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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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)