WaterShed Building

This is the first phase of a quarter-block project, developed by owners inspired to create a lively mixed-use building with an explosion of urban architecture. They were also intent on addressing the looming challenges of rainwater harvesting, energy consumption, and plastics reduction in building systems. After years of planning, construction began June 21, 2006.

Largely apartments above, the spacious units all feature terraces that balance views with privacy. My friend, mentor, and frequent collaborator Bill Roach was the building designer, and he designed the architectural form as well as many of the primary building details. One of my favorite such details is the integral gutter supports that are structural, but also endow the roof eaves with rhythm.

It was one of the owners, Jeff Wilson-Charles, who sought out the perfect building material, which we found in aerated autoclaved concrete (AAC) supplied by a philosophy professor with ties to a high-tech German plant in Mexico. It was a project full of such serendipitous connections between arts and crafts, and professionals and craftsmen.

The design-build landscape team of Mosaic Gardens designed the wonderful cor-ten fountain, plantings and courtyard layout, using the fountain as a focal point to organize the benches and planters flanking it. As the construction project manager I also worked separately as a design consultant to the owners. Wearing both hats I was constantly helping develop and/or execute such details and ideas about lasting materials we could employ in aesthetically pleasing ways.

I helped develp the planters from Mosaic's vision for clean boxy vessels, and the owner's desire to use a simple industrial module--a local catch basin manufacturer fabricated them.

Some designs were about solving multiple problems or opportunities such as here with the mailbox shroud that is also insulating and protecting major building infrastructure, including a 2" water main valve behind one panel. I also designed the hanging bike racks here from rebar that was then powder coated. This was based on an idea architect Galen Ohmart developed for the hanging bicycle parking at the Solarc A & E offices.

Interiors were interesting, with exposed services alongside refined craftsmanship. The leftover wood from John Jones and crew's window and door production was used to create the building's cabinets and interior doors.

To get such refined wood, we hired a small salvage logger to harvest windfalls and otherwise non-commercial trees from high in the Cascades. This gave us access to older growth wood, but even then only about 30% of it works for windows and doors, so we had the rest milled into 3x T&G decking to support the building's concrete radiant apartment floors.

I developed the interior countertops from a hand-mixed dry concrete perfected while casting the exterior parapets and wall caps. I mixed it so dry that expansion joints were not required, and it seems to be holding up well outside. Inside, there were many cantilevers and we used a lot of welded rebar to keep the slabs thin at 2-1/4". It often took 14-hr days from the mixing early in the morning to the final trowel pass late at night, but I was able to carry on my management duties between passes and even during finishing on the phone.

courtyard planters with concrete benches

A flat backside awaiting phase II courtyard expansion

I developed a guard and handrail design for the apartments with the owners' input regarding aesthetics and materials reuse (rebar and salvaged lumber). We had enough rebar left over from the foundation to do the entire building's worth.

Different areas lent themselves to varying hand and guardrail solutions:

a daylit fire stair with concrete cap and bent plate handrail

This was my first free form guardrail, based on a napkin sketch and made by bending salvaged #3 rebar pieces over the knee

the galvanized steel bridge connecting building halves with cistern at right.

During construction, I spent considerable effort helping the owner accomplish a dream of constructing corrugated metal water storage cisterns with EPDM baggies as liners. There were many details concerning how to clamp the baggie in, how to then access the water through the cistern wall, and even how to install it all in the first place.

I also took on the interesting challenge of creating a cost-effective door frame system in galvanized metal that reflected what John Jones' window frames do in stainless steel. Both varieties are what provide anchorage to and flashing into the thick walls.

I designed a series of light fixtures using sandblasted glass and rebar--shown here are the three key species of wood for the building: (from left: Incense cedar, alaskan yellow cedar, and douglas fir). There are many more of these fixtures featuring other designs both by me and Victoria Wilson-Charles. I used masking tape to create the reliefs for sandblasting, and still recall enjoying the design process for this glass, cutting the tape out alongside my woodstove in the evenings.

A few years later, I designed and installed gates using more rebar, but in hoops this time, and at an apartment patio at grade.

For this project I made a preliminary sketch, but didn't finalize layout until parts were on the fab table. The latch uses cast chainlink fence components.