Stack Street by @lineburgwang Brisbane, QLD - From the Architect: A modest intervention to a Queensland cottage, the project is an accumulation of subtle manoeuvres. The tight plan and section diagram reconfigures rooms to bring clarity. A playful reinterpretation of a battened privacy screen shelters, captures private gardens and edits the domain – offering calculated glimpses to sky, city and treetops. – www.lineburgwang.com #lineburgwang -⠀⠀⠀ Photographer: @toby_scott Builder: Dreambuild Homes - #australianarchitecture #architecture#australiandesign #design #house#housedesign #moderndesign #interiors#houseporn #architectureporn #inspo#interiorsinspo #archdaily #dezeen#houseinspo #househunter #architecturehunter #houseoftheday #archiporn #brisbane #queensland #queenslander #weatherboard #cottage #weatherboardcottage #weatherboardhouse
Australian Designer: @hydrowood⠀⠀⠀ -⠀⠀⠀ Pushing the green envelope even further, @hydrowood has just achieved Declare Certification to add to their growing list of eco-friendly credentials including Responsible Wood/PEFC, Australian Forestry Standard and Fine Timber Tasmania Chain of Custody. ⠀ ⠀ Like a ‘healthy ingredients’ list for building materials, the Declare certification program is designed to shape a greener, healthier environment for construction workers, business employees, and customers alike. The Declare certification program labels goods with a full list of ingredients and expands the transparency of the building market.⠀ ⠀ Declare certification is an initiative of The International Living Future Institute @living_future, a nonprofit working to build an ecologically-minded, restorative world for all people. Using principles of social and environmental justice, the institute seeks to counter climate change by pushing for an urban environment free of fossil fuels. ⠀ In addition to the Declare certification program, The International Living Future Institute @living_future also runs the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous green building standard, leading in the development of a green framework for living in a 21st-century world.⠀ ⠀ @johnwardlearchitects are currently developing Limestone House to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge. @hydrowood Oak was selected for all interior timber linings and floorings. It features as the defining ceiling feature of the dining space and will be used for most of the interior joinery elements such as the kitchen and the client’s study. ⠀ -⠀ www.hydrowood.com.au⠀⠀⠀ #hydrowood⠀⠀⠀ @tasmaniantimber⠀⠀⠀ -⠀⠀⠀ Photographer: @adam.gibson.photo⠀ -⠀ #australianarchitecture#architecture#australiandesign#design #house#housedesign#moderndesign #interiors#houseporn#architectureporn#inspo#interiorsinspo #archdaily#dezeen#houseinspo #houseoftheday#timber #woodwork #timberdesign#tasmania #tasoak #tasmanianoak#tasmanianstyle #tasmaniantimber #timberinterior #johnwardle #johnwardlearchitects #render #montage
Australian Designer: @hydrowood⠀⠀⠀ -⠀ Project feature:⠀⠀⠀ Lewisham Pod by JAWS Architects⠀ Lewisham, TAS⠀⠀⠀ -⠀⠀⠀ About the Project: @hydrowood Oak took centre stage this spring at the Australasian Timber Flooring Association (ATFA) Awards for Excellence taking out three awards including Overall Winner Floor of the Year.⠀ ⠀ The award was won for the Lewisham Pod floor that was recently showcased on Grand Designs Australia. In addition to the top award of the night, @hydrowood won Recycled Solid Timber Floor of the Year and Avant Garde of the Year for the Lewisham Pod Tasmanian Oak couch designed and made by Simon Ancher Studio. ⠀ ⠀ @hydrowood is unlike any other recycled timber, because it is reclaimed from the depths of a hydroelectric dam. The forest beneath lake Pieman was submerged over 50 years ago, and the timber has laid dormant beneath the depths, preserved. It is now being repurposed as @hydrowood, with an incredible story of provenance embodied in the timber. ⠀ ⠀ “It’s exciting to see @hydrowood Tasmanian Oak recognised at the highest level as a flooring timber. Tasmanian Oak is beautiful, durable and incredibly stable, which makes it an ideal flooring timber,” said @hydrowood Director Andrew Morgan. “It was an honour for @hydrowood to receive these awards amongst very tough competition.”⠀ -⠀ www.hydrowood.com.au⠀⠀⠀ #hydrowood⠀⠀⠀ @tasmaniantimber⠀⠀⠀ -⠀ Photographer: @adam.gibson.photo⠀ -⠀⠀⠀ #australianarchitecture#architecture#australiandesign#design #house #moderndesign #interiors#houseporn#architectureporn #interiorsinspo #archdaily#dezeen#houseinspo #houseoftheday#timber #woodwork #timberdesign#tasmania #tasoak #tasmanianoak#tasmanianstyle #tasmaniantimber #timberinterior #timberfloor #tinyhome #tinyhouse #lewisham #granddesigns #granddesignsaustralia
Australian Designer: @hydrowood⠀⠀⠀ -⠀ Project feature:⠀⠀⠀ Macquarie House by HBV Architects⠀ Launceston, TAS⠀⠀⠀ -⠀⠀⠀ About the Project: Launceston City Council has reestablished the city’s iconic building, The Bond Store, set to become the new beacon and incubator for fresh ideas in the Apple Isle. With the hopes of attracting tech start-ups from across Australia and beyond to set up shop in Tasmania’s north, the newly dubbed ‘Macquarie House Innovation Hub’ has received a sparkling interior fit-out along with a brand-new addition attached to the original building. Staying true to its Tasmanian roots, Tasmanian timbers were used throughout the building’s revamp. ⠀ ⠀ The design was left up to local architectural firm, HBV Architects. Wanting to reflect the timber interior of the original building, HBV chose to externally clad the building’s addition in @hydrowood Celery Top. Chosen for its own unique story, provenance and durability, HBV Director, Paul Cockburn said @hydrowood was the perfect choice.⠀ ⠀ To keep the focus on the original building, HBV wanted to create a timber screen over the addition’s windows, creating the illusion of a seamless timber box. Keeping a natural look to the cladding, an eco-friendly, natural oil coating was chosen to protect the rough sawn Celery Top. Cockburn explains the maintenance of the timber is also simple.⠀ ⠀ “Celery Top is inherently uniform and ages beautifully, greying with time. The timber doesn’t leak tannins despite coming from the bottom of a lake and will require minimal maintenance. When the screens do need to be cleaned, they are all built on hinges and can easily be removed.”⠀ -⠀ www.hydrowood.com.au⠀⠀⠀ #hydrowood⠀⠀⠀ @tasmaniantimber⠀⠀⠀ -⠀⠀⠀ #australianarchitecture#architecture#australiandesign#design #house#housedesign#moderndesign #interiors#houseporn#architectureporn#inspo#interiorsinspo #archdaily#dezeen#houseinspo #houseoftheday#timber #woodwork #timberdesign#tasmania #tasoak #hbvarchitects #tasmanianoak#tasmanianstyle #tasmaniantimber #timberscreen #launceston
Nelson House by @neilarchitecture⠀ Melbourne, VIC⠀ -⠀⠀⠀ From the Architect: Nelson House is a contemporary family home for some long time clients who decided to downsize from the suburbs into the inner city. The house has been planned vertically with a kids retreat on the ground floor, living zone on the middle floor taking advantage of the city views, and the parents retreat in the most private location at the top. Located on a highly visible site the street facing façade is made up of a series of movable perforated metal screens which mediate between the public and the private domain. During the day when the sun is shining the white screens appear quite monolithic when closed, as the evening approaches the house takes on a softer feel as the screens become more transparent.⠀ -⠀ www.neilarchitecture.com.au⠀ #neilarchitecture⠀ -⠀⠀⠀⠀ Photographer: @hilarybradfordphotography⠀ Builder: @tcmbuildinggroup⠀ -⠀ #australianarchitecture #architecture_hunter #architecturedaily #modernarchitect #architect #architecturestudent #architecture_best #architecture #moderninteriordesign #moderninteriors #interiordesign #interior #design #modernhousedesign #modernhouse #modernhome #modern #moderndesign #inspiration #architecturephotography #australianarchitecture #architectureblog #interiordesignblog #designblog #dezeen #archdaily #bestnewarchitects #fireplace #brickwork
The final design concept drawings are done and we move onto the next stage!
Read on to see the final design concept drawing package, and for the latest update in the New Zealand New Home Project Diary.
In our last instalment, the Anderson’s had decided on a preferred option, and I’d prepared some drawings for feedback.
Now we dive into creating the final design concept drawing package, so they can proceed locally with documentation and approvals.
NB: Not all architects will work like this with their clients. I don’t provide documentation services, so when I work with clients now, I only provide design concepts. They then take them to local designers or draftspeople to then continue the process, have approval and construction drawings prepared and manage it locally. Other designers and architects will provide all of this work for you as one service. It’s important, however you are executing it for your project, that you understand copyright laws and know what’s involved in taking a design to someone else to get drawn up.
So, the purpose of this package of design concept drawings, is to present the design in a way that someone else has sufficient information to convert them into formal documentation.
Here is the design concept package for the Anderson’s New Zealand new home …
Floor Plan of proposed new home in New Zealand
The proposed floor plan is drawn at 1:100 and shows detail for the home’s overall layout. It also shows internal dimensions for all rooms, layout for the kitchen, and window types and sizes (and how they open). The latter information regarding windows and doors can be correlated with how they’re shown on the elevations as well.
Extra notes provide additional dimensions to be applied as standard across the design. Dashed lines show roofing and window hoods over the top of the floor plan, and proposed skylight locations.
Ceiling Plan of proposed new home in New Zealand
I find that creating these colour coded drawings is a simple way to illustrate how ceilings are to be designed. Anyone drafting these drawings requires this information for the design intent to be carried through properly into documentation.
The aim was to do the bulk of the home in a flat ceiling, so that the roof structure could be constructed in roof trusses, and keep costs down overall. Where the impact would be meaningful, we’ve raked the ceiling (see yellow area). This opens up the volume of the living spaces, and the contrast in volume between those spaces, and the flat ceilings of the adjacent kitchen, will create drama and openness. Those raked ceilings will also have skylights to ensure loads of natural light (especially in winter) enter the main living space of the home.
Remember last instalment when I mentioned the shared storage / fireplace wall between the two living areas, and how we were intending to detail it to maintain a visual connection through? Well, this design proposed one of two options – dependent on budget. One was to do doors either side of the storage wall, with a 2700mm (or 9 feet) flat ceiling over, so that long lines of view could be established when the doors were opened.
The other option (and the one that the Anderson’s are doing … YAY!) is to install glass doors internally in those locations, and run glass over the top of the fireplace / storage wall. That way, the visual line of the raked ceiling runs through both living spaces, as well as loads of light and spaciousness. I can’t wait to see that when it’s finished! It will be incredible.
Lower ceilings (2400mm or 8 feet) are proposed wherever joinery is installed, or in tiled areas, to keep expenses down where possible.
Roof Plan of proposed new home in New Zealand
The roof plan is important for illustrating roof pitches and any plans for gutter locations, and how roofs are intended to sit over the top of each other. The roof is a huge factor in the form of the home, and in a large site like this, it becomes a fifth elevation. So conveying this information accurately is important in maintaining design intent.
I’ve also indicated where skylights are proposed, and the type as well.
Western Elevation which is the entry elevation of the New Zealand home, and a long section to support information about ceiling and roof design
Elevations are essential for showing the overall form and materiality of the proposed design. They also show window and door information that sometimes isn’t visible on the drawings.
The intention for this home is to wrap the roof and walls in the same cladding, and create a monolithic, simple and elegant gabled form. Almost like an elegant shed (but on steroids!!) This home is not small … it’s intended to house family, and guests, and life, and generations. There’s a balance we need where we don’t want the site to dwarf the home, but we also want the home to have intimacy and elegance about it too. So, the design of the elevation and overall form certainly assists with this.
You’ll see porthole windows in the entry space – these were intended as a bit of fun. I saw the entry space as being a gallery of family photos, with the porthole windows providing framed ‘pictures’ of their own between the family photos.
The entry itself is not over-bearing. It’s sufficiently strong to show where guests need to enter the home, but we didn’t want it to be too significant. It’s designed to protect people from the wind and rain whilst they wait for someone to open the door as well.
The section cuts through the living pavilion, and shows how sliding doors are arranged along the north-eastern façade, and the ceiling steps from being flat (over the kitchen) to raked (over the living spaces).
North – west and South – east elevations of the living and sleeping pavilions. The ‘oblique’ view is how we show elevations when the plan is on an angle. So in the top elevation, we’re looking at the living pavilion square-on … and the sleeping pavilion is on the oblique (because it’s at an angle to the living pavilion). The bottom elevation shows the living pavilion on the angle, and we’re looking at the rear of the sleeping pavilion square on.
The ‘end’ elevations of the home work to articulate the two pavilion forms. The northern end of the home is, of course, open to natural light. This elevation hasn’t changed from the previous time I presented it. The Andersons decided they wanted full glazing to the northern end of their living space (not the cedar transom as was an alternative).
The southern end of the home is basically the ‘rear’. However, it is where the kids will have their bedrooms, and so natural light is important. This site is also big enough that the home can easily be circumnavigated, so this elevation will be visible. The ‘wall blades’ use on the northern elevation are brought in here, however we have an eave protrusion that is flat, not gabled – which means that the roof structure can be trussed, and we don’t require additional window hoods over the bedroom windows.
Additional elevations to describe the home
These elevations pick up the remaining facades that aren’t described elsewhere in the package. Here also, the northern elevation of the sleeping pavilion is shown square on – rather than oblique – to help with measuring and scaling for window sizes.
The north-east elevation gives the opportunity to describe how the connection zone will work. This is important, as the roof over the connection zone is low so it tucks under the pavilion roofs – but it can’t be too low overall!
Exciting times ahead …
Now we have the design bedded down, and this package describes it so a draftsperson can convert these drawings into an approval package and construction drawings, it’s time to move on to the exciting stuff.
In the next instalment, I’ll share how the Andersons kicked off construction prior to having their formal approval – as there was specific work they were able to commence without approval. There’s some great photos and footage to share.
In our last update (and first in this Project Diary), I shared what the Andersons were asking for in their home. And I took you through the various options I created in response to their brief.
So, which option did they choose?
Well, it was a tweaked version of one of them. Keep reading!
One of the things I love about working remotely with homeowners, is the different ways I find clients use to convey their thoughts and feedback to me.
The Andersons are really invested, involved clients. And having done this a couple of times before, they’re also very clear on what they want, and trusting of the design process as well.
And they’re able to use different techniques to convey what they want and need, without over-riding the design process completely. Clare sent these sketches back to me, as well as an email with feedback.
This is worth remembering … When you’re using a designer, it’s important that (as a client) you feel you can drive the process, without limiting the design exploration or outcome. The whole point of using a designer is to tap into that expertise and expand what is possible. If you want to control the outcome, you may as well design it yourself and save your fees. However, if you wish to drive the process, then being clear on these three things will be essential: + your brief + your budget + your feedback (likes, dislikes, wants, aspirations)
And then listen.
If you’ve done your homework in finding a designer who is experienced, and the right fit for your project, then listen to their input and trust their expertise. (Want to know how to find the right designer for you? This will help.)
Clare provided me with these images initially, which showed a slight rearrangement of the pavilions. This would assist with privatising the sleeping pavilion, and giving the living pavilion north / north-eastern orientation.
We both agreed, that siting-wise, we wanted to bring the home back to the southern end. This would limit the extent of driveway required, and maximise the northern outdoor / site area for a huge garden and privatised outlook.
Other detailed feedback included:
Siting and garaging location would mean the home’s entry would probably need to be articulated – so guests knew where the front door was
The arrangement of the master needed to consider the new siting and outlook, and how windows and light worked with the bed position – and the ensuite needed to work into this as well
The service zone of butler’s pantry, laundry and study nook, needed resolution as part of being the connection zone between the living and the sleeping pavilions
And some other feedback about elevations, and the general stepping of the floor plan, plus where covered outdoor areas might be located for sitting, and for hanging clothes
So based on the feedback, plus on reviewing some images that Clare had sent to me to explain some of these ideas, I created a new option: Option D.
Here is the next design option for this New Zealand home …
Option D: Site Plan
The siting of the home brought it back towards the southern boundary. This minimised the length of driveway required into the property – and driveways can be expensive! So, keeping it shorter helps us put budget elsewhere. It also maximised the northern part of the property for landscaped area.
The cul de sac location ensures the home can then have privacy in this way. The finger-like nature of the living pavilion is exposed for natural light all day (to both living areas) and the sleeping pavilion also gets good natural light (and is protected from harsh afternoon light as well).
Option D: Floor Plan
Entry into the home occurs at a core area of services, and the home itself is screened at the entry point. This helps provide an airlock at colder times of the year as well. In this service core is the mudroom, laundry, toilet, butler’s pantry and study nook, and then the home expands into living and dining areas.
Two living areas are separated by a storage / fireplace wall that could service both rooms. The detailing of this wall was also intended to provide transparency around this wall (but still have acoustic separation between the spaces), so that views are maintained throughout. Watch out for the next instalment to see how that was achieved.
A service core also exists in the sleeping pavilion, housing linen, walk-in-robe and study, and skylights provide natural light at these points.
Kids’ bedrooms are equally sized (no arguments), and the master and guest bedroom face north. These make them great retreat spaces as well for their users.
Option D: Northern elevation of the home, showing full glazed façade to the north-facing living space
Option D: Alternate northern elevation, where cedar is introduced to the living façade as a transom between glazing panels
Now that we had the plan option moving closer to resolution, it was time to show the Andersons what I had in my head for the elevations. Clare and I had been sharing imagery and ideas along the way, and we both had very clear ideas about strong simple forms, with the living pavilion being the dominant structure.
Both the living and sleeping pavilions are expressed as simple gabled forms. Because the sleeping pavilion is a wider shape, the pitch of the roof is kept lower, to help it not dominate overall. The living pavilion has a steeper roof, and open glazed end on the north. Connecting the two pavilions is the library spine. This provides an outdoor area to the north, and a service court to the south, all tucked between the two pavilions.
I started playing with how the glazed façade could be broken up – and the second option explores an alternate idea.
What happens next?
Now things are getting exciting, as we’re honing in on the final option. Again, the Andersons are super fast at getting feedback to me, and me then being able to resolve their design as a result. Stay tuned for the next instalment, as I share the final design and elevations. I’ll also share the package of drawings I prepared to illustrate how the inside would appear, and you’ll get to see a site update (because things are moving along there too!)
How can “The Spheres” by Amazon help you design your home and its garden?
This incredible facility, built by Amazon in order to connect its employees to nature, can help with your home and garden design. Here is more information …
I got to visit the Amazon Spheres, or “The Spheres” as they’re known, when I visited Seattle.
The view of The Spheres as we approached | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The exterior of The Spheres as we entered | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The Spheres were built in between February 2013 to January 2018. The building itself – which comprises of three glass domes, was completed in December 2016, and then from that time, up until the opening in January 2018, the garden inside the building was established.
Other movements in The Spheres occurs around a central garden, and right up against the glass panelled dome wall | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The walkway under the highest part of the dome puts you right next to the glass panels | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The Spheres are a place where employees can think and work differently surrounded by plants. The Spheres are a result of innovative thinking about the character of a workplace and an extended conversation about what is typically missing from urban offices– a direct link to nature. The Spheres are home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries.
Why am I mentioning this project? Well, I think there’s lots of inspiration that you can draw on when thinking about your home, and how you go about renovating or building it. And particularly, how you create the green spaces in and around it.
The importance of connection to nature in our everyday lives – and our homes
For both the High Line and The Spheres, it is super significant that landscape design, planting and green spaces are essential to the quality and feel of these structures and spaces.
The vertical planted wall is dense and lush | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Platforms project out into the void, and overlook the garden areas | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The connection with gardens, with light, with natural elements … all of that is scientifically proven to improve our well-being, our sense of relaxation and lower our anxiety levels overall.
This is what your garden – no matter how big or how small, can offer your home. That feeling of relaxation, of slowness, of haven and enjoyment.
This doesn’t have to be grand statements. There are many examples of projects that have shown that something as simple as a lovingly curated collection of indoor plants can make a massive difference to the feel and function of a space in someone’s home. That can be achieved anywhere, for very little budget.
Each plant in The Spheres is identified with these fantastic timber signs | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
So, let me tell you more about The Spheres, because it’s an amazing project.
I actually got access because the friend I was staying with used to work for Amazon. However, they do open the Spheres up to visitors a couple of times a month, so you can check out the Sphere’s website if you ever plan to be in Seattle and want to check them out.
Let me describe the experience to you if I can. As you approach The Spheres, winding your way through city streets, you see these glass domes that look unlike anything around them.
External structures defining walkways between The Spheres and other buildings look like tree canopies | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Amazon allows staff to bring their dogs to work, and provides an off-leash dog park outside | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
They’re really notable, and as you get closer you can see the amount of greenery inside them, because they’re a fully transparent structure. In fact, they had to test the insides would get enough sunlight to support a tropical garden of that scale, as Seattle’s weather isn’t the most tropical or sunny.
So a mockup greenhouse was built to test glass types, temperatures and sunlight penetration, before they committed to the selections for The Spheres.
You enter at the bottom level, into quite a darkened space by comparison. There’s a security sign in, and as you move through turnstiles, you step into the full volume of the dome.
Up a winding staircase, along side a full height vertical garden, you start to see all the greenery revealed to you. The green wall extends up 65 feet – or approximately 22 metres, and the overall height of the domes at their tallest point is 90 feet – or approximately 30m. So, we’re talking a BIG space with a lot of greenery!
There’s several floors of cafes, meeting rooms, walk-ways and little gathering spaces.
Looking down on the entry stair, where you arrive into The Spheres, adjacent to the vertical wall garden | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Looking down through the volume of The Spheres with its staircases and ramps | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Different spaces are created at each level, with all movement oriented around garden areas | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The walkway and large trees on the uppermost level of The Spheres | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Everything seems to pivot around the greenery … you literally feel like you’re walking through a garden despite looking outside to city buildings. You can hear running water, and every so often a mist fires off to water the huge vertical garden wall nearby. And light … there is so much sunlight.
I didn’t know a lot about The Spheres before I visited, but surmised that Amazon had done a lot of research around how a connection with nature, and providing a space like this for staff to go, meet, work in, and be away for their desks, would enhance creativity and productivity overall … and impact company culture in a really positive way.
Since returning, I did some reading on the ‘why’ behind creating this space, and I found this great article – which I’ll pop a link to in the show notes, but wanted to read this section to you …
It was written in the Seattle Weekly by Kelton Sears in May 2016 – so about 7 months before it opened, but by this stage, all the plants were being installed and established. The article says …
“The Amazon Spheres are the latest local manifestation of a fascinating new design approach—biophilic and biomemetic architecture.
Kelton continues … Biophilia is the name of a seminal 1984 book by E.O. Wilson, a biologist with a specialty in ants. In Biophilia, Wilson posits the “biophilia hypothesis,” which states that, subconsciously, humans have evolved a deep connection with and affinity for natural systems and life forms (biophilia literally means “the love of life”).
In turn, the emerging field of biophilic design seeks to connect humanity with nature through the built environment. This can be as dramatic as cladding the entire exterior of a building with foliage or as simple as installing a small garden in the lobby. The approach has been most popular in hospitals, thanks to a scientific study that was able to quantify the medical benefits of biophilia. Patients recovering from surgery did so quicker and required less pain medication when they could see trees out their window than they did with a view of a brick wall.”
I think we actually understand this need for connection with the natural environment. That we feel better when we spend time in nature, and connect with it. I love thinking about how we do this in our homes, so they’re a really restorative place for us.
Throughout The Spheres, there were these gorgeous sitting areas that projected from the central stair and ramp at several places … including the Bird’s Nest. This was a semi-enclosed meeting area that projects out into the void of the dome, and literally does look a birds’ nest.
I think the Bird’s Nest was one of my favourite features | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
A view of the “Bird’s Nest” from below | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Looking inside the seating area of the Bird’s Nest | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Looking down on the Bird’s Nest | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
A small workspace with a canopy over the top that can be moved to shade the space as required | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
There were smaller zones where you could sit at a desk and use your laptop, and adjust a panel above you for shade based on what the sun was doing (like the space in the image above). Everything felt very connected to the garden at every level.
How can your home do this too?
A couple of other things to be inspired by when it comes to The Spheres, and your new home or renovation …
One is the impact of volume.
I’ve spoken about this in more detail on another episode of the podcast (you can listen to it here). However, volume is a key way to create spaciousness in your home – without having to increase the floor plan of your home. Many homeowners think two-dimensionally about their design. They arrange boxes on a plan to get the rooms right … the correct size, connected the way they want … and then pop a flat ceiling over it all. Consider how volume can change how a space feels in size.
Another is the impact of natural light.
Again, I’ve dedicated several episodes to how important natural light is in helping you and your home feel great (you can start listening here). If you do want to include indoor plants, or even have a green space growing within your home, then getting the natural light right in your design will be essential. Design that in early, so you can maximise its potential.
There’s lots more I can mention … but if scroll through those photos above, I’m sure you can look for inspiration yourself.
It may seem weird that I’ve written about an urban park, and an Amazon staff facility, when this is a website all about designing, building or renovating your family home.
My hope is that it shows you that design inspiration is all around us.
When we get curious, and watch how we, and others, use and interact with spaces and places, it can give us great ideas for our homes.
It can help us see what we resonate with, what makes us feel great, what we do and don’t enjoy, and how we can make our homes fun, relaxing, enjoyable and beautiful places to live.
How can the High Line in New York inspire your own home’s garden design?
Whatever the size of your home garden, there are key tips you can learn from the High Line in New York to help you create a fantastic result in your own space.
The High Line is an urban park, sitting 30 feet, or 10 metres in the air. It’s a repurposed rail-line, and it has a fascinating history. It’s 1.45 miles or 2.33km long, and the first section was opened in 2009.
Subsequent sections have been opened, and work continues on the High Line, as it connects through to the Javits Centre, a huge conference center on the east-side of Manhattan.
The green lushness of the High Line is an oasis in the hustle bustle of New York | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The Shed (foreground) and The Vessel (the coppery building under construction on the right) are two new facilities under construction near the High Line | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
A small seating area peels up out of the High Line adjacent to garden | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Now, why is the High Line relevant?
The High Line is amazing as a space and experience. It’s basically an elevated walkway that winds its way through a part of Manhattan. And yet it gets around 7 million visitors each year, has completely reinvigorated that area of Manhattan, and as a landscape design has won a huge amount of awards.
Linear parks such as this are actually quite unusual. When you think of ‘parkland’, you often think of larger spaces, where people can gather, play casual sports, run the dog, and there’s large areas of grass where you can lie about.
There’s lots of new construction in the area, and immediately adjacent to the High Line, as it’s reinvigorated development (and property values) in the area. This is a Zaha Hadid designed apartment building which was apparently selling for $3,500 USD per square foot! | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Apartments sit close to the High Line, and pedestrian view – it’s interesting how privacy is considered differently here | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
People do walk the High Line and use it as a connection between areas. However, it’s sitting over roads and footpaths that do the same thing. And so the High Line is a very different experience.
It is a destination; it’s a place where people go, meet, sit, gather, and walk. And it’s an incredible example of how something that was not only disused, but an eyesore and old piece of infrastructure wasting away, has been completely renovated into this valuable asset for New Yorkers and visitors alike.
Now, why does this matter in relation to your home?
Well, I’d love to tell you some more about the history of the High Line, and then I’m going to share 2 tips with you about how its design can relate to your home and its landscape. (There’s actually many more ways its design can relate!)
What I’m hoping this shows you is that renovating and building design inspiration and ideas are everywhere … if you can keep your eyes open to see them.
In fact, some of the best ideas, the most new and interesting ones in homes, come from relating design ideas from larger, more public spaces. So keep reading for those tips.
Who was our guide? Meet Friends of the High Line
We were fortunate to be accompanied on our tour by a volunteer guide from Friends of the High Line. Friends of the High Line is the non-profit caretaker of the High Line. From their website, they explain that Friends of the High Line raises 98% of the High Line’s annual budget.
Original railway sleepers visible in the garden area | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Owned by the City of New York, the High Line is a public park maintained, operated, and programmed by Friends of the High Line, in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Our guide was a brilliant, clever man named Jeffrey Yablonka. As I said, the guides are volunteers, and passionate that the High Line has a loved place in New York’s culture and fabric. Jeffrey was a treasure trove of information and knowledge on the project, and took particular care given he was guiding a group of architects, to point out some amazing details and intel as we walked the length of the High Line together.
Our guide, Jeffrey Yablonka (amazing and knowledgeable man!) | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The History of the High Line | How and why was the original railway line built?
Jeffrey told us that, back in the 19th Century, the Hudson River, which is the river that runs alongside Manhattan, was how goods were transported into Manhattan, and then distributed across the country via rail.
The trains then were located at street level, with a big station at Tribeca. Picture the southern end of Manhattan being this heavily industrialized area, where loads of manufacturing and processing happened. Goods would come in, get processed there, and then transported out.
The trains travelled at about 8 miles per hour over ground … which is only 12.8km / hour. If you know anything about New York, it’s built on landfill and reclaimed land … so it wasn’t possible back then to create tunnels. People thought they could outrun the trains, which they couldn’t always, and so unfortunately there were lots of deaths as a result of people misjudging this and getting hit by trains. Jeffrey told us that 10th Avenue was called “Death Avenue” because of this.
In the early 1900s, a decision was made to rebuild the railway line as an elevated structure 30 feet, or 10m, in the air. It was intended that it could then run between the buildings, so that goods could be loaded directly on and off the train into the buildings processing and manufacturing goods.
Hardscape and railway lines disappearing into lush gardens | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Railway lines integrated into the hardscape itself | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
So, in 1929, the approval was given to build what was known as the Westside Line.
It was 15 miles long – so much longer than it is now – and its $150 million budget equates to $3 billion in today’s money. If you remember your history, you’ll know that this was around the time of the depression … so to make a big capitol project at this time, give employment, etc – that was a big deal. 650 buildings were torn down to make way for the Westside Line, and in 1934 it was opened.
However over the decades ahead, as trade changed, and more went by sea and air, the rail line was used less and less. In 1960, the south part of it was demolished and the land sold. In 1980, the last shipment occurred … 3 boxcars full of frozen turkeys apparently!
New building by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) under construction and visible from the High Line | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Shady seating areas adjacent to an ampitheatre style lowered seating platform | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
No longer a railway line in use | The High Line’s future
The Westside Line became an abandoned ruin, full of graffiti, rubbish and somewhere homeless people lived. Getting up to it was difficult – in fact one of the members of our tour spoke about how, as an architectural student and working nearby, he got told about a special point at 23rd street you could access the railway line. The neighborhood was generally considered pretty dangerous and terrible.
As is the way with these things, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, developers and community wanted it torn down.
It was an eyesore, and in the way. In 1999, a community board meeting was held to determine its future. Two men, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, were sitting side by side. They both wanted to see the railway line kept, and restored into something that could add to the area. That meeting became a partnership, which grew into the Friends of the High Line, and started the ball rolling on determining the future for this railway line. Ultimately, it’s this partnership, and the support and funding they gathered, that created the incredible parkland that is there today.
Now, given that meeting was in 1999, and the first section of the High Line didn’t open until 2009, you can imagine how much of this story I’m not covering … but I’ll pop some resources at the end of this blog if you’d like to check out more and learn about how the High Line was designed. It involved design competitions, lots of alternative ideas, and as you can imagine, the rallying of public support, donations and benefactors.
What I loved though was the fact that, as a disused railway line, an eyesore and derelict structure, trees and plants were actually growing on it … elevated 10m into the air. And so this idea of the self-seeding garden was something that gained momentum as an idea through those years, and resulted in what we have today.
Jeffrey holding a picture of what this area used to look like, as we toured the High Line | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Jeffrey, our guide, in front of one of the public artworks on the High Line | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
The other thing I loved was that the design brief for the High Line was this …
Keep it Simple Keep it Slow Keep it Quiet Keep it Wild
Isn’t that a gorgeous brief? I’m wondering, could you write the brief for your home in a similar way?
The High Line as an urban park
The finished High Line design is a collaboration between James Corner Field Operations (Project Lead), Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf.
And so how do plants grow up there now?
Well, there is generally 18 inches of soil (which is around half a metre … so not a lot) for most areas, and then double that for where the birch and maple trees grow. There’s 500 species of plants … mostly are indigenous, and chosen for their durability.
The level of the walkway raises to allow a deeper garden bed for larger trees | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
An area of the High Line waiting for upgrade – it shows the original self-seeding landscape that was prevalent when the High Line was a derelict railway | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
How can this inspire your home’s own garden design?
I’m going to share 2 ideas I saw so beautifully expressed in the design of the High Line, and how these can be translated to your home’s design – whether you’re renovating or building.
Inspiration #1: How the High Line remembers its history.
There’s lots of examples of this in the High Line.
One I loved is the use of ‘spurs’ … which are a projected space on the High Line itself, where often a seating area is located, or an area of specially designed garden, or an artwork. These spurs remember where trains could move off the railway line into the buildings to have goods loaded and unloaded.
A seating area located on one of the ‘spurs’ | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
This spur held an inaccessible garden and piece of artwork | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
And of course, the railway line itself is visible throughout the high line … it weaves in and out of planted areas, or hardscape areas depending on how the design has been handled.
To achieve this, each original railway line marked with its GPS location before removal, so the landscape could be constructed, and the railway line re-installed. You’ll see the railway sleepers march their way through too. There’s no mistaking the historic memory of what this structure once was. It’s a really important part of story telling in the space and place.
Markings on the railway lines to record its position | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
Here, the railway lines run through garden area | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
If you’re renovating an old home, think how you can look at the historic elements of your existing home to help with enhancing the design of the work you’re doing. What story can you tell to enrich your home’s feeling and memory?
It can be challenging to do this, as often it gets expensive to retain things for re-use, or to get builders to work with old materials and elements.
However, you can think differently about this.
For example, on of my Your Reno Roadmap members shared the other day that she has this fantastic copper curtain pelmet in her home, and they’re building new, so she was seeking ideas on how it could be re-purposed and re-used. I’ve seen homeowners discover old timber and turn it into a coffee table. Someone told me recently they couldn’t get the sandstone from their home off-site because it was too heavy to move, so they’re using it as garden edging. There’s lots of ways this can work.
If you’re building new or renovating in an area with history, what can you find out about the area to bring meaning and story to your home?
In a house we renovated, I designed privacy screens and the intercom gate to have a leaf pattern, because the house was on the site of an old orchard for the original home in the area … in fact the street was called a Grove, not a street. And so this was a way we brought that story into the home’s design and materials.
Can history and story inspire the design and choices you’re making for your home?
Inspiration #2: Looking at the small things, and how well they work to create intimacy and relaxation in the High Line.
On the High Line, there is a small patch of grass. Only one area, and every time I walked past it (and I went on the High Line a few times during my visit, both during the day and in the evening), people were lying on it.
Jeffrey, our guide, told us that a specific design request from the community was to have an area of grass. It’s like nature’s carpet isn’t it … it immediately invites sitting and lounging. I think of a lot of European plazas where people lie over them, even though they’re hard surfaces, and it’s never quite the same as having a patch of grass.
But that’s the thing … it’s only a patch.
The small patch of lawn on the High Line | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
As we design homes for more compact sites, we often give away the idea of having grass because it then requires maintenance – and having a lawnmower for a handkerchief of grass seems ludicrous.
Some people put in synthetic grass as an alternative, but it’s not quite the same. You can now buy no-mow natural grasses that are still lovely to lie and walk on as an alternative to turf, so if this is what your project is like, do explore your options.
If you want to create that patch of grassy outdoor area you can lie on and enjoy, then you have lots of choices available to you.
Other small things included the seating areas along the High Line.
This space is basically a walk-way … but there were various different ways the design invited you to sit. Be it a park bench immediately alongside the walkway … a bench located on one of the spurs I mentioned earlier … or even stepped seating and amphitheater style seating that was designed in various locations.
Seating areas incorporated into the design of the High Line’s walkway surface | Photograph by Amelia Lee, Undercover Architect
These elements acted as destinations … they really invited you to stop walking, and experience them. To pause and enjoy the area you were in, notice the details, look at the scenery and slow down.
Given how fast a city New York is, the scale of the High Line as a structure, and the sheer number of people who use the High Line each year, these elements were small and yet dramatic in what they offered in relaxing the space and how those felt in it.
There was a beautiful intimacy on the High Line with how these smaller elements were handled and designed, and they often enabled you to pull away from the hustle and bustle of the main walk-way, and enjoy a specially framed view or outlook as well.
I think when we start planning our future home, and its design for both inside and outside, we think things have to be big or dramatic to make a grand statement.
Instead, what small spaces, and small gestures can you create and design into your home. This could be as simple as widening your hallway so there’s room to put a seat or bench to take your shoes off, or put them on, before you head out the door.
It could be having a reading nook that captures a great view out into your garden. Window seats are also awesome for this … they don’t take up a lot of floor space, but they literally invite you to sit, rest, enjoy the sun and connect with outside … which will bring pause to your day, slow things down and enable relaxation.
And when you think about it, our homes are the most intimate buildings we’ll occupy on a daily basis … you don’t share them with everyone do you? So, creating that feeling of intimacy can assist with your home feeling more yours, and more private too.
One example of this is thinking about how you’ll create space to display your family photos.
We often get caught up in wanting gorgeous indoor/outdoor connections, and lots of glass for natural light, that we forget to leave wall space behind to make places for our art and photographs. And yet, there’s nothing like walking past a wall of memories in your home everyday. Putting it somewhere where it’s not hidden away, but friends and guests who come over can see it, really helps establish, for them, that sense of connection with you and your home.
So when you’re thinking about your home, don’t always think about how you’re going to make things bigger, or more spacious, or better fitted out. Think about how small gestures can create impact as well, and how small spaces can provide intimacy and a lovely feel for your home.
I could keep writing about the High Line for ages!
Honestly, if you get to visit Manhattan, make sure you put a few hours aside to walk the High Line, and better yet, book a tour with the Friends of the High Line. The paid tours we all do are one way they raise funds to maintain the High Line, so it’s really worthwhile, and the tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable.
A special thank you to our guide, Jeffery Yablonka, who was enthusiastic, passionate and very patient with all my questions.
Books on the High Line … see below for some recommendations (if you purchase one of these books, I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you – but please know, I only recommend things I love myself! I checked these books out in the High Line gift shop!!)
High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky >>> CLICK HERE
The High Line (written by the designers) >>> CLICK HERE
Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes >>> CLICK HERE
On the High Line: Exploring America’s Most Original Urban Park >>> CLICK HERE
(And for some photographs of the High Line as an abandoned railway line, and naturally seeding garden, this one’s a great one:) Joel Sternfeld: Walking the High Line >>> CLICK HERE