Nature-Inspired Design: Site Visit 2

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In my previous post I wrote about nature-inspired design and my visit to a construction site four months ago. This week I was fortunate to come back and see the progress. My fellow DIY-er, who is too private and wishes to remain anonymous, is building a series of structures among the existing trees in his garden. I am in for another treat!



Grapefruit tree

Now that the exterior is very close to completion, the grapefruit tree, the project was named after, is flowering! It hasn't happened for years. He says: "The new house protects it. When the tree is in bloom it is at its most fragile and can't be shaken."

The smell is delightful. The other day, the aroma was transported in a bowl. He filled a container with the fragrant flowers and brought to a friend fighting cancer. He placed them right by her face on the pillow to help her sleep.

Nature-inspired design is about immersion

It's dusk, and he points to one of "his" bees still awake, pollinating the grapefruit flowers. Being here, I imagine how wonderful it must feel to work like this. Learning and improvising, listening intently to the clues all around. It gives you a sense of belonging. It grounds and elevates at the same time. It sustains you. Gives meaning.


Wedge window: exterior

He says: "The house is the infinity of reflections." He calls my attention to a wedge-shaped window. He says: "It's nice to move with the flow, to let things happen. That's how this triangular window came to be."


Wedge window: interior

He had framed a wall and then "discovered" a beam of light shining through what was supposed to be a solid surface at a later point. He could not waste this opportunity. Thus, he re-engineered the partition to accommodate the drama of the light.


Exterior Soffit detail

When consulting DIY-ers, I always say that allowing surprises to happen requires close attention to the process. This builder's details work wonders because his work is not about perfection, but openness and flexibility! He shares with me how he handles run-off without gutters. Thanks to his nature-inspired design, rainwater is directed to happily irrigate lush vegetation instead of leaking into the building.


Window Sill detail

His beautifully executed solid white oak window frames create depth. I love it when he says: "I went shopping for lumber in my woodshed..." That's the opening sentence to yet another story of yet another successful experiment.


Stainless Steel Cladding

Stainless steel cladding is one of the examples of how nature-inspired design came to life in his hands. He drew on the "house," measured, took notes on the angles, and had the pieces fabricated at a sheet metal shop. And then carefully installed to mimic fish-scales.

His enthusiasm is contagious. I could stay and listen for hours, but, unfortunately, it's getting dark. I hope to come back soon. There is so much to learn. This project is truly multi-faceted -- a wonderful case study of nature-inspired design, which is not about perfection; rather it's about paying close attention to the process that presumes openness and flexibility.

Alla is an architect on demand advising DIY home improvement enthusiasts online.

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