Where’s the Roof?

Can these images inspire/inform our design? If so how?

Excuse the tardiness of this post. I have been digesting the thoughts below for several days/years and have been having a hard time expressing my thoughts clearly. Now, don’t expect what’s written below to be clear. As Otto said to me during potty training, “I’m just trying my best…”

As you’ve read over the last few posts, we are moving along nicely with the design of the GAP Shed prototype, and I am happy to finally have the entire studio working as one. I am sure once we begin ironing out the fine details and taking advantage of each student’s individual strengths, this project will answer the GAP needs of small farms everywhere.

We have spent endless hours refining circulation paths and material efficiencies that the plan is coming together nicely, but even with constant nudging from me, the roof has been hard to get our heads wrapped around. I am not sure if it is that we think a SHED requires a Shed roof, or that the fascination architects have with flat roofs is unavoidable, but with all the wonderful and innovative ideas so far in all the designs, the roof is still lacking inspiration. I am noticing this is a common issue with students/architects today and I think some of it has to do with the way architecture is taught, and some has to do with the way students look to precedents for inspiration.

Srdjan Wizemark Kirtic (freelance logo designer)
Srdjan Wizemark Kirtic (freelance logo designer)

Time is often the biggest hurdle in any studio project. We are now seven weeks into this small architecture project, (~250 sq ft) and even with all the hard work over those weeks, we are still far from being ready to begin construction documents. Now, many studio projects put before students in school have much larger programs and shorter timeframes to complete so obviously the critique of those projects are often limited to discussing basic issues of the architectural study. So much time is spent thinking about circulation patterns and program efficiencies that little time is spent, at least in the conceptual design phase, understanding the volume of the designed space (occupied and not). The typical approach to designing space tends to start with the plan, and then the walls are extruded in elevation. If the student is particularly ahead of the game, a section is attempted, and that’s when the opportunities and problems with the developing scheme tend to come to light. The problem is, this critical step of studying the volume of space is often left to the end of the design process and leaves it susceptible to being left out all together. The obvious solution to this problem is to bring the volume forward in the conceptual design process with the plan, beginning with both as diagrammatical sketches (parti studies), and evolving them together with further refinement and critique. With a design/build project we must make the time to evaluate the whole space in the design’s development, because finding deficiencies in the volume of space once built is too late.

Sketches by Eliinbar
Sketches by Eliinbar


I am constantly encouraging students to find inspiration in architectural examples where ever they can. Be it in books, magazines, the built environment around them, art, toys, whatever. I think the best design is often informed by something else, and if for nothing else this process helps to build a mental library to draw upon both consciously and unconsciously while designing. The often forgotten part of this process is applying your own thoughts to the research. Asking yourself “Why do I like this?”, “How does this apply to my current situation?”, “What’s the difference between this thing I am drawn to, and this other thing I like?”, etc. Taking notes as to the source of the inspiration, and sketching the idea (or re-sketching the found image) to emphasize the important aspects of the example are critical to the process of hunting for inspiration.  The sample drawings above simply compare and contrast two buildings, and clearly lays out that analysis.

Remember: The fundamental charge of architects is to help realize a primary need, and that’s to provide shelter. Without a functional roof we fall short of that responsibility.

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