Personal property: The ambitious homes architects build for themselves

Published 21st April 2017
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Architects Homes 5
Personal property: The ambitious homes architects build for themselves
Written by Bethany Patch
This is an edited excerpt from "Architects' Homes" by Bethany Patch, published by the Images Publishing Group.
The home is a built form that allows the architect to explore and convert ideas into reality. The opportunities and potential for expression to expand the boundaries of building form and building space are endless.
We, as humans, occupy this space. One type of architecture that we have grown over time to accept—to the point that it is now essential to our wellbeing and survival—is shelter, a place we can call home, whether it is in an urban, human-made context, or more connected to nature.
The scale of the single-family house is the primary building form that allows, and in many cases encourages, the architect to both develop and experiment with an idea or ideas that include or expand their own awareness of light, space, form and context.
Architects use the design of their own homes both as a design experiment and as a representation of their own beliefs and ideals. Their grounding through education and experience may form a base or starting point, but the influences of their culture, lifestyle and the environment of their upbringing are naturally integrated into their architecture.
In places where the light is soft and gray, expanses of glass flood the rooms with natural light. In places where the sun is bright and harsh, either walls are dominant, or openings and expanses of glass are shaded with screens.
The move towards the zero-energy house—with more effective glazing, increased insulation and a reduction in electrical energy and water consumption—is not solely technical but illustrates how architects respond in their selection and use of low energy consumption materials.
R128 by Wener Sobek
R128 by Wener Sobek Credit: Zooey Braun
The architects' design positions are diverse, the context is diverse and cultures are varied. The customized house is a "one-off," an architect's interpretation of design equated with the needs and values of the owner's family and their sense of a home. It is tailored to the architect's own family's program, balanced by the architect's personal design perspective.
In the Steinhaus by Günther Domenig, the design is personal and "the house is at the same time my body—my feeling—my thinking."
With the advent of the digital age, the future may be less defined. We can now be attached to our home without actually being there. Automation is, and will continue to be, changing the house in ways that we have not even thought of. The new norm is change.
The size of an architect's own home is often an expression of their professional commitment. There is a small but current movement towards the micro unit, an expression of a need to achieve home ownership, however small. At the opposite scale, the McMansion is still popular, but architects' homes tend to be more responsible and they generally scale the size of their home as a direct relationship to their needs.
The architectural design elements that expand one's awareness of interior and exterior spaces and the iconic image of "home" are so diverse and numerous that the single-family house has become the archetype for the positive exploration of new spatial ideas and forms that reflect the various cultures and personal traits of the owners.
The houses that follow represent a small segment of the designs that result from a successful collaboration between the architect as the designer and the architect as the owner.
"Architects' Homes" by Bethany Patch, published by the Images Publishing Group, is out now.