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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AE1: Residential Rooftop Sun Filter

Being back in the world of architectural practice after the brief graduate school respite, I find myself spending more and more time looking for and at materials and products and their applications. For me the last is the most important, as context is an overriding consideration for how certain pieces come together into a design. So when it came time to find a way to bridge this time spent into material for this blog, I decided to present certain findings as "architectural elements;" by which I don't mean the usual (columns, porticoes, canopies, balconies, etc.) but the atypical, the apparent threads I see across designs responding to new urban, social, environmental and other conditions. The idea is that other designers can find inspiration in the work of others, but also that the definition of architectural element can embrace the contemporary as well as the traditional.

To begin this new series that will present two or three projects per post (read: not exhaustive) expressing a particular architectural element, here are two residential designs -- one built, one in project form -- that treat the usable rooftop space via elements filtering sunlight.

[Remsenburg Residence by Kiss + Zwigard Architects | image source]

The residence in Remsenberg, New York by Kiss + Zwigard Architects uses thin bamboo stalks on wood structure to shade both a seating area by the pool and a rooftop seating area. This appealing rooftop integrates a wood bench into a battered wall topped by what looks like native grasses. The sun filter wraps up the adjacent wall (to filter low sunlight) and is built around and upon a concrete-clad chimney that further anchors the small seating area underneath.

[Remsenburg Residence by Kiss + Zwigard Architects | image source]

The tightly-spaced bamboo appears to filter overhead sunlight better than a typical trellis made from 1x4 lumber, which works well for low sun but not particularly well for high sun. The bamboo also provides an interesting overhead surface, where the the reduced sunlight is balanced by a lightness of construction.

[Roof Progresso by Fernando Menis | image source]

In this 2007 project for the rooftop of an existing house in Santa Cruz de Tenerife architect Fernando Menis, like Kiss + Zwigard shades both the sides and the overhead planes, though Menis opts to integrate the two constructions in a way that breaks down the difference between the two.

[Roof Progresso by Fernando Menis | image source]

The construction is a bit more substantial than the New York residence -- even though the scale of the space and existing residence is much smaller -- but Menis is able to achieve a dramatic cantilever with the larger pieces of lumber. The cantilever seems to reach out to people entering the rooftop and beckon them to sit underneath and enjoy the filtered sunlight.


  1. I do enjoy the look of the bamboo overhead, though can't help but wonder about the longevity of the material when used to achieve such a thin horizontal plane overhead. My fear would be the span between rafters along with the cantilevered ends would cause the bamboo to resemble wet noodles within a season or two after installation from sunlight and snowfall, if any.

    The contrast of the heavy timber joists with the thin bamboo is the most striking feature of the structure to me. I just can't get away from that little voice in my head that says while the photos are great, living with design might evoke a different response after a year or so.

    This theory of course discounts the designers intent for the project, and this may be precisely what is expected and desired...


  2. For longevity, bamboo can sustain if we are esthetically in favor of the aging and weathering process. However my fear is towards the snow in winter, the spacing looks like snow can easily piled up, the dripping can be quite annoying when snow melt.

    I am more interested in the fastening detail, because bamboo is easy to split, traditional way very often use the tie technic.

  3. Oh, I forget the reason I want to comment at the first place.

    "I find myself spending more and more time looking for and at materials and products and their applications."

    I feel the same way. I think for me it is because my career stage right now, young architect dealing with "routine" projects, make my practice a consistent battle to show client that my idea can be achieved by common material and construction method. The use of material play a big part in creativity and my unique aesthetic approach if I have any ;-).

  4. I often find myself spending a lot of time tracking down materials that will support my concepts and ideas. We spend a good portion of our design time developing the planning, massing, and layering of a building, but often the project falls short with the material selection making the project appear as a failure regardless of how strong the building operates. It seems that, from my experience, materiality is an issues that is not stress enough in school. We leave school knowing the mechanics of a building and the strategies of creating space, but designing the material aesthetics of that space become the biggest challenge when working in the ‘real world’. Ultimately, the battle over what will be the most aesthetically pleasing, support the architectural concepts, and stands the test of time (both aesthetically and functionally) verses what is the most cost effective is too often lost. I wish we had a place to research project precedents that focused on the materials of a building just as much as the spatial design. At this point, in my career at least, understanding the spatial planning of a building is rather easy, but I struggle over what materials were used, how are they assembled, who manufactures them, are they sustainable, are they affordable. Do any of you know of a good place to research projects base on their construction and materials?

  5. Its very unique that they made a bamboo. Also its very awsome how they layed out the building itself. Its just cool that they can do this in Remsenberg, New York.

  6. i think that sort of house iis an awsome piece of architecture. the only problme i have with it is that it's in newyork, a very cold state in the winter, and someone would think the house would get ruined. very nice use of the bamboo though.

  7. This is the most unique building i have seen. It is crazy how they used bamboo around the pool. It looks like it would fall over. The concrete gives it more of a modern feel as well. Its very simple but really cool.

  8. This is a very great house. The bamboo roof is one of the most interesting examples of arcitecture i've ever seen. It fits well into the environment and its surroundings as well. The layout of the house is spectacular. I think that house is awsome.


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