Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Backyard Project: Pattern Language #106 Positive Outdoor Space & #173 Garden Wall

I am making good progress filling the gabion baskets with rounded river rock to make a garden wall defining the edge of the guest patio. 
We are not sure if we will put a board on top to make it a seat or not. If we did it would add another Pattern, #243 Sitting Wall and so strengthen the other patterns.

I had collected up the rounded river rock from various locations around the previous garden and stacked them up along the side of the house. This rock had been brought in to the site by the previous owners. It is not natural to this environment but a permaculture principle is to use what you have. 
I have chosen to use it to make the guest patio a positive outdoor space.
Pattern Language #106 says the problem is 'Outdoor spaces which are merely "left over" between buildings will, in general, not be used.' p. 518.
'There are 2 fundamentally different kinds of outdoor spaces: negative space and positive space. Outdoor space is negative when it is shapeless, the residue left behind when buildings - which are generally viewed as positive - are placed on the land. An outdoor space is positive when it has a distinct and definite shape, as definite as the shape of a room, and when its shape is as important as the shapes of the buildings around it.' p.518.
In the previous post, here, I described how the gabion baskets' stepped form echoes the house shape while defining the edge of the guest patio and enclosing the space. The patio has 2 entrance/exits to give the feeling of sitting in a space which is 'partially enclosed and partly open - not too open, not too enclosed.' p.521. This pattern is particularly important for smaller spaces while they still need to open out to larger spaces. In this case, the patio opens out to the forest.
Pattern Language gives a lot more detail on this important outdoor element and links it back 'to our most primitive instincts.' p.520. where when we are sitting we have a need for protection while at the same time needing a view to seeing what is approaching.
Come spring I will start planting along the outside edges of the gabion baskets transitioning the garden to the Garden Growing Wild pattern #172 - more on that later.

Pattern Language #173 Garden Wall
Problem: 'Gardens and small public parks don't give enough relief from noise unless they are well protected.' p. 806. 
About the only negative of the convenient location of our place is we can hear traffic noise from the nearby highway. We are lessening the impact of highway noise with careful design, plantings, fences and walls. My studio building blocks a lot of the noise from reaching the backyard.
'People need contact with trees and plants and water. In some way, which is hard to express, people are able to be more whole in the presence of nature, are able to go deeper into themselves, and are somehow able to draw sustaining energy from the life of plants and trees and water.' p. 806. Pattern Language goes on to explain how people 'must be shielded from the sight and sound of passing traffic, city noises and buildings. This requires walls, substantial high walls, and dense planting all around the garden' p.806. while still allowing people to be in touch with nature.
The high walls have been built and the intensive planting will continue this spring.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Backyard Project: Designing with the Step Motif and Form

The gabion baskets defining the guest patio edge make a stepped form to echo the  patio paver placement and the house walls.

An image taken during early construction days shows the stepped form of the house envelope.

The stepped line was continued with the shed placement.

I became aware of the stepped motif during a study of the Art Deco design period that happened almost simultaneously throughout many places in the world. It was the first universal design style and used the stepped motif on architecture, garments, interior design, graphic design, product design....

 1920s dress with silk devore burn-out in a stepped pattern.

This NZ Art Deco period house illustrates the stepped form at its simplest.

The side view shows a stepped roof line.
I carried out some tests on different people using flash cards to find out the minimum number of connected lines needed to be recognised as a stepped motif. Result - 4.
While researching an essay on the Art Deco design period I focused on why the stepped motif appealed at this time and was used so extensively. I found the form and motif seemed to give a feeling of being uplifted and instilled hope. 
With the Backyard Project design, I worked with the vertical and horizontal stepped motif forms in the house architecture by mirroring and echoing them in the garden structures. I don't yet know if there is an uplifting feeling in the garden yet because it is still at a busy stage where I am focused on soil building and planting. Maybe by next summer, I will be able to gauge the feeling in the garden. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Backyard Project: Gabion Baskets on the Guest Patio

Sammy constructing gabion baskets along the edges of the guest patio.

They arrived as flat panels that he joined with spiralled lengths of steel.

He placed a steel rod across the centre middle of every basket...

 ..twisting the ends to tie them in place.

Previously he had leveled the ground and spread a foundation of coarse sand.

Next step - filling the baskets.

Sammy was very clever putting pieces of broken pavers in the bottom before adding the stones. It is a great way to dispose of waste cement and have it serve a purpose.

Sammy put the first layer of stones in all of the baskets. 
Now it is my turn to fill them to the top. It is the perfect job after spending several hours sitting in front of the computer screeen.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Backyard Project: Winter Activities While Waiting for Warmer Days

The last of the flowers bloomed through late fall.

A pleasant surprise was to see the Russian Tea plant flowering in the cooler late fall weather.

We  kept squirrel-busy cutting and storing firewood a few steps away from the fireplace.

The off-cut, untreated, paint-free construction wood had been cut to fit the fire box. We stacked it in a satisfying pile under the propagation table. With plenty of firewood, we looked forward to the cold weather and sitting in front of a fire.

This winter we had a number of significant snowfalls, something that doesn't happen every year.

The cherry tree while still in full leaf and under the Douglas-fir canopy was sheltered from an early snowfall.

The exposed young medlar tree couldn't cope with the wet snow weight. It and the other fruit trees had to be staked.

We took several trips out to Vancouver Island's west coast to enjoy the wild weather.

And now the soil is stirring and the new growth has started.
It feels like it has been a short winter and the garden is enticing me outside more often these days.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Opening Night - 'Colour: A Personal Response' at Place des Arts, Coquitlam

Sarah and I are so looking forward to the January 12 opening reception for our exhibition 'Colour: A Personal Response' at Places des Arts, 1120 Brunette Ave, Coquitlam. 7 to 9 pm.
Two other exhibitions will be opening the same night:
'Lyrical Expressions', abstract acrylic and oil works by Jane Appleby
'Balance*', abstract fibre works by Mardell Rampton
We are looking forward to meeting up with friends and to connecting with new people.
If you can't make it to the opening we hope you can get in to see the exhibitions sometime over the month they are on - January 12 to February 10th, 2018.

Monday, January 8, 2018

'Colour: A Personal Response' Exhibition is Hung in Place des Arts, Coquitlam

Sarah McLaren and my 'Colour: A Personal Response' exhibition is on the road again.
The day before we loaded up the car...it was really full...

...and caught the first ferry the next morning.

We drove through Vancouver's persistent rain to Place des Arts Art Centre and Music School in Coquitlam. Conveniently there was dry underground parking with an elevator beside the entrance. It didn't take long to unload the car and get the work up to the main floor.

We laid sheets on the ground against all of the walls where our work would be hung. As we unpacked each work we placed it according to our layout plan.

There are 3 galleries in Place des Arts. We had been assigned the light-filled Atrium Gallery, much to our delight because it suits our body of work's concept so well.

Marziya and Jimmy are Place des Arts student volunteers who were ready to do anything needed. Once Sarah and I had decided on putting the 3D parts on plinths under glass, Marziya and Jimmy got to work putting them in position and removing the plexiglass covers.

The took on the challenge to assemble the colour cards on turntables which tested their colour wheel knowledge.

Then they replaced the covers.

The turntables full of colour cards and the framed collection are presented differently this time around because of the nature of the gallery space. The Atrium is a multifunctional largely unsupervised space used for musical events, dinners, a waiting room for parents and siblings while children attend classes, a meeting space... All of the small 3D items need to be protected which makes them no longer interactive but still interesting for people to look at.

Marziya cleans every single mark off the covers.

Challen and Joseph are a volunteer team that has worked together for 2 years hanging all Place des Arts exhibitions according to the Canadian National Art Gallery standards.

And they are good.

They hung every work perfectly and with well-rehearsed speed.
Don't you love the way their t-shirts match the artwork?

View from the upper level as we were about to leave. 
Sarah and I left the staff, Bali, Josephine and Lidia, to spend the rest of the week making and mounting labels, adjusting lighting and setting up the gift shop. Sarah and I return to the galley on Friday for the official opening which is going to be fun - Friday, January 12, 7 - 9 pm.

We reloaded the car with the empty boxes...

...and caught the next ferry back to Victoria.
All of the Place des Arts staff were so helpful and supportive things went smoothly and we were home again by early evening very happy with the way the day had gone. 
Do check out Sarah's blog to get her take on the day here

Friday, December 29, 2017

Backyard Project: Pattern Language #167 Six-foot Balcony

Lifting and stacking pavers for reuse in reworked walkways and sitting areas.
Pattern Language #167 Six-foot Balconies, verandahs, terraces, porches, and arcades along the building edge or halfway into it.
The Problem: 'Balconies and porches which are less than six feet deep are hardly ever used.' Pattern Language, p. 782.

Here is the 4-foot deep original guest bedroom patio. The pavers are 1 foot by 2 feet in size. It is not a walkway either because it doesn't lead anywhere. According to the Pattern Language, it wasn't used as a patio because nowhere was it at least 6 feet deep. 
'Balconies and porches are often made very small to save money; but when they are too small, they might just as well not be there. A balcony is first used properly when there is enough room for 2 or 3 people to sit in a small group with room to stretch their legs, and room for a small table where they can set down glasses cups, and the newspaper. No balcony works if it is so narrow that people have to sit in a row facing outward.' p. 783.

Arial view of what is left of the original guest room patio after construction trenches were dug and the river stone garden bed was removed. 

We had reworked some other paved areas to make the walkways more obvious by reducing their width. This one is now 4 feet wide instead of being staggered up to 6 feet wide. This gave us extra pavers to work with elsewhere and a bonus garden bed (yet to be developed).

The new guest room patio is now 6 and a half feet deep and 14 feet wide. The Pattern Language has found 'almost no balconies which are more than 6 feet deep are not used.'  It is going to be interesting to see if this reconfigured patio will be used.

The original patio was hardly inviting. Pattern Language explains why it was not a popular place to stop a while.
'Two other features of a balcony make a difference in the degree to which people will use it: its enclosure and its recession into the building. As far as enclosure goes, we have noticed that among the deeper balconies, it is those with half-open enclosures around them - columns, wooden slats, rose-covered trellises - which are used most. Apparently, the partial privacy given by a half-open screen makes people more comfortable.' p. 783.
Sitting out on this original patio one would feel exposed and vulnerable with the forest on one side and the dark underside of the balcony on the other. The flat wall of the house offers no protection or comfort. These are situational feelings humans still carry with them from hunter/gatherer days.

'Enclose the balcony with a low wall - sitting wall (coming), heavy columns (check - 6" x 6" cedar posts), and half open walls or screens (check - Propagation Room wall). Keep it open toward the south (partial check - it faces south but looks to a large cedar fence made of slats that will be covered in vines, while the east view is out to the forest). p. 784. 
The new patio will not be recessed into the original house but the addition of the Propagation Room has visually extended the building envelop and now gives the feeling of being tucked into a corner of the house.
Here's hoping we got enough of the Pattern Language # 167 incorporated into the design to make this patio a welcoming place for our guests to hang out on while offering privacy, protection and a view.