Thursday, June 9, 2011

Diaz Vegetable Garden Taking Off

It was good to see see the Diaz vegetable garden taking off in the wake of all the recent construction.  So often the area around recent construction is kind of a DMZ.  It usually takes a while for plants to repopulate this zone where vegetation and the built environment intermingle.  The subject of how buildings relate to landscape is an interesting one and this intermediate zone can be a real testament to our attitudes.  In the spectrum of residential projects that come across our desk at Studio Ecesis, this one is interesting because it is a home on a working farm.

There have been a several articles over the years that critique designer residences in the rural landscape and their tragic detachment from any useful or authentic connection to their surroundings.  Greg Brown, the folk singer says: "All this stuff about intentional community is a bunch of crap. You’ve got to need each other."   Getaways can be wonderful esthetic pieces but they are also understandably prone to dilapidation.  With our recent rains and the concerns about grape shatter, the need for a surveilling residence on a farm is pretty self evident.

As an architect, can you design a house that forces people to be connected to the land?  I thought so in architecture school.  Giving up on the power of this idea was a bit of a let down initially.  But in reality, while designer's can't "force" anything, they can "inspire" behaviors.  There is nothing like a diving board to make one want to jump in the water.  The truth is that clients come to you with a dream and you are either lucky enough to resonate with it or you are not.  If you resonate with it, inspiration is a whole lot easier.  

In architecture school you are, in a strange way, the client too.  You create, or at least interpret, the program and then you give it voice through a building.  There is something deeply self involved and at the same time deeply expressive about this.  Something akin to a composer conducting his own music. With this kind of control, the architecture student is more the academic equivalent of a developer, not an architect.  

Once you get out of school you switch from the naturally didactic world of academia to another world.  In this world (some people call it "the real world")  members of the community "need each other."  

It is frequently the case that the architecturally designed rural home puts a big premium on the view of the landscape without actually engaging it.  A worthy question:  What kind of rural home showcases a generous view of the land without a convenient means to join it?

In this project we were lucky enough to have clients that explicitly wanted to connect to the land.  Their temperament recalled an atavistic belief that this connection to land is an abiding thing worthy of incorporation into a residential design despite its less cinematic experience.  

Starting with the residence itself, this home transitions first to a wrap around veranda and screened-in porch, second to a vegetable garden and yard and finally to eighteen acres of grapes. The area around the house was a wonderful intermediate space between domesticity and agriculture.  A big thank you to Mike Lucas for helping to get this garden off the ground and another one to the Diaz for making such a welcoming and connected residence.

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