Off the grid in Washington, Part 1

Project Type: New Construction
Location: Okanogan County, Washington

The purpose of this project is to explore residential options for land east of the Cascade Mountains just south of the Canadian border in Washington State.

Geography and Climate

The geography as you can see below is low rolling hills with occasional groupings of evergreen trees. This area is fairly high, at about 3,500 feet (1,066 meters).  Although this area gets far less rain than on average for the US, there is significant snow accumulation.  This is a net heating climate, as there are approximately 7,400 heating degree days and 372 cooling degree days per year.   The mountains to the west play a large role in defining the climate.  Mountains in the western United States tend to block cloud formation moving east off of the Pacific Ocean.  Also, the topographical affects during warm months drive the formation of thunderstorms which lead to some precipitation and raise the potential for wildfires.  Cold Canada to the North influences the weather in the winter by partnering up with the Cascade Mountains and funneling cold weather south across this region.

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In our next project, we take a look at a Portland, Oregon home. Specifically we investigate how to bring more natural light into the living room located in the center of this roughly symmetrical 80 year old house.

Base Front
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Mid-Century Spacial Reorganization

 Project Type: Spacial Reorganization
Location: Portland, Oregon

Existing Conditions (Kitchen):

This mid-century home is in need of some serious spacial reorganization.  Two areas will be looked at: the kitchen and master bedroom suite.  Let’s first take a look at the kitchen.  The diagram of the kitchen and family room illustrate the “T” shape that has been created in the kitchen.  There is limited flexibility with moving walls. The space behind the oven is a staircase down to the basement and due to budgetary constraints, this stair is fixed.  Thus we are left with this “L” shaped space to work with.  The room to the right of the kitchen is the dining room.

Kitchen Base

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Living (Stair)Well

Amsterdam01 Project Type: Urban Re-Utilization
Location: Portland, Oregon

Over the last century, the average American home size has ballooned from 900 to over 2400 sq ft. Only in the last couple of years have home sizes started to decrease.  This change in trend is likely due, in part, to the recent economic downturn.  Irrespective of economics, it is important to investigate options to live more densely and within a smaller dwelling.  Its not a stretch to assume that in most places smaller spaces is associated with personal financial failure but in places such as Tokyo and Amsterdam this notion does not necessarily hold true.  Some of the highest rent districts in these cities contain some of the smallest dwellings.  This does not just mean building smaller homes in the future, but looking for creative opportunities to incorporate the re-use of our already-built environment contained within an existing infrastructure.  This is true sustainability.

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Silver Lake Residence

 Project Type: Residential Renovation – Small Project
Location: Los Angeles, California 

Existing Conditions

Tucked away in the hills over Los Angeles in the community of Silver Lake, the owner of this 1930’s era home is looking to renovate the living area to include the kitchen, dining and living rooms.  Since these rooms are clustered on the north side of the house, they tend to be dark.  Also, the three rooms are disconnected from each other, small and not suitable for hosting social events.  Lastly, the owner would like to increase the ceiling height in the living room to give the room a greater sense of volume.  The design challenge is to address all of these conditions.

Los Angeles_34_Initial Floor Plan
Click on Image to Expand

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Urban Infill Small House

Project Type: Residential New Construction
Location: NW United States

The design challenge was to come up with ideas for a simple, energy efficient home on an urban infill site.


The site lies just outside the downtown core of a northwest US city.  The site is 40 x 100 feet, long axis of the site east-west.  The rear of the site has alley access.  Any concept would only need to allow space for a two car garage with alley access however would not have to include the garage in the design.  The main street runs north south on the west side of the property.

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Project Type: Residential Renovation – Small Project
Location: Southern California

This property is located high on a hillside in southern California and as such tremendous views  exist to the southeast from the living room of this ranch-style home.   There is also opportunity to take advantage of abundant natural daylight to lighten up the interior space, specifically the living room in this case.


The diagram below shows the context.  The southeast side of the house faces the valley and hills to the southeast.  The valley is approximately a mile wide.

Site Orientation Significant opportunities exist to take advantage of views across the valley to the east-southeast.  Simplified sun travel paths are shown for the winter and summer conditions.  Notice how the sun will be high in the summer and low in the winter.  Combined with a southern/southeastern exposure of the wall in question, there are opportunities to control direct daylight.  Daylight can be prevented from entering your living room during the hotter times of the year without having to close blinds or shades.  During cooler winter months, when the sun is low in the south, daylight can enter the space providing warmth.

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Project Type: Complete Residential Renovation
Location: Paute, Ecuador   

A small, 20 x 20 Casita lies in an Ecuadorian river valley.  DESIGNlinkup proposes to completely renovate the house and add on approximately 800 square feet of living space whose form is driven by the topography that surrounds the site.


Ecuador – The site lies in a river valley between two mountain ranges that run north and south. Paute, a small city of approximately 25,000, sits across the river upstream approximately 5 km north. Azuay the province in which the site is located, was created 25 June 1824. It encompasses an area of 7,998 square kilometres (3,088 sq mi). Its capital is Cuenca. It is located in the south center of Ecuador in the highlands. Its mountains reach 4,500 m (14,800 ft) above sea level in the national park of El Cajas.

Location of Uzhupud Casita site
Location of Uzhupud Casita site
Figure of Ground diagram and site section
Figure of Ground diagram and site section

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