What’s Next for Colorado Design?
Modern Crop Circles & Elegant Density: Barrett Studio Architects studies the merging of organic food production, solar harvesting and the mixed-use neighborhood in this study of a living village.
David Barrett, AIA, President and Founder, Barrett Studio Architects, Boulder, Barrettstudio.com:
“This is a question I think about a lot. I think we’re seeing a shift toward a ‘living architecture’—that’s a term I use quite often. I believe design will follow the principles of the living, the biological and climatic. We’ll follow nature’s clues. We’ve talked about it for years, and it’s happened in pockets, but I see it gaining momentum.
What does this mean exactly? Less sprawl. A curbed appetite for space. You see homes on the mountains that spread over the hill and no one is home most of the time. I think that will fall away, and we’ll learn to live with less. We’ll talk more about quality of space, about space that serves different functions. And we’ll respond to the Colorado climate. We have abundant sunshine here, so our homes should be shaped by sunshine; it’s the most logical energy source in Colorado. Why not use what’s most available?
There’s certainly a shift in consciousness: Clients are asking for design that’s sustainable, that responds to these natural forces. It’s not immediate; it’s not fast. Architecture tends to follow lifestyle, so people have to be willing to change the way they live in order for design to make this shift, but all of the forces are at work to help us shift that behavior.
It’s old-school, I guess, but I’ve always wanted to make a positive impact on the world. Architecture can do that—and it will.”
Karen Keating, AIA, ASID, President and Founder, TKP Architects, p.c., Golden, TKParch.com:
“Until recently we were experiencing an overwhelming demand for reproduction styles—Craftsman or Old-World Tuscan—nearly always designed to try to create the look and feel of a past era. We learned to do them well, but finally, our clients’ attitudes are beginning to change. You know, in architecture school, we were not trained to re-create past styles; we were trained to design in response to site conditions, functional requirements, technology and the environment.
Suddenly, almost overnight, we began to see renewed interest in contemporary design, in home designs without a specific historical reference. Colorado architects began using natural materials in organic, contemporary designs that responded to the environment, driven in part by clients’ desire for ‘green’ homes. I think this direction is very exciting; I predict—and hope—that we will continue to see it grow and evolve.
There seems to be an increasing tension between the need for environmentally responsible design and construction, and the lingering attachment to historical reproduction in home design. My fear is that we may see ‘green’ design awkwardly pasted on historical reproductions, or that we will compromise our responsibility to pursue sustainable design for the sake of an aesthetic that may be out of place in our current economic and political environment.
We needn’t compromise function for style. The best designs consider form and function together—we’re seeing more of that thinking in Colorado design. If we can keep up the momentum of the past few years, it will be an exciting time for architects and their clients.”
This innovative canopy and deck provides 18 kilowatts of PV solar power using a steel structure cantilevered from a central mast. Courtesy of Hagman. Tony Major, associate Partner, Hagman Architects, Basalt, HagmanArchitects.com:
“We’ve been designing with green principles since the 1970s, but it’s certainly exciting for us to see the profound interest in sustainable design and green building technology. It’s about more than reclaimed wood; it’s about better construction all the way around, and clients are much more interested in the whole design, not just in a few trendy materials.
Of course, the popularity of green has led to many more product choices. We have a much larger palette to choose from now, and we don’t have to dig around for renewable products such as wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, for example. It’s easier now than it’s ever been for us to find products that suit a particular project.
What do I think comes next? I see developments relaxing the typical prescriptive design requirements, which for years have limited what architects can design for a community. Instead, we’re moving toward more creative freedom, which will produce a variety of really great homes for developments in general. I’d like to see, and I think we will see, stronger design in typical neighborhoods where the working public—you and me—live. I hope the message of sustainability will continue to yield communities designed around a higher-quality living experience, not the automobile.
And above all, across the board, I think we’re going to see design standards become more and more demanding. People are savvy about their homes and communities, and I see that as a great thing for architects.”
Brad Tomecek, AIA, Principal, Studio H:T, Boulder, StudioHT.com:
“We’re interested in exploring a variety of building techniques, and we’re finding that prefabricated systems show great promise. For example, modular structures and shipping container homes [built from the abundance of shipping containers collecting on American shores] save time, offer better energy performance and produce less waste than homes built traditionally, and sometimes save the client money. The reduced building time can be a huge benefit in a region with challenging weather, but it’s especially useful for hard-to-reach sites with short building seasons.
We’re also very excited about prefabricated panel systems from Germany. They’re the best combination of craft, quality, speed and energy-efficient construction. And they’re made of superior materials in their construction processes and have all of the precision of a German product. German architects, builders and homeowners have been interested in energy efficiency for decades, and they’re constantly improving their materials and methods. In the States, we’ve had essentially the same construction methods for the last 100 years.
We’re drawn to these systems because they question standard practices, which can lead to exciting changes in home design. Ultimately, exploring prefabrication will allow us to build faster and better—and realize designs that might not be possible by conventional means. It’s a win-win.”