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Each project is documented in a similar vein, starting with an exterior photo on a two-page spread.
The large photo is followed by a two-page spread with the project description and an elevation or building section. This one–two punch links the photo (final product) with the drawing (process). In the case of the Berkeley Courtyard House, the building section is most important, since it shows the space between the two parts of the house and the way the angled roofs correspond with each other.
Spreads split between photos of the house and the natural inspiration are interspersed among other photos and drawings. Here, a photo of the entrance sits across from a photo of autumn leaves on the ground. The dappled effect of the multihued leaves is linked to the perforated wall next to the front door and the light pattern it casts across it.
Some of the most refreshing parts of the book are where Wilson documents the siting of the houses. Small photos of the property as confronted by the architect and the client sit atop a site plan. The photos illustrate the effort and consideration in determining where the houses were located, decisions that impacted the form, orientation, openings and other aspects of the sites.
The land for the Berkeley Courtyard House had a house on it until fire destroyed it in 1991. The tiered hillside and distant views toward San Francisco Bay made many things clear, especially orientation.
Each project includes floor plans drawn consistently and clearly labeled and keyed. Photographs are also numbered and described in captions, though unfortunately the locations of the photos are not included on the plans. This would have helped orient people who are not well versed in reading floor plans. Yes, most people who buy architectural monographs are architects, but ones on residential architecture have a crossover appeal to a wider audience that is undeniable. Extra effort, such as keying photos to plans, would have helped in that regard.
People familiar with WA Design's houses will see much of the same in these pages. But the book shows multiple images together, as seen here, to enable comparisons and allow readers to draw parallels among them. Small photos on the left (click photo to see full view) show the dining room and the kitchen (top) and two of the house's stairs (bottom), while a large, full-bleed photo on the right page extends to the left, making the movement across the courtyard to the north wing.
Another spread makes clear the relationship between the entrance (left) and the living room (right). Again, this is a benefit of books: You can see views of multiple images relative to one another.
This spread places photos of the Berkeley Courtyard House's exterior spaces along the top. The bottom row includes close-ups of landscape features. These details illustrate that Wilson's thinking about landscape is not solely in terms of inspiration for architectural form; it extends to the planted landscape around the house. Colors and textures are juxtaposed against the various materials that shape the walls, the pools and other features.
Last is another spread showing a design and its inspiration. Wilson's captions read: "Zinc shingles and the fall foliage of ginkgo trees" (left) and "A skin of glacial polish on Sierra granite, Tuolumne Meadows, California" (right).
The variable flat/glossy and rough/muted character of the granite contrasts with the regular pattern of the zinc panels. And the juxtaposition of trees against the zinc is like the two variations in granite. Whether the granite was an inspiration for Wilson on this house or not, these spreads highlight the presence of nature in the imagination, which is just as important as its presence in the world.
Book: Houses + Origins (Images Publishing, 2012)
Tour WA Design projects:
Berkeley Courtyard House
Tahoe Ridge House