The first step in designing a home with the Long Architecture Project is research. Lots of research. This is, in many ways, the key to turning the designing of a home into the designing of a life. What is the life you would like to live? How do you hope to engage community? How would you like to relate to the environment? What will your family look like, ideally, in five years? In fifteen? The research is as much for the benefit of my understanding as it is for the benefit of the client. The aim is for everyone involved to come to a new understanding of how they wish to live
Corey and Melissa Miller, a Physicist and a Chiropractor, recently left Washington DC to try to build a more intentional life, and to design a home somewhere more livable than the nation’s capital. They began The Long Architecture process by filling out an extensive questionnaire which asked them why they were looking to build a home, what their understanding of home really was, and what they imagined their lives could be years from now.
They’ve been kind enough to let me publicly document their experience.
Certain answers jumped off the page when I read the questionnaire.
Is home a jumping off point or a destination? Fortress, Laboratory, Lookout Post, Forum, Spa, or some combination thereof?
[Melissa] Destination/laboratory/spa – I find that getting home as soon as I can is always on my mind. If most of my days can be spent at home, with venturing out (to run errands, see friends, travel, etc) being a “treat”… having home be the “treat”…that would be ideal for me! I’ve somewhat always been like that. As a kid I remember that a school break didn’t feel complete if I didn’t spend it at home.
What role do you feel the natural environment plays in your life? What role would you like it to play?
[Corey]… One of my biggest issues with living in the DC area was the lack of natural environment there. …the many parks and trails hidden away there… were surrounded by highways and polluted with noise, and the trails were all paved and overcrowded and typically also followed a multi-lane road. If I can’t look up at night and see the milky way, I’m not in a place where I’ll feel comfortable staying.
What do you find most beautiful? Least beautiful?
… I have a high regard for strong colors, artwork that makes me think….
This and the rest of the answers pointed to a very particular worldview focused on curiosity and nature, and the raising of a family focused on wonder. In this, the home would be a base of exploration and a hearth.
Their research also involved visiting architectural sites. Oftentimes we know what we want but it is hard to describe it specifically, especially when it comes to architecture. Corey and Melissa expressed a desire to live in a house filled with natural light, but what kind? To dig deeper, I sent them to visit a number of architectural spaces where light behaved in different ways. They started with the St. Ignatius Cathedral in Seattle, by Stephen Holl. Then we continued with a number of buildings at the Cornell Campus, near to where they would be building their home.
We discovered a lot in this research. When we got to the site our research began to cohere into a bigger vision for what a real home would look like.
Next: We visit the site…