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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Structure and Elements

Concrete footing and caisson were used for foundation of the house

Steel studs

Rigid Steel Frame

Open Web Steel Joists

Metal Decking

Ventilation Duct-work

Lighting System

Picture of Hallway

Steel Studs, Open web steel joists, metal decking, ventilation duct-work can all be seen from this picture. No structural wall was used at all. Dry wall can be seen from the living area at the back of the picture. The house is suspended from the ground.

Monday, December 10, 2012


The threshold of the Wolf house creates a subtle transition from the ravine environment to an industrial-like inside space. The suspension cables used to support the platform that leads to the front door loosely resembles the entrance of a naval ship. This relates to Myers' experience in the navy and how it contributed to his design. 

The way the platform is partially suspended above the ground creates a separation between the outside and the inside space and already makes you feel that you are entering a different space. 


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Kahn and Myers' Sketches... and Columns

After Myers' post-graduate education, Myers worked for Kahn for a number of years. During his early years of practice, he was influenced by some of Kahn's architectural techniques-- one of them being the sketches.

"The patience it took to build, one didn't need, for I drew it without bothering about corrections or correct proportions. I wanted only to capture the excitement in the mind of the architect. As notations in music reveal structure and composition for hearing, the plan is the score that reveals the structure and the composition of spaces in natural light. The plan expresses the limits of form." --Louis Kahn

Myers' sketch of plans and sections

Myers' floor plans in pen and crayon

Indications of "zones" in the house 

First floor plan of the Wolf House

Second floor plan

Clearly, Myers agreed with Kahn's notion and his sketches were rather brief; the purpose was to capture the moment and quickly put his thoughts on paper. The plan was his boundary and he worked within it to develop ideas. It was the same skeleton, but with iterations for growth.

One other commonality between the two architects are using crayons for sketches; crayon is a medium that cannot be erased and is quick to use. Again, it relates back to the idea of capturing the spirit of the architect  and not bothering with corrections.

Kahn's sketch 1

Kahn's sketch 2

Myers' sketch from the 19 Berryman St. house

Myers' sketch of a section from the 19 Berryman St. house

One other architectural characteristic of Kahn is that he detested mechanical works in homes and liked to seclude them.

"I do not like ducts; I do not like pipes. I hate them really throughly, but because I hate them so thoroughly, I feel they have to be given their place. If I just hated them and took no care, I think they would invade the building and completely destroy it. I want to correct any notion you may have that I am in love with that kind of thing." --Louis Kahn

Myers, however, had a different notion and exposed the mechanical and electrical systems within the interior of the home to use it as sophisticated decorative elements. This was an interesting approach but completely against Kahn's preference.

Kahn had a preference for columns. In Myers' case the steel columns were used for constructional purpose, taking in consideration of the site context, but it is unsure whether it was used also because he was fond of columns. 

"It reminded me that joint is the beginning of ornament... Now the column formed a space itself designed to serve the greater space." --Louis Kahn

Steel frame used for the Wolf House

As Kahn said, the steel frame was used to serve greater space; a glass box was added under the columns to create an additional living room during the 2008 renovation.


The house Myers pictured in his head matches perfectly with the final outcome.

Satellite Zoom in Site Plan

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Servant and Served Spaces

In the 1960's, Myers studied with Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania. This experience evidently had a significant impact on his career and his building designs. Traces of Kahn's influence can be seen in the design of the Wolf House, particularly in the layout of the floor plan.

"Kahn encouraged me to explore the organization of mechanical systems." --Barton Myers

The floor plan of the Wolf House is organized in a very distinct way. All the services and utilities are aligned against the east wall, followed by a hallway that unites the two living spaces on the north and south side of the courtyard.

This style of organization can be traced back to Louis Kahn, who also organized floor plans with very distinct arrangements. He is well known for his distinction between servant and served spaces, a concept that is clearly used in the layout of the Wolf House plans.

Myers' organization of servant and served spaces in the Wolf House

This concept considers two spaces. The first space is a servant space, which contains utilities and services such as storage rooms, mechanical rooms, bathrooms, and sometimes kitchens, as well as the circulation spaces such as hallways and stairways.  Firstly, these spaces are called servant spaces when they are distinguished from the rest of the spaces, either by being grouped in a service block (like in the Esherick House) or separated  by some kind of divider. Secondly, they are servant spaces because they "serve" the rest of the spaces (the "served" spaces) eliminating the need for utilities in the latter. This can also be viewed in the terms of the served space being the habitable space while the servant space is the inhabitable space.

Esherick House by Kahn

In the Esherick House, the first servant space is the service block on the left. In the center is another servant space which contains the staircase and serves the other spaces by dividing them. This clear layout of servant and served spaces is used in the Wolf House plans as well.

First Floor

There is a clear distinction of habitable, served spaces on both floors, defined by both the hallway and the courtyard. The serving spaces are also grouped up and arranged against the least desirable wall of the house, the east wall, which faces the neighbour and has no windows.

Second Floor

In the Wolf House, Myers is able to use the servant space not only to efficiently organize the utilities of the house, but also to direct the circulation and the layout of the rest of the home. The servant space serves the habitable space in many ways. The idea of utilities directing circulation is further applied to the ducts and lighting, which follow the circulation of the home.

Biography of Barton Myers