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AN ASYMMETRICAL FLOOR PLAN

Designed by Amit Apel Design, is anything but a typical house. First, you’re guided through and across the yard to experience the front facade and all of its volumes and architectural details. Once the front door is open, you’ll see that it has an open floor plan but each room is asymmetrical. Overall, they kept the color scheme is white, with black contrasting in certain areas of the house. They also incorporated the occasional wood to warm up the space. The white kitchen has a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the growing greenery outside. It also keeps the kitchen full of natural light. What’s that you see in the double height corridor? Just a massive suspended tree that brings an unexpected piece of nature to the white space. The living room opens up to the backyard with pocket doors that disappear into the walls further extending the square footage. When you head upstairs, you peep the top of the tree which gets plenty of light, thanks to the skylights and large window panels.

 

Finally a small, but awesome pool taking the odd spaces that remain within the footprint.

"The Big Tiny" - Fascinating tiny little house on a friend’s backyard. Downsizing for medical reasons and unexpectedly finding happiness along the way.

http://nyti.ms/1qLG93Y

Inspiring TED talk about pocket parks, public spaces and sustainable communities.

More than 8 million people are crowded together to live in New York City.

What makes it possible? In part, it’s the city’s great public spaces — from tiny pocket parks to long waterfront promenades — where people can stroll and play.

Amanda Burden helped plan some of the city’s newest public spaces, drawing on her experience as, surprisingly, an animal behaviorist. She shares the unexpected challenges of planning parks people love — and why it’s important.

De-Hipsterizing my definition of design

Too many excuses and never ending lists for not posting…But it’s a new year and I’m feeling inspired to retake where I left off a few months back;

I’ve always felt creative in many different ways and I’ve been able to find a number of outlets for it, but there is only one that I feel that continuous excitement about, because there’s never a limit of possibilities. That would be design, probably not always from the beginning…

When I was around 4, all of my favorite cartoons made me dream of one day becoming a veterinarian. Soon enough I discovered why I couldn’t be one. I love animals too much. I couldn’t deal with the possibility of having dying baby animals under my care. That’s probably when I changed my mind and decided that loving them as pets should fulfill my liking for all animals, except butterflies but that’s a different topic.

 After that, it all started constructing things, from taking over my brother’s Lego’s collection to graduating from Architecture school. There are many years in between these 2 points but there’s something that’s remained consistent; the thought of doing something that would affect someone’s life in a direct or indirect way.

Practicing architecture, photography, DIY projects, countless Pinterest hours or all of the above.

For some reason, thanks to Hollywood and ‘Merica, we have a stereotype when I say I’m an architect: we wear black, drink coffee, have a modern house, we are incredibly rich and use reading glasses for no apparent reason. Even though stereotypes tend to have a sprinkle of truth, this is not always the case.

There is a reality check waiting for most graduating architects … Practicing architecture for 99.9% of the architects out there means something other than designing – at least what we think design means. The practice of architecture is more than sketching on trace paper, diagrams, deciding what pens to draw with and last-minute trips to museums. It means solving problems – sometimes incredibly mundane and uninspiring – yet very important problems to the people who you will provide your services to.

My Hubby has told me on several occasions that I have ruined him. Before me, he would have been happy to live in a nice large, new, builder home with furniture straight out of the Pottery Barn catalog or even better, a simple futon, a TV and a case of beer. Now, after spending almost 4  glorious years together as a married couple and 6 years of dating, I have made him painfully aware of: the terrible, the unplanned, the “ what the hell where they thinking”  … I have shown him crazy roof lines, horrendous knobs, and all the perils of asymmetrical hierarchy when in the hands of an untrained professional. Unfortunately, I know shopping for houses, furniture, dishes, planters, paint, whatever, is a complete nightmare for him because I have a strong opinion about everything.

 The main reason we are passionate about our profession…is that we think we really know what architecture is about.

But what do graduates actually get out of the design studio? We think spatially and understand the process but more importantly it’s about taking the building from square 1 to completion. Drafting, sketch drawing, understanding 3D, plans section and elevations for 3D, thinking, working in a team environment, etc.

But there is one point we, (me included when I was one) don’t understand until we begin working. We all want to be “Starchitects” at the beginning and we have massive dreams about what architecture is and what we want our role to be, without really understanding the profession. My perception was that I wanted to be doing Morphosis or Zaha quality buildings and all other architecture that couldn’t be published was crap.

What I have realized is that architecture is never about me, and it is not about the architect. In order to be the best designer, which was my goal from the moment I stepped into this profession; is being humble. We are problem solvers and leaders, but we lead by listening, understanding, and collaborating, not by demanding and waving a magic wand.

Architecture is always about someone else and their customized expectations of the way they’d love to live daily, the connections within the space and the impact that it creates within our community.

In my “I Love lists and to-dos” brain, I have to switch things up a bit in order to help my personal creative juices to interact with like minded people and personalities within the topics I love to talk about; but a few things that pop up would be trends, specialty items, before and after, favorite things right now, DIY, etc.

Can’t wait to get this started 

 

Oh snap! 

Let’s start with a quick quiz, shall we?

  1. Have you purchased a storage container for an item you did not yet have? “My new baskets will be perfect for those cashmere throws….I aspire to own one day.”
  2. Do you need a mild sedative upon entering/leaving The Container Store?
  3. Do you have a visceral reaction when you see those catalog pictures on Dwell Magazine or Architectural Digest of well-stocked, organized pantries? You know the ones –the unseen homeowner has 16 bottles of Pellegrino, pasta sorted and stowed in airtight containers, and giant cans of Italian tomatoes, all perfectly aligned with nary a Ritz Cracker or Fruit Roll-Up in sight?
  4. Do you now, or have you ever, owned a ribbon caddy? Yes, a caddy for ribbons.  Or a caddy for anything, for that matter.

I get it.

If you looked at my little studio this very moment, you might not think that I get it. But underneath all that cardboard, and the tracing paper stuff, you would find a baseline level of organization; so yeah, I kinda sorta get it.

I have the ribbon caddy, a book system, and a jar for cotton balls/clips and things I find. My crafty materials and movies are in order, and at least I know where to find the scissors.

3 years ago, that was fine.

It’s 2012 and suddenly, fine doesn’t cut it anymore.

Organized is the new rich. Or tan. Or maybe the new skinny. However you look at it, we want to be organized, and we want it bad. We’re no longer satisfied with knowing where stuff is, we’re looking for a new level of in-your-face, extreme organization that will make us the envy of our friends. We want our clutter so creatively and lovingly contained it ceases to be junk, and become treasure. We want every last possession in a basket, a tub, a bin, a repurposed bucket, or a mason jar – which I found out this weekend It used to be ghetto until Martha Stewart made it a chic thing to have -  and there should be no rest until it is done.

We are a people out of control.

I especially get caught up in this after reading any article with “five easy steps to decluttering your way to a carefree life.” If I really wanted to be clever, says the Associate Editor of Clutter Control, I’d store my pony tail holders on a toilet paper tube. Heaven forbid, I just set the rubber band on my dresser, where I can pick it up again when I need it. “It needs to be on a TUBE!”

So this is how it goes: I get inspired and put my design books in one side , and recipes books go over there.  Sewing stuff goes in this box, and architect’s movies go in that one. I nod to myself, knowing it will only be a week until I return to being satisfied with just keeping Mack from eating rocks and dinner ready, until the next time I read an article and try to find a new system for storing paper clips in a beautiful way.

But then something happened to turn that happy cycle on its ear…Pinterest.

I asked someone at brunch this past weekend how she liked the booming site. “It’s a great way to collect everything you want to do or try or buy, or cook. But it’s depressing. I’ll never make that stuff.”

“Hmph, well I don’t want any of that,” I told her. The last thing I needed was to try to organize the Internet.

Two days later, I got an invite.

Part of any organized person’s strategy is the list keeping. Through the years I’ve kept track of to-dos, to-buys, and to-think-abouts. When I was a kid I had lists of toys I owned, people I knew, and capitals that I could remember without looking at a map. (Will never forget Mozambique,Maputo.)

Now, with Pinterest, the list making is visual and easy, and there’s the fun social aspect of sharing ideas with your friends and glue gun toting strangers. It’s also immediately and dangerously addictive. It will likely suck you in and spit you out, bleary eyed and overwhelmed by clothes you don’t have, projects you won’t do, recipes you won’t make, houses you will never live in and organization systems you will fail at. It’s also by far the most convenient way I’ve found to combine sloth AND envy.

“What is THAT?” asked David as he looked over my shoulder to find three photos of repurposed picnic blankets, two of cupcakes, three pretty necklaces, six pieces of furniture, a quiche, a DIY Summer Wreath, a DIY confetti lantern, a pair of boots, and a romantic black and white photo of New York City.

“Pinterest. It’s a way to organize projects, recipes, design ideas…”

“Umh.”

“See, what you do is create your pin boards, then you categorize them, so you can organize your….”

“Gordita…”

“Wait, see, this one is just for garden. This one’s dedicated just to mid century modern design, this one’s for photography, this one’s for letterpress,”

“Gordita, I love you, but I can’t even pretend to be interested in this.”

We’ve been married for 2 years and known him for 12, so he can say that. I sure hope he can say that, because that’s what I say when he changes the channel to ESPN and I announce I’m starting a new book on my Nook.

Keep in mind, this is the same guy who, when I am in an organizing frenzy, comes up with this sage advice:

“How about we just have less stuff?” #fail

 

Bike in the street © Image Source/Corbis

Bicycles and MicroHoods In the Queen City:

Right now I’m not as immersed in the Bicycle Diaries by David Barnes as I would like to and the lack of time is the reason to blame, I know, I’m a little behind the curve, but the small parts I’ve read makes me want to visit all these cosmopolitan cities, not have kids ever, spend the money traveling and all of this with a two seat bike for the Hubby and a front basket for our hipster dog Mack. The book follows the author through his travels on two wheels and the observations he’s made about people, transportation and also the places we live along the way which is only part of the trifecta influencing my obsession.

I’m coming up on my second-year anniversary of moving to Charlotte  (meanwhile, somewhere in Mexico, my mom is crying). And I want to find bike-able spots so I can learn about the city in a different way.

I am dying to move closer to uptown even though prices are four times more expensive than non-uptown areas. I love the fact that the uptown neighborhoods all have their own unique personalities, and yet are so easy to move in between. Not quite as easy as jumping on the subway in NY and go to the East Village but I can definitely walk, take a ride on my bike and have a different experience each time.

Due to large space that the “concrete arteries” take ,(a.k.a. highways) that were created to connect places but have latently made them more alienated, it seems easy to look past or drive by the “hidden gems” neighborhoods that boast their own cultures throughout other cities in the country. To attract people to these unique ‘hoods, a lot of places and museums have launched series of events where the spot’s shops stay open late, offer drinks and discounts with the hope of gaining some loyal visitors. One great recent example could be the Bechtler Museum and their outdoors Jazz concerts or the Architecture + Film that happen once a month.

The most upcoming microhood I’ve seen is in the Queens Road area, once overlooked as the stretch between Providence Road and S Kings Drive; Middleton Dr. is quietly becoming a destination unto itself: at least on my book, old housing turned into bars, delicious but not pretentious Italian restaurants like Zio, impeccable midcentury houses, beautiful landscape along with locally-made vintage feel. Hopefully I’ll find many of those in the weekend to come.

For those who don’t know; *micro · hood - n. A piece of a neighborhood, perhaps only a block or two large, so glorious that it deserves its own name…or as I would say: amaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing!

 

 

Could urban design make us healthier?

Image from Corbis.com © Ed Snowshoe/Corbis

When I moved to the US almost 2 years ago, I was surprised of all the costly implications of having health insurance in comparison to Mexico. Healthcare is one thing; health is another. Talking about health means addressing the way we live, work, consume; it’s always about prevention rather than treatment and If we really wanted to minimize the cost of healthcare, prevention is the answer.

The routine when our parents used to take the walk of getting to work is over. The number of jobs requiring even moderate physical activity is declining, and this may be a significant contributor to rising obesity and diabetes rates. And it’s an issue for productivity at least in the corporate world: A healthy worker is significantly more productive than an unhealthy one and that’s probably the reason some places even offer incentives to lose weight…better health and less money they would need to spend on your healthcare!

But the workplace is just one component, a big one, of the many spaces in which we spend our lives and that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. As the trend toward urban living increases, particularly for the knowledge workers populating those sedentary desk jobs, the way we design and inhabit our cities will matter more. I believe cities can make us healthier. But there’s a big gap between can and will, and closing that gap will be an ongoing battle for many years to come.

Urban living can help us get out of our cars onto a variety of transportation modes that are both healthier and more sustainable. Increasing the number of people walking and biking may have serious public health benefits, and the density and variety of the urban landscape only makes these easier to achieve.

But there’s also a lot of work to do. In the U.S., many of the communities built in the past 50 years have regressed, specially tiny little “1 road towns” similar to what we saw in the movie Cars by Pixar. Cities designed and built around the car have taken the bikes and pedestrians out of many of our communities, creating places that add to our problems rather than subtract. A culture built around freedom and independence has internalized these car-centric places where the typical idea of the American Dream as I understand it involves some sort of single-family, 2 car garage home with a blue picket fence and a politician sign against amendment 8 out front. And as other countries pursue economic growth, and the follow-on urbanization, many have emulated the failed approach for suburbs living and extending the problem globally.

It doesn’t help that the positive examples magazines and well know architects and even regular people (including myself) often point to come from a standard list of Global Cities; New York, Chicago, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, San Francisco… that are far removed from the cultural reality of many of the places where this problem is most pressing.

Maybe our obsession with the car will fade as generations change. Seizing on this opportunity will require making all our communities healthier, not just the standard famous cities. It will require new approaches to public transportation, new development strategies that promote in-fill over suburb sprawl and cultural changes that idolize different forms of living and transportation.

Personally, I’m optimistic. My hubby got me an awesome bike for xmas and I think the trend away from car ownership is here to stay and that creative design and development solutions can help recreate more of our cities into just these places. No wonder we are still trying to move to Uptown Charlotte…