Sodium Design

Pond House
Design Build Esquisse | Mount Gilead, OH
Stacks Image 1131

In the book On Weathering, David Leatherbarrow references Victor Hugo in saying that “Buildings are single substantial structures that can be demolished by men or nature or both in time. In architecture, the gradual destruction of buildings by nature in time is weathering.” This project attempts to call these material characteristics to the forefront and encourage this inevitable weathering to occur both through the raw materiality of the project and from the unwavering staunchness that it confronts the violent weather from the west.

Designed as a single room and outdoor terrace the small building uses relatively mundane materials that along with the simple shed roof have a relaxed vernacular character reminiscent of many of the local farm outbuildings. As a small retreat to enjoy the mild Ohio summer evenings the project utilizes a poplar screen surround that helps to control easterly and westerly light. This screen and the overall orientation of the building help to channel the prevailing winds across the structure, cooling the outdoor living space.

An enormously important aspect of this building was that it must be affordable and have a very short construction time frame. With a relatively meager budget of fifteen hundred dollars, the project proved to be a challenge. This project and the small budget being a distinct design restraint, was taken on a challenge and began driving the concept of raw, weathering materials and the challenge of integrating these materials to the surrounding vernacular. A partially pre-weathered 18 gauge sheet steel covers the interior box, provided a cheap, durable and elegant finish for this simple box. The screen and superstructure is constructed utilizing rough sawn poplar. Freshly sawn, only three hours removed from the Amish saw mill, the material was installed still very much wet. This condition allowed us to butt the boards together knowing that gapping would take place, allowing for air flow and views to increase as the boards shrink. This material choice was also made in respect to the weathering properties that this type of wood will undergo. Morphing from a bright orange hue to a ghostly gray color, the wood provides a nice counterpoint to the steel which will itself transform to an earthy red.

Constructed in only four days the project is able to include a multitude of ideas; material experimentation, detail and environment among those. Something that I am personally quite happy with.

Although this project is relatively small in scale I, truly for the first time, was able to see a project through from concept through being fully engaged in the construction. While I view the building as a relative success, the process has been much more rewarding because of the experiences and understanding gained.