational Roofless Church:

Roofless Church 02.JPG

This is a beautiful space and surely his best work, - a tall brick rectangular wall with the 'church' structure sitting to one side.  The space of this outdoor room is very striking, made the more so by a single, modulated opening looking out on the floodplain of the Wabash River.

Roofless Church 01.JPG

This building in a sense spans the cabins of the original founders and the Atheneum Visitors Center by Richard Meier (not built at the time of Johnson's work).  The Atheneum is other-worldly, a graceful, pure white, vision.  I am sure it was not intentional, but it feels a bit like a nineteenth century steamboat pulled up to a dock, an apt allusion for a visitor's center.

atheneum 01.JPG

New Harmony was intentionally separated from the mass of society and it still remains a bit isolated in rural southern Indiana.  I know of no other place that within the space of a few blocks you can wander around almost 200 years of remarkable American architecture.  Well worth a visit

Palisade Farmhouse project update, June 2018

We are getting ready to start construction on the Palisade Farmhouse.  The old house will be demolished in the next week or so and the excavation for the new project will follow immediately afterward.

Palisade Farmhouse model image 01.jpg

After a number of interviews, the Owners selected McPherson Custom Builders as the General contractor.  They have extensive experience in the area and their quality of construction is excellent.   

Palisade Farmhouse sketch plan 01.jpg

The costs of construction in the Grand Junction area are considerable less than along Colorado's Front Range.  However, like all projects, the budget is stressed as we try to optimize all the materials selections, balancing long- and short-term costs.

Palisade sunset.JPG

Palisade is a magical place and we are really excited to move to the construction phase.  The lush green valley floor is dramatically surrounded by dry, rugged mesas.  This multi-generational farmhouse will be the anchor for the family peach farm and hopefully contribute a small instance of human scale to this starkly beautiful landscape.