Norway Hills is a development/design/build project developed while working for Bellan Construction in Seattle, WA.
The owner of the construction company had multiple real estate investments that we would develop with single or multi-family housing units for sale. Norway Hills was a steeply sloped site in Bothell, WA, about 25 minutes from downtown Seattle.
The project accommodated the extreme slope by burying the garage into the hillside as a plinth, then resting the two living levels on top. Materials were constrained – board-formed concrete for the base, wood construction with lap siding for the ‘farmhouse’ aesthetic above. The house functions were organized around a central stair that formed a central element in the design and connected all three levels.
While working for Bellan Construction, I also worked as a project manager on a multitude of high-end, single-family residential projects.
Because of our company’s reputation for good, quality work, we were often commissioned by local architects for work in their own homes/renovations. One such project was a custom casework installation for both interior and exterior environments that were tucked into a very tight arrangement of spaces.
Fauntleroy is an arterial street that winds through West Seattle after arriving from the West Seattle Bridge and downtown Seattle. Due to its elevation, it opens up to amazing views of looking west toward Vashon Island. The exposure can leave homes open to severe weathering conditions.
Because our installation had to be both exterior and interior, we utilized two different species of wood for the cabinets. The interior cabinets were laminated with a clean, white melamine to work with the selected appliances, while brightening up the severe interiors. Other portions utilized stained black wood veneer to match the custom furnishings in the space.
The exterior cabinets were laminated with blackened steel plate to enhance their durability. Cabinet hardware on the exterior was all upgraded to allow for the additional weight. The overall design is sleek and simple.
Another single-family residence, this time on Whidbey Island, with amazing views out toward the water and the Olympic Peninsula. The project made use of a custom board-formed concrete wall with embedded insulation that formed the main structural base for the butterfly roof form.
Massive amounts of glass allowed the exterior and interior to flow together, while significant features, such as the stair up to the second floor Master Suite, became focal points of the design.
The concrete wall served as an organizing element, locating the main entry and serving to separate the public and private realms. A forcefully landscaped front entry hides the immensity of the view beyond the wall. As a structural device, the wall served to seat the glu-lam beams with custom blind-point connection plates to the main ridge beam resting atop the wall.
Breweries seem to be popping up all over these days. The program for these spaces can be scaled up or down depending on the size and scale of the brewing operation - some local neighborhood brewers will find a space they want to function more or less like a neighborhood tavern, but with the quality of home-made beers to choose from... Others are more interested in production-oriented brewing at larger scales for the purpose of distribution. Understanding the needs of the different scales can save time and money for such clients, who typically are in the process of investing their life savings into this dream business.
No matter what the size of the operation entails, their is typically the need for a space to engage the public and share the product - the Tasting Room becomes a critical component to the company brand.
Most brewers are interested in becoming part of the history of brewing... the culture of beer is one of companionship, of spirited conversations, of craft and skill, and of friends and family. This tradition should be something considered in the design of the space - something that shows the brewer as part of a connected history, with the fresh feeling of something new mixed into a space with wisdom and soul.
The space dedicated for brewing needs to be visible and connected to the space where the public can taste the product. Both parts of this program can be housed in such a way that the character of tradition and of history are present and part of the atmosphere... a recognition of this connection of the present and the past.
Diamondback Beer in Locust Point, MD (Baltimore) recently opened its doors - the first of several breweries currently being worked on by LED BETTER STUDIO. The space focused on the existing smokestack that was part of the old building, and brought in new additions to complement the qualities of the space. The brewery is housed in a basement space adjacent to the tasting room, visible at all times from the bar area - a connection between brewing and tasting, work and play, is ever-present.
In addition to Diamondback Brewing Co., we have Suspended Brewing Company on the boards (Pigtown in Baltimore), as well as Checkerspot Brewery (Sharp-Leadenhall Neighborhood in Baltimore).
These projects have a lot of design flexibility with opportunities for a lot of flavor to be added to the character of the space - as well as the beer!
The up_GRADE project was a competition entry for the Architecture For Humanity International Schools competition in search of new solutions for the educational environment.
Our proposal targeted the issue of flex space, or modular classrooms used for overflow space at the typical high school in the United States. We partnered with Eastern Tech, a high school in East Baltimore, to learn what a modular classroom could be in an ideal condition.
As Eastern Tech is a vocational high school, we also developed prototypes that could be adaptable to several different ‘programs’ of instruction in an effort to show the ultimate flexibility of the system. Using structurally insulated paneling with a proprietary framing system, we were able to design classroom configurations that evolved into simple courtyard schemes – all in an effort to enhance the educational outcomes of the programs.
The Moduler Learning Environment – or MODuLE as it was branded – was a competition entry into the Montgomery County Modular Schools Competition that sought todevelop new vision for what a ‘temporary classroom’ building could be. Modular classrooms are required in many counties in order to handle fluctuations in student populations – envisioned as a cost-savings measure when schools are built, most campuses for Elementary, Middle and High Schools dedicate land to current or future modular classrooms.
The buildings tend to be awful places – compressed space, little to no natural light, and sterile artificial light with bad air and bottom line finishes. Studies have shown that these spaces, if used consistently by students, can lead to behavioral issues which have an adverse effect on learning outcomes.
Our goal with the project was to develop a better space.
We started with an understanding of the chassi – the structural frame of the semi truck that typically delivers modular structures. There are limitations on modular building heights due to the highway height restrictions caused by overpasses. We discovered that we had to find a way to deliver an expanding module – a building that arrives, sets up on its leveling system, then cranks to raise the roof in order to provide a more expansive, light-filled space.
The project was very well received, and even courted by William Scotsman – the world’s largest provider of modular classroom buildings – as they sought to update their product offerings. We went through multiple phases of R+D with the design, meeting 5 different modular manufacturers, all of whom took an interest in the project development.
In the end, William Scotsman thought it best not to invest in the prototyping… believing that such a vast improvement over their existing product line would out-mode the entire fleet.