the artistic possibilities
of designing with nature
Design and construct the man-made environment to be in harmony with the natural environment.

Solar Work 1970-78

Prefabs, Boston rowhouse, Rural rowhouse

The fold out trailer was proposed for a competition sponsored by Reynolds Metals. The concept was that if the standard trailer could fold out, it could enclose a courtyard. Inside the trailer there would be a greenhouse bay and a deck which would slide out at the site, creating more indoor and outdoor living space. Some variation in the basic trailer would provide variety of spaces and orientation. Although not shown here, a prefabricated glazing system could close off part of the court to create a solar atrium. Sadly, this scheme did not win.


This trailerized housing system has solar inputs on the south side, with optional reflectors, and very few windows on the north, which is the access side. Photos of the south side of the single family 2 story variation have been lost, but are similar to the multifamily use. While using trailerized modules in single wide configuration has greater surface area for heat loss, a larger solar profile is possible, and very little fenestration is needed on the north. Additional insulation can compensate for the larger area. The connecting walkway between the units adds some unification, and the steps up to the roof decks are accessed off of this walkway in the manner of old-fashion front porches, where everyone can watch their neighbors come and go.

The Boston row house was a burned out shell, a 15'x33'space,in plan. Originally built for immigrant laborers, serving the other side of Beacon Hill, each floor was an apartment divided into 3 rooms, the center room having no windows. The design for the overall scheme was done in partnership with Michael Epp, and the 2 larger apartments were designed by each owner. A partial 6th floor was added by using bricks from an interior basement wall to extend the party walls, and also the neighbor's chimney cluster. The renovation redivided the building into 4 apartments: 2 duplexes front and back on the basement and first floors, one duplex using the middle two floors, and a top duplex. More important was the vertical division from top to bottom by a curved red undulating wall separating the served spaces (LDK and bedrooms) from the servant spaces ( stairs, bathrooms, kitchens, and light shafts). Light from the top greenhouse skylights penetrated all the way down to the street-level front door. Two thirds of the walls were party walls left as exposed brick, and the remaining walls to the exterior were heavily insulated, as was the roof. Much of the old timbers that survived the fire were reused in the new framing. This project was an exercise in "small is beautiful", day lighting, and massive amounts of thermal mass with appropriate solar inputs to stabilize temperatures from diurnal swings.

This multifamily scheme, unlike the elongated trailerized scheme, uses shared party walls (usually an urban strategy for high density) with a continuous greenhouse glazing system on the south, and a more personalized scale for the entry side on the north. Again roof decks above, and also garages below are accessed by stairs on the community side, and a central common space breaks the complex into 2 asymmetrical parts.

At this point in time the role of mass becomes important in the solar work. Le Corbusier once described architecture as the play of light on mass, and someone described solar architecture as sun, glass, and mass. The most difficult search is for the technically appropriate ratio and coordination of the latter with the visual integration and aesthetic composition of the former.