It has taken me a couple of days to put together my thoughts about the winner of the Chain of Eco-Homes competition, the Meadowlark House by Steven Learner Studio. The judging process was fascinating, with a sophisticated video conferencing system tying all the jurors together from Greensburg to San Francisco to Toronto.
This wasn't just a design competition, they are actually building these in Greensburg, putting people in them and they have a budget to meet. While I might go on about some of the wilder schemes, Steve Thomas of Planet Green would bring me back to earth, saying "you can't build that!" and Steve Hewitt of Greensburg would point out "you can't live in that!" But a consensus did form.
When asked my thoughts about the winner, I wrote:
I think the best word I can find is "allroundedness." The architects were able to come up with a crisp, modern design, yet hit the right buttons of sustainable design: a tight plan that minimizes waste, good understanding of passive solar and ventilation systems, a comfortable family friendly layout. It was a great balancing act of design, approachability and efficiency.
The designer writes:
The Meadowlark house was designed to be both a comfortable and flexible home for a growing family on a modest budget and a demonstration model for sustainable design and technologies. The design is conceived of as two similarly scaled masses slightly shifted in plan, topped with a splayed roof form. The result is a compact, yet spatially dynamic home for contemporary living. The home is oriented along an east-west axis; the public areas are arranged in an 'open' floor plan emphasizing openness and light from the large south facing windows. The window configuration takes advantage of the cool breezes in summer and the warming sun in winter. Deep roof overhangs at the south and west protect against harsh summer sun. Exterior walls are constructed with the HIB system, with engineered roof joists. The mechanical systems include radiant floor heating and a ducted energy recovery ventilator.
It's a professional job by an experienced professional; Steven Learner Studio is a "New York based architecture and interior design firm founded in 1995. The firm specializes in art-related projects that surpass the traditional boundaries of residence or gallery to propose a seamless relationship between architecture, art, and living.....Ideas are developed into a clear and concise vision, in aesthetic, function, and construction."
Their work is pretty slick. You never know in an anonymous competition who you are getting until the envelope with the name on it is opened; In this competition the quality of the presentations and designs were so high that you couldn't easily tell the student from the intern from the established professional. but in this case the winner did exactly what he says in his company description:
In each project we seek to achieve the essential: an environment that is exactly what it needs to be.