Community Week 2012: Champ de Portola Charrette

1 Design
2 Concept
3 Philosophical Statement
4 Media Gallery

Champ de Portola – Design

On October 26, 2012 Stanford architect students and invited architects participated in Champ de Portola design charrette.
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Champ de Portola – Concept

In the near future, I am planning to build an art studio space in Portola Valley, California for visiting artists and guests of the Dhillon Marty Foundation.  Its mission is to nurture the creative process by providing artists with room, board, and a cloistered countryside environment where they can work amid natural beauty without interruption.

Since the final product is an effort to promote art and culture in the community, I think it would be appropriate to promote the same ideals in its construction and publicity.  The Dhillon Marty Foundation, in partnership with Stanford University is in the process of recruiting innovative architects to collaborate on the design concept through a charrette. By extending our affiliations as such, my hope is to link the Champ de Portola to the greater artistic community in the Bay Area and globally.

The property is located at the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountain range, an area surrounded by open space preserves and imbued with indigenous flora and fauna.  A place where artists can experience nature through all five senses and draw inspiration from the sloping green mountains, the smells of oak and redwood bark, and the nightly cricket-serenades.  The studio space will be located in a 40’ x 40’ corner of a larger property, which is designed to be a working urban farm—to be managed by a permanent caretaker.

The preliminary design concept I’ve rendered entails a 15’ x 20’ cottage with three levels.  The ground floor will be an empty studio space with minimal furnishing and sliding glass doors to usher in the daylight.  The basement level will include a kitchen and storage lockers.  The bathroom and shower can be installed in the basement or separately in an outhouse.  Beds will be located in lofts above the ground floor, each fitted with a skylight so that the artists can gaze at the stars as they fall asleep.  I would like the facility to house two or three transient artists and a permanent caretaker.

One of the Dhillon Marty Foundation’s primary objectives is to engage the people of Greater Punjab in the promotion of humans’ rights and peace by bringing Punjabis of India and Pakistan closer through cultural exchange and dialogue.  Sikh temples, also known as Gurdwaras, are known throughout the world as a place with open doors to those in need.  A place where suffering people can obtain food and a place to sleep for free.  My hope with the Champ de Portola is to reflect a similar ‘open door’ philosophy, where artists in the community can seek refuge from the pressures of the modern world and submerge themselves in their work.

Champ de Portola – Philosophical Statement

Art and Architecture can make a difference in the society by bringing pressing issues in the society to light or by just creating a beautiful space that allows us to create and contribute to the society at our best. Beautiful things inspire our senses to achieve much more than we normally would. Good architecture can stimulate our senses and mind to go beyond the ordinary. I am sure all of us have experienced when we felt so excited and energized that we even surprised ourselves at the level of our energy and the quality and amount of ideas that were just flowing out of us. So, architects have the calling to make a difference to the society. This is to create beautifully inspiring places that not only provide peaceful habitat for mankind, but also bring the best out of the people. If the beautiful housing was affordable, there will be less need to fight for the resources. The Country’s GDP does not have to be driven by just the housing sector, but there are many more avenues to enjoy a fulfilling life, money spent on quality food, money spent on leisure time, etc. Person’s whole life does not need to be given to owning the house. People from all social economic level will have access to beauty and money left for leisure and pursuit of happiness to support a healthy and happy life.

If the building process and cost to build were reasonable, people would be able to reconfigure their house as their needs change or their taste change, just like getting new clothes or a car. This will encourage rapid advancement in architecture and building, allow people to have the latest benefits of technological advances, plus stimulate the economy as people will be making smaller investments but more often, like upgrading from computer to a laptop, to a tablet, etc. Such items in the housing will need to be designed to spec, delivered to your door step, click and attached to your house.

So given the above, our hope is to create a design that makes a paradigm shift in architecture, such as:

  1. Innovation in design
  2. Innovation in material or its use
  3. Paradigm shift in construction and/or design
  4. Innovation in design or material that will impact the society at large, such as: beautiful design that can be used as temporary shelter, module component that can be added to existing building, people can build it with local materials by themselves, speed of construction
  5. The design that solves major issues facing the world: energy, urban farm design that will be attractive as a beautiful garden, vertical vegetable wall , sanitation, water recycling.
  6. Design based on openings and not the closed part.
  7. Minimum use of space, thus making it blend into the surroundings. Very low profile.
  8. Most innovative use of space
  9. Best connection to nature: starry nights, owls’ calls at night, butterflies and humming birds.
  10. Best way to create a private space, blocking the noise of the surrounding, blocking the view of the building and from the other building, thus creating a very private space while surrounded by many.
  11. Best design to enlist the human senses for creativity and relaxation
  12. Off the grid
  13. Water conservation
  14. Innovative toilet, help bring sanitation to the world.

My hope is that this charrette exercise will answer few or many questions and concerns that I have outlined above. This is an exercise for Fluidism in architecture.

Sonia Dhillon-Marty