An online journal documenting the planning and building process of our modern home from start to finish. It is intended to share our experiences throughout this project with all those interested in modern design.

Exciting Day - meeting Jim (the architect) at our property

Anne and I have spent a lot of time (years) looking through various magazines and websites (Dwell, Innovative Home, Architectural Record, etc.) and a lot of time talking about exactly how we envisioned our future home would look and fit into our property.  Basically, it was going to be a "boxy" two story structure, perched along the edge of the overlook with our bedroom being the only part of the upper floor to maximize the views (but this was all going to change by the end of the day).  Basically a bunch of stacked boxes with lots of windows.

It was a pretty cold morning and it had actually snowed overnight, although for the most part it didn't stick and today was the day we were meeting Jim out at our property for the first time.  Even though it was cold, it still was particularly nice since the leaves in all the trees were in their autumn colors.  This site really is just amazing and when you first get there you just have to spend a few minutes taking it all in - pictures just don't do it justice.  We spent some time and walked around our entire property talking some more about what we wanted (or maybe didn't even know we wanted) from our home.

We went back up to the top and between walking around the clearing and sitting at the picnic bench, Jim started sketching out some ideas.  His initial suggestions revolved around not having the master bedroom on a second floor but rather as part of the main floor ("why go upstairs to go to bed? he kept saying) where the kitchen and living room would be then have a lower level containing other bedrooms, exercise room, etc.  We were still pretty sure we wanted it located along the overlook out near the edge of the clearing.  He then started talking about and drawing out what the structure itself might look like.  After a couple iterations, he threw out this idea, that it could look like a bridge/train trestle - an elongated structure sitting on top of several repeating concrete walls or piers.  These piers would make up the lower level of the home with rooms built in between each of the piers.  This lower floor would be built partially underground.  This was an idea Anne and I both really liked a lot.  Then Jim suggested that there could be a walkway deck running along one side that continued out past the house almost like a pier or dock out over the drop off.

This got us really excited, but we still had the house right in the middle of the clearing - it was then that we realized what really was the best part of the property.  It's not just the sweeping view of the horizon from the overlook, it is the experience of getting there.  In coming up "driveway" to the top of the hill, you round a corner and there is a WOW! moment as the sweeping view of the horizon comes into view.  The picture included here is what you see and there is a short video clip of driving up  HERE - sorry for the bad cinematography (if you would even call it that, but I think you get the idea).  At first you think, the middle of the clearing would be a great place to build a home, but obviously putting it there would take away that wow factor as you arrive.  It was then that we decided to place the house along the line of view so the walkway and "sky pier" would guide your eyes out towards the horizon and to push the house as far to the left field of view as possible, almost so it wasn't blocking the view at all.  At this point, it seemed like nothing else could be a better design for this site and for our home - an elongated bridge-like structure with a sky pier extending out towards the horizon.  Cool!

To get going on the design, Jim would need the topo data from our survey and some information on zoning and construction requirements.  Anne has already put a lot of time and research into this so we have a good start but we'll need to work on getting a geotechnical analysis done to determine the stability/bearing capacity of the soil.  Also, we'll have the contract details to work out with GMK Architecture which we can do over the next few days.

It's funny how we started today out being so sure that we "knew" exactly what we wanted and having in our mind what w thought that looked like but left today with something somewhat different and really feeling that the elongated bridge-like structure concept is really what "should' have been built here all along.  Both of us are really excited to see where it's going to go!

Meet the Architect day

We drove down to Madison yesterday to meet Jim Gempeler the residential design architect at GMK Architecture. We actually met Jim a few years ago when we were trying to plan our earlier (but failed) project at the Merrillan Mill site (see earliest posts).  We had approached him to design our home there and besides having some great ideas, the first time we met at his office, we ate bratwursts they were barbecuing out back and ruffles potato chips for lunch.  I think the brats sealed the deal for Anne.
We showed Jim the topo survey map that Anne made, pictures, and video of the site and talked about what we "envisioned" being built there.  We also talked about the design materials that we would like to see (exposed concrete, steel, and glass) and things we didn't like so much (curved walls, angled rooms).
The whole time, Jim was really excited enthusiastic and you could get the sense that he is passionate about his work and really wanted to design a house that fit us and our lifestyle.  Something about the whole situation just felt right and there was a certain calmness about it.  He threw out many great ideas but really wanted to take a trip to the site to see and discuss it first hand.  Since we didn't have much time left in our trip and with winter approaching, we decided to meet there the following Tuesday morning.  We left that day feeling even more excited and optimistic knowing that we were one step closer to finally making this a reality.
We drove back to Merrillan and to top off an already great day, we went back out to the property after dark and watched the Moon rise over our view of the eastern horizon.  It was awesome to think about how many more rising moons we would see in the coming years when we live here!

Road Trip - California to Wisconsin to meet an architect

We just arrived driving from Riverside, CA to our property in Wisconsin.  We drove here to meet with an architect in Madison, WI to possibly begin the design of our home. 

Orion and Astro drove with us and they traveled really well.  The majority of the way, you wouldn't even know there were two dogs with us.  We drove from Riverside to Cedar City, UT on Tuesday night, then to Lincoln, NE via Denver.  The drive through the Rockies was awesome - we caught it just in time to see the autumn colors at their peak and even a few inches of snow covering the tops of the mountains from the night before.  We even hit a cool hail and lightning storm in the dark just as we were crossing from Colorado into Nebraska.

The rest of the drive took us through Iowa, then Minnesota, and into Wisconsin via La Crosse.  From here it is 37 miles to our property - considering that I might end up working in La Crosse, it's not a bad drive.  We arrived at our property just before sunset.  Going up our driveway (1/2 mile from the road), the trees all around were in full autumn colors and it was like driving through a tunnel of bright golds, oranges, and reds.  As you near the top, the view opens to overlook the Black River and the view was amazing!  (the picture is looking east over the cliff/drop-off).