Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Ever Moving Target

Architects enjoy their work as a matter of creation and practicality, and certainly I have truly enjoyed designing several different homes given the criteria and limitations presented in those circumstances. That said I am no professional architect. I am a designer, a general contractor, a builder of sorts.

However what I am doing now compares to architecture in about the same way as a tent compares to the Taj Mahal. It is not that I am creating the greatest structure ever seen or even one of the most beautiful homes ever to be viewed, though I expect it to be in that latter category in my own eyes, but rather that what I am doing now is creating a finished product while creating the base materials at the same time.

The architect starts with known and constant values. Lumber is all of the same dimensions or rather a limited set of dimensions. Then she adds in tile, or carpet, or hardwood floors or whatnot, all milled to very precise specifications.

I do not enjoy those luxuries in what I am building. I am harvesting dead wood. I am harvesting snags and fallen trees and then trying to find a way to put together a very complicated puzzle with no picture on a box..

I mention this not so as to glorify myself. After all I am the idiot who chose this approach.. I mention this just as explanation for what I am doing.

Tonight I once again visited the latest version of the plans. Plans that themselves have changed a great deal from the idealized concept to the practical application. I revisited them because of what I have harvested since last I worked on them. I have the ubertimber (30' oak 22" in D) to work with, as well as a few other damn fine timbers which were not included in the last survey.. In doing this revisit, I discovered that I need more info on some of those timbers, but even given what I have, I have been able to piece together more than 80% of the roof structure, which in any underground home is the most important element of the build.

But what does this have to do with a moving target? Well when I come across a new snag (dead standing timber) or new fallen timber, I have to adjust my plans. Sure I could stick rigidly to what I proposed at some earlier stage, but by revising, I am able to create a stronger, safer, and more beautiful home.

So I take these approximate measurements, and I design a plan using them. I harvest new timbers, and incorporate them into the plan, adjusting as necessary (often this requires going back to the beginning).

I trust that the end result will be an incredible home for me, and whoever follows me, for this home will outlast me by generations given very little maintenance. Though most folks do not realize this, that is not the case with virtually every stick built (normal) house in the US. They are designed at best to last 50 years, and even that is pushing it. If someone else moves into my home after I am gone, this house will last forever, as long as they watch for the minor issues that may arise.

So my moving target is one of design (changes to suit the material), material (changes depends on what I find) and structure (depends on what kind of material and what size matieral is available). The end result will be less that of my own immediate desire with regard to functional design, and more that of my greater desire to work with the landscape and the materials to create a home that is very efficient, very economical, and most of all very livable.

The target moves, but like trying to take a deer running through a heavily wooded area, it can be done. *

* I do not take those shots JFTR in fact I have not hunted in years, might not again.. but the analogy fits.. :)

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