Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This is part of a section drawing through the wall and floor of the Great Room. All wood construction for this house is scheduled to begin next week, so I've been revisiting my original wood details. (A long meeting with my framer revealed that I still had a lot of drawing to do to show how exactly everything will go together.)

This exercise reminded me of a detailing strategy that I'm glad I chose for this house: the "reveal." This is a standard feature in design, especially woodwork. It's where a linear gap is left in the surface material so that the lower material is seen. But typically the lower material is another finish wood too, or even the same wood painted a different color. The purpose of these reveals is not so much to reveal anything as it is to create a certain appearance, a shadow-line or accent. Here's a modern front desk with multiple horizontal reveals of this kind:

This is fine, but in the way I've detailed my house, the reveals are actually about revealing what's below. In the drawing above, the "1x wd. board finish" stops just short of the brick floor, allowing a portion of the bottom 2x4 of the stud wall to be seen. That "line" of the bottom 2x4 wraps around the whole room. Contrast this with the typical practice of covering this gap with base trim, so that no structural material is seen - everything visible is "finish" material. I wanted instead to pull the finish back a little and let the construction be glimpsed. This is partly in the name of one of the "Seven Points of Church House Architecture": honesty in construction and detailing. The idea is to let the building show itself for what it is, to let it give hints of what it's made of and how it's put together.

Here's another example, in a plan view of a steel column where it connects to stud walls.

The wood finish boards pull away from the vertical studs, and the structural steel, to let them be seen.

Another word for "reveal" is "apocalypse" - a "lifting of the veil." I like to think of the reveals in this house as "little apocalypses," places where the surface is pulled back to make another reality visible.

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