The Rita is completed!

Kim and Richard’s Tiny House on Rita Street in Sarasota  County, Florida is complete.  We ride-tested this little tiny house for 5 days over the 4th of July weekend with a load of 4 people, and found that it rode pretty smooth.

The Rita

We had more visitors – neighbors, West Coast acquaintances, and Rita fans – in 4 days than we had moving in may to Audubon Park.  This perhaps speaks more about the West Coast lifestyle vs. the Central Florida lifestyle.  Here people are busy, generally keep to themselves, and feel like they are intruding, I guess. In Sarasota, we had multiple visitors that came and enjoyed the Rita’s hospitality.  We had real conversations with real people.

The Rita is set in a plane of white gravel which is near-zero maintenance.  The boys found a shark’s tooth in the gravel.  It is on short concrete piers with a 2′ high crawl space.  Riding up on piers allows the land underneath to breathe and for the Rita’s ventilation to work properly like a true Cracker house.

The foundation is fairly solid.  There were some interesting secondary vibrations through the house when the washing machine was on the spin cycle.  Footsteps did not reverberate.

The front elevation expresses mobility, our age of motion accelerated.  And yet it is very static, anchored to the land. The front wall is a grid that is thirteen wide by seven high, interrupted by a simple white band.  These two prime numbers plus the partial end corners yield a rhythm that is both complete and incomplete at the same time. The lack of certainty in the front facade expression – nothing is an even number, the ends are slightly unresolved – references our current times of incomplete wisdom and a searching, a yearning for closure.

The central white band can be read in multiple ways. It emphasizes the door, a decidedly un-sarasota-school move (entries were de-emphasized by Rudolph and his peers, you just slipped between two floating plans and presto!  you’re inside before you know it). Here the Rita presents the front door to you in a pure, white band.

An element, repeated thrice, has been a theme of our existence together even back in Hawaii days and extending to Norris.  Chelsea and Rita both have the number 3 repeated in patterns, solids, and voids in its design.

The interior space, upon entering, fulfilled its requirement to have a series of interlocking functional areas that unite more than they separate.  This is typical of nearly all tiny houses but it was particularly important with the vertical space to unite the loft. From 3 people to, at one time, eight, we had plenty of space and it did not feel crowded like a hotel room would if 8 people were in it.

The quality of light was diffuse and generally very high, and it changed throughout the day. The Rita is surrounded by the lush tropical rainforest of Florida’s lower west coast.  The greens of the trees highlighted many of the colors inside and as the sun moved across the sky there was a delightful sense of time passing. It was as if the interior of the main space was a little bubble, holding a soft bright light inside.

The wasp-tail between the two wet rooms wasn’t too narrow.  One wet room – holding two lavatories and a toilet – was surprisingly spacious. The other wet room had a shower and a tiny washer/dryer combo and it felt fine.  It was the smallest room in the house but with a window it was not too claustrophobic.

The  bedroom, with its niches, also felt significantly larger than it was, due to the high ceiling.

The loft was perhaps the most successful space of all.  With one window facing north, up high, and another window facing west, down low, the loft was filled with stronger light but it had a “treehouse” sensibility being up in the trees.  The boys seemed to enjoy it and rarely came down except during feeding times.

As a design experiment the Rita is more successful than I ever expected.  Kim Mathis’ interior design talent helped to furnish the interior in a way that enhances the spaces. Scott Stoothoff, the builder, took great care with the construction, interpreting the design skillfully, and the result is an excellent living space with plenty of happy small details that he finished well, so the house will reveal interest and delight over and over again.

[see https://www.facebook.com/theritasarasota/?ref=bookmarks for photos].

 

 

Solid state house update

This design for the Solid State house is an exercise in sufficiency.  It will adhere to the tenets of the Sarasota School – a light touch upon the landscape, lightness in structure and massing, and a specific and intimate response to the unique West Coast of Florida.  It also carries on Paul Rudolph’s tradition of experimentalism with materials, styles of living, and use of space.

Integrated with this tradition is the reduction of waste.  The Solid State House reduces wasted space and construction waste.

Elevation
Plan

The qwave

The qwave

The Qwave is a proposed tinyhouse for Sarasota’s Vamo district, and has a distinct Sarasotan heritage.  This area, which dates from the 1920s, is a pocket of space redolent with the timeless, gentle natural energy of the central West Coast of Florida.  With a narrow, jungly gravel road leading down into Little Sarasota Bay, a thin finger points westward towards the setting sun.  Wave motion laps lazily against the mangroves, and the clams, crabs, and other sea creatures live a fragile reef of existence along the water’s edge.  So too do the residents of this little area, many for decades, in a district that seems the eye of the hurricane of development.  Still, quiet, and preserved, its atmosphere is a tesseract to the past.  Within this genus loci, we are tesselating the future as well with the qwave.

The land on which the qwave will sit

The parcel sits on the south side of the street.  Our street is offset from the boat ramp slightly, and the lot is open on the north end, treed around its south.  We are reserving part of the north end for a future, larger residence, and in the meantime it may become an edible garden.  The first phase will be the guest house.

In 1946, the Healy family built a guest house, and it was designed by a young architect who said he wanted to use the least material possible, make it as light as possible, and as efficient as possible.  The notion of tension structures fascinated him, and he perched the house just over the edge of the sea wall.  All of these principles are still applicable today.

wave form

Wave motion on the Gulf Coast is gentler than the Atlantic, as a rule.  Within the curve of a wave, the space is tight and the wave breaks onto the beach with little of the crash and thunder of the great Atlantic Ocean.

With a small house (572 SF), efficiency is critical.  Space has to have two or three uses, like on a ship, and items that move, fold, unfold, stow and stack blur the line between architecture and furniture.

a barn in Central Florida

This building also references Florida’s agricultural past, a link to the time before Florida got paved and walmarted over.  Farm structures are, by nature, beautiful in their efficiency and spare use of decoration, and this vernacular is honored here in Central Florida.

Enclosing the most amount of space with the least amount of material is not just an architectural experiment, it is a mandate.  Sufficiency.

Level 1

The Qwave replaced the elastic cocoon material with a prefabricated, curved metal panel that serves both as a roof membrane and also as its own structural support.  To do so, the panel is highly ridged, with the rugae at least 7″ high – a miniature standing waveform in itself.  This creates a tunnel effect which on the outside, the ribs glistening in the sun, is quite nice.

Level 2

On the interior, one side is lifted up so the space can be doubled.  The interior surface is a honey-colored luan finish.  The floor is polished concrete:  again, the notion of sufficiency, with the floor slab acting as a dual-use function; both as a foundation and as a finished surface.

Two interior walls will be full height to the underside of the roof; these will be metal stud walls with plaster-and-lath.  Lower height walls will eliminate the studs, with plaster and lath suspended in the air, spanning short distances.

Public area with loft

The detailing will be similar to the late 1940s and early 1950s, with J-mold reveals at the door frames and the wall bases.  In a tiny space, eliminating visual clutter is essential.

The bedroom

The qwave’s name comes from its reference to a waveform, with the adaptation of the venerable quonset hut from the early 1940s.  Quonset hut + wave = qwave.

“Respect for the natural conditions of a particular region, along with the ability to fashion these to meet contemporary living requirements, provide a harmonious relationship between the present and the eternal.” (Sigfried Gideon)