Research

Maybe every architect should be required to live with their clients for two weeks. You find out the most interesting things — both about them and about the space.

For one: the loft is much noisier than I could ever have imagined. Theoretically I knew that a cocktail of concrete floors, brick walls, and drywall everywhere else was a recipe for echoes and difficulty hearing, but I was still amazed at how close you have to put the sofa to the TV in order to understand it.

And speaking of noise, the wet walls carrying all the piping from the rest of the building are clearly not well-insulated; every time someone flushes the toilet in a unit above it sounds like a freight train rushing towards you as you’re trying to untie yourself from the tracks…

The biggest challenge is one I already knew about: how to increase the penetration of natural light to the apartment’s interior. There is only one window wall (see picture above), which contains a large arched window on the entry floor and ten small clerestories at almost twenty feet up. The windows face Northwest, and there is a tall building just across the narrow street, so there is rarely any direct sunlight. It’s one thing to k now about it; it’s another thing entirely to try to get yourself out of bed in the morning in the dark, when, let’s face it, I’m not exactly a morning person to start with. It’s raining today and incredibly dark in the apartment. So now my original idea of glazing the bedroom walls that face the window wall has assumed paramount importance. I’m trying to figure out what else I can do, short of tunneling light tubes through eight floors to the roof.

I’ve also found out certain things about the inhabitants (i.e. my friends): they don’t shower at home; they barely cook at all; and although they said they don’t use the TV much, they actually do like to watch DVDs evenings that they’re home. Like many modern couples they barely use the dining table.

They did tell me that their computers and the bar should take pride of place, and I’ve observed that they’re absolutely right about it. I would never have put computer desks in the absolute middle of a living space, but they’ve moved theirs to where I’ve designed them and it seems to work perfectly for them. I’m having fun dreaming up a slick-looking combination built-in computer station / bar.

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