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.

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