Introduction: Drawing a House II: Nora House

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Drawing a complex house with multiple stories and irregular form can require enhanced attention to detail. The Nora house is one-and-a-half stories with multiple floor levels per story, and has an irregular roof shape. For these reasons, this house was best understood through 3D modeling of the space. That model was then used to construct 2D drawings to document the house.

The Nora House, or “House in the Fields,” is an open, terraced home for a young family in the outskirts of Sendai, Japan. The transition from city to rural suburbs has become more frequent in Japan. This barn-like project envisioned environmental connection in a residential-agricultural setting. To reclaim an outdoor lifestyle in what were now the suburbs, Atelier Bow-Wow mimicked the surrounding neighborhood’s two-story scale but with vastly different spatial openness.

The house employs traditional Japanese wood construction and is organized essentially as one large, horizontal space. Rooms are defined by small vertical shifts, connected by short runs of stairs. Steps become benches and a built in desk serves as a railing between levels, thus blurring the line between room and furniture. Circulation loops throughout the house. The only enclosed areas are the parents’ room and adjacent storage areas, which are sequestered or may be closed off by a door. The playroom, storage, study, and kitchen and dining area are all linked by small flights of stairs and minimal partition walls. The outdoor terrace and full-height front windows open directly onto the street, buffered only by a small garden patch. The unprotected frontage intentionally exposes the family to neighbors, local traffic, and the cultivated farmland directly across the road.

As the floor undulates, the roof follows this configuration. A sutured roof hovers over the continuous living space. There are no valleys in the surface as it rises to the horizontal windows. Two crank-operated windows allow the house to ventilate naturally and permits daylight to reflect down the articulated wood framing of the interior. Passive cooling is accomplished through this form.

* Photographs property of Atelier Bow-Wow

** All drawings property of Noni Pittenger

Step 1: Floor Plans

Typically a floor plan slices through a building horizontally at approximately 4' above the finish floor. This height can be adjusted to reveal irregular story layouts. For example, in the Nora House on the first floor plan, there is a central closet/storage/mechanical area located 3 steps down from the primary main floor level. The plan "cut" level is imagined between the two partial stories to graphically display both areas at once, although that might not be feasible in "real" spatial life. Because Nora House is envisioned as a structure which addresses both the surrounding fields and the more urban neighborhood to the opposite side, it is fitting that the first floor plan includes site elements. Plants and hardscape elements may often be relegated to the site plan (an entirely different drawing) but here they are included.

The upper levels of Nora House are represented in a second floor plan. Due to the relative proximity of the first floor, the lower elements are grayed out but remain for reference. These upper areas are fairly open to the rest of the house, which is shown by the wall composition and the drawing's use of line weights.

Step 2: Elevations

Nora House has a complex roof system that includes light well and venting elements. This roof also gives the project a defining aesthetic characteristic. The representation of such defining elements is important to your drawing. Elevations are 2D drawings but, with the use of line weight variation, depth can be conveyed graphically to accurately describe the house.

Step 3: Sections

Sections are especially important for a project like the Nora House. The undulating floor levels are critical to the design and effect of the house, but are deceivingly flattened in plan representation. This project shows two sectional drawings, but could definitely benefit from additional drawn sections to fully describe the interior spaces and vertical circulation. Both sections here clarify the location of the "closet/storage/mechanical area" mentioned in the floor plans step.

This project emphasizes the functionality of its charismatic roof form: sections are an excellent place to diagrammatically demonstrate airflow and light conditions.

Step 4: Axonometric

To fully understand Nora House's roof, an axonometric drawing is helpful. The other exterior aspects of the project are fairly well understood through elevation, so there's just this one! Again, the project could potentially include additional axonometric drawings from the cornered-worm's eye perspective to include more information.

Step 5: Interior Axonometric

In addition to sections, the Nora House can be clarified by interior axonometric drawings. These drawings open up the interior space to reveal the stair organization and partial levels. The black color-coding denotes private spaces in the otherwise open plan. These drawings were accomplished through 3D modeling.

Step 6: Sequential Assembly Axonometric

This drawing illustrates an abstracted assembly sequence from framing to finish. In the case of Nora House, this drawing also gives us additional helpful views into the otherwise obscured interior organization.

Step 7: Exploded Axonometric

Who doesn't love an exploded axon? This type of drawing can describe structure, assembly sequencing, apertures, and a general design sensibility regarding project representation.