Sunday, February 17, 2013

Building Exteriors General Rule: Don’t Transition Materials or Colors at Outside Corners

I encourage all designers to make use of three-dimensional modeling tools (electronic or physical) because we happen to live in a three-dimensional world. We build volumes and inhabit space. It is unfortunate that architectural “elevations” are drawn as flat planes representing one face of a building without perspective. This among other factors, such as an emphasis on the building “Front” and reduction of the other elevations to only sides and back, has resulted in some basic neglect of how a building should be finished. Along the line, there was a loss in translation when a set of construction drawings of a building that was not a perfect square or rectangle became only four elevations and a plan. Where a builder saw brick, he placed brick. Where he saw wood, he placed wood. However, since the drawings did not convey every face of the three-dimensional building, he elected to use the less expensive wood material where there was no indication. The brick transitioned to wood around an outside corner. So what was intended to be a solid brick volume became a plane of brick on the front of a volume. Eventually, this became an acceptable norm of the building industry. Now we have entire neighborhoods showcasing brick and stone veneers along the “front” or streetside elevation, but nowhere else. Sometimes there will even be an extruded bay or gable area faced in a different brick or stone or other material which also does not turn the corner for a few feet. Does that look better? Did it even save any money? Look at the building in three-dimensions. Show the hidden elevations in the drawings so all materials are clearly annotated. Clearly indicate that no materials should transition at an outside corner. Many of these buildings would look better without brick or stone, but simply with a good paint scheme that displays them as volumes and not planes. As such, it is also good to indicate that paint colors should not transition at an outside corner. Happy designing and building!
Random location for material transition plainly looks bad

Even higher quality homes exhibit the "front" elevation syndrome.
These extruded bays with full material wrap appear as solid volumes and look complete.
Here, stone transitions to siding along the same flat plan. Increasing the plan area by extruding the stone faced wall 24" or so and returning the stone material on both sides would have provided a complete volume feeling as indicated in the photo above.

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