Monthly Archives: March 2013

The New Exploratorium on the Embarcadero

Pier Review

Recently I toured the remarkable new home for San Francisco’s famous Exploratorium — the museum of science, art, and human perception founded by physicist Frank Oppenheimer (brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer) in 1969 — which opens officially on April 17. Formerly housed at the landmark Palace of Fine Arts, it has moved to Piers 15-17 on the Embarcadero near downtown. Resting on new piles driven into the Bay, the impressive 9-acre setting for this “research and development lab for public learning” couldn’t be more fitting. After all, “embarcadero” means docking point and this is an institution that


takes us on a journey of discovery (embarking from what we know, disembarking with new insights…) in the worlds of biology, physics, listening, cognition, and  Continue reading

The Shingle Style Yesterday and Today

Enveloped in Nature

The Shingle Style developed during the late 19th century in the northeastern United States where wood was plentiful and an Arts and Crafts/back-to-nature esthetic reigned. The great architectural historian Vincent Scully identified and codified the style and called it the first truly American building idiom. Cedar shingles became the enveloping matrix holding together an exuberant array of architectural expressions for a burgeoning leisure class. Consider houses like

kragsyde from

Kragsyde, at Manchester by-the-Sea by Peabody & Stearns of 1882 with its Continue reading

New Modern and Country/Cottage House Plans

From Lithuania to Maine

One of the great pleasures of my job as editor is helping make a wide range of high quality home designs available from around the world, and this week I’m excited to announce the arrival of two new plans by Arch L. A. B. from Lithuania and two new plans by Maine architect Bruce Butler.  They’re all part of our Signature Collection. Residential architecture should be as diverse as the cultures that shape it and these four plans exemplify that concept. Arch L. A. B.’s

Plan 552-3, above, is a 1,752 sq. ft.  3 bedroom 2.5 bath two story design that Continue reading

Orienting Your House: Architect François Lévy

Austin City Limitations

Austin, Texas architect François Lévy — who has an expanding series of ready-made home plans in our Signature Collection — including this

innovative barn-inspired studio cottage, Plan 450-2 — offers excellent advice on siting in his François Lévy Architect Blog, so I am including it here as a bonus post this week.

“Lately I’ve been working with Newcastle Homes on a couple of urban infill residential projects. Newcastle is successful at pairing lots in near East Austin with clients who want vibrancy, neighborhood character, and proximity to the central city. As a rule these old lots are narrower than in other parts of the city, and while East Austin has been “hot” for several years, land prices are still more affordable than elsewhere. Thanks to careful design and planning, the houses they build are modern, energy efficient, appealing, and affordable.

The problem with East Austin lots, though, is that almost all of them are oriented Continue reading

Energy- and Resource-Efficiency: Tearing Down & Building Up

Green Ways to Vanish and Grow

Energy efficiency in home design isn’t new; it has simply become more urgent as natural resources dwindle and global warming increases. But here’s a new twist: the most creative approach to green building might just involve eco-friendly demolition —  if you need to remove the structure that’s already there and can recycle its key elements before building anew. I’m thinking of the fascinating new technique showcased by the demolition of the Grand Akasaka Prince Hotel

now under way in Tokyo. The hotel is shown here in the photo on the left, with Continue reading

Windows With a Sense of History

The Once and Future Double Hung Window

As springs creeps a little closer, my mind wanders over to the window looking for signs of change. Not much is happening outside so let’s consider the window itself, and especially the iconic double-hung variety — that is, a window with two sashes that can move past each other either up or down. It’s one of many window types to consider when you are designing or building a new house and remains a powerful symbol of home,  as shown in this New Yorker cover by artist










Gretchen Dow Simpson (courtesy The double hung window has a long Continue reading