RISD (R. Andrew Highsmith)



Oct '05 - Oct '07

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    don't let them munch your lunch

    By highsmith
    Apr 18, '07 11:37 PM EST

    Today I'm posting a project I completed about 2.5 months ago now. Just to post something...I'm feeling a little slack regarding this site, I suppose, and wanting to begin a routine that will remind me that I should constantly be editing and documenting my work as I approach portfolio time(s)...

    What I'm showing here, for now, is a studio project that represents about a week of studio time during Wintersession. The studio/seminar was taught by Peter Stempel, an adjunct professor at RISD and principal of Stempel Form, Inc. in Virgin, Utah (where I will spend some of my summer as an intern). Stempel's work focuses largely on 'Smart Growth,' for lack of a better blanket word. Working with local and state politicians and non-profits, he has positioned hiimself as a leader in Southern Utah's progress towards sustainable growth patterns.

    For the project at hand, I chose a site adjacent to SR-9, the main corridor of growth between St. George / Hurricane and Springdale, Utah, which marks the entrance to Mt. Zion National Park. The site is 25 acres. Several decisions were critical to my approach : preserving open space (space with a relatively low grade change), considering hillside building sites, arriving at dwelling units from adjacent open spaces, valuing intimate, enclosed zones for the periphery of dwellings, and providing public accessibility to the south/west portions of the site. In many ways, this approach was contradicting as many of the typical local building strategies as possible, but I decided to move forward with these ideas in mind to reinforce the delicate nature of this site and the dwellings within it.

    I should note that while I began to develop an idea for a screen-wall enclosure, this project never moved far beyond the massing stage, and will hopefully be developed further when I return this summer.

    The project brief:

    The condition that mediates all aspects of the site, located in the delicate zone between a valley and cliff, is one of dependency.

    The development of the site ultimately depends on issues of access at many scales. The existence of any structure on the site is dependent on immediate and thoughtful access. Similarly, the existence of a trail is dependent on that same, shared access point.

    The primary wash, to which both structures are oriented, creates an enclosed space that is dependent on the unique attributes of the surrounding ground : boulders, stones, plants, mud, sand, and water. Bracing two structures in this enclosed space allows for a very specific observation of the ground that they inhabit. The screen-wall that surrounds both structures makes no obvious attempt to accommodate the prominent views of the surrounding cliffs, but rather provides openings for viewing the immediate surroundings. The screen-wall also serves as a successful filter for privacy as the two residences interact. It might be possible to see one another from very particular vantage points between each structure, but all proximate views would be protected given changes in elevation and distance. More importantly, and regardless of its specificity, one would always be aware of the other.

    The two residences inhabit one of the most difficult zones of the site. Reflecting on the surrounding landscape and each other, they question the presence and importance of elements (natural and un-natural) at different scales. Just as the wash embodies the delicate dissolution of the larger natural context, the structures would question the intimate relationship of humans in the context of our larger occupation of the landscape.


    • Cheyne Owens

      nice stuff.

      Apr 19, 07 12:10 am

      does this work intend to be sustainable and if so what makes it such?

      Apr 20, 07 12:28 am

      this work intends to be sustainable on the macro level. in terms of land development, providing public access points to private land is a practice that will balance land use in a way that will be minimally invasive for future conservation efforts. in terms of it's footprint, the building occupies a portion of the site which has already been scarred by both natural and un-natural phenomenon. in terms of it's density, yes, it could have been developed in a cluster or higher density, which would inevitably read as more sustainable, but not accomplish the other points i set out to accomplish. on the micro level, there are certainly systems i would develop in terms of water collection and retention that would serve to propel it's 'green' perception, but the use of solar panels in the canyon is slightly unproductive due to the severe sun angles in such a space.

      Apr 20, 07 6:49 am

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