Contemporary Architecture

The Florida Solar Cracker House – an energy efficient, solar-powered home

What is passive house?

  •  A passive house is a building in which a comfortable interior climatecan be maintained without active heating and cooling systems.
  •  The house heats and cools itself, hence “passive”.
  • cost-effective
  • Passive design is design that does not require mechanical heating or   cooling.
  • Homes that are passively designed take advantage of natural energy flows to maintain thermal comfort.

Following are the basic features that distinguish passive house construction:

  • Compact form and good insulation.
  • Southern orientation and shade considerations {0.15 W/(m²K) }
  • Energy-efficient window glazing and frames {0.80 W/(m²K) , 50% }
  • Passive preheating of fresh air (above 5°C )
  • Hot water supply using regenerative energy sources

Incorporating the principles of passive design :

  • Significantly improves comfort.
  • Reduces or eliminates heating and cooling bills.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions from heating, cooling, mechanical  ventilation and lighting.


  • location & area : The house is near the middle of 60 acre southwest of Jacksonville , North Florida.
  • Designed by: Randy Cullom & his wife  L.Elizabeth

What is the climate of north Florida?

  • From mid-April to mid-October is generally hot and humid.
  • Daytime temperature varies from 90 – 70 *f.
  • Cool nights and warm, but not hot, days, and low to    moderate humidity.
  • December and January can be cold, with several to about a dozen freezing spells.
  • Rainfall is more uniform throughout the year in northern Florida.
  • Cool season rainfall (meaning the 6 months from mid-October until mid-April), from 2″ to 4″ per month.       


  • South-facing windows and doors
  • Windows are designed to reflect heat
  • No flat ceilings to allow air to stagnate
  • Both parts of the house are very open• windows or doors on each wall for good cross-ventilation.
  • Isolate the hot, humid kitchen and bath areas from the remaining living space
  • A cupola provides a very efficient way to bring natural light inside without allowing direct radiation to enter the house.
  • Most important building material in house is wood ( timber )
  • Cistern which can be used to collect rainwater for all household water needs
  • No fossil fuels
  • Use of the Composting Toilet (black water and gray water)
  • In a typical household, 35 to 45% of all household potable water is flushed down the toilet
  • Wooden cook stove
  •  Hot water for household use is mainly provided by a solar collector.
  • Able to generate a current or voltage when exposed to visible light or other electromagnetic radiation

The two-story greenhouse :

  • Temperature-moderating thermal mass .
  • Passive solar heating in the winter.
  • Open to the kitchen .
  • Food production.
  • 2500 square foot organic garden.
  • High level openable windows capture winter sun & create cooling currents in summer.
  • No Stagnancy of wind

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contemporary Architecture

Rahul Mehrotra and Associates – House in a Plantation, Ahmedabad

This second home designed by Rahul Mehrotra is in a mango plantation extending approx. 8 hectare, about 5 km north of Ahmedabad. The climate of north-west India is largely dry and hot, so the detached house was placed in the centre of the plantation, so that the evergreen trees can act as a natural filter. Heat and sunlight are greatly mitigated by the all-year-round tree filter, and the direct view into the green shade provides another source of relief. Visitors are intended to experience the house as an introverted stone oasis, protecting, calming, after they have crossed the sea of trees.

The centring theme is continued in the house. A cruciform ground plan places the living-room centrally as a connecting and linking zone. Each arm of the cross acquires a different function: access area with accentuated main entrances and an enclosed courtyard with seating, opposite the dining area with kitchen and ancillary rooms, at right-angles to this the bedroom area for the family and the guest wing on the end. The central residential area opens up into a courtyard with high walls. This means a great deal of extra living space when the large sliding windows are open, as the division consists entirely of glass.

The courtyard is a location for the soul of the house. The area, which is ambivalently placed inside and outside, avoids the stiffness of an unduly rigid cross figure, which would suggest an inappropriate symbolic quality. The centre extends in this simple way, flowing from the roofed, protecting living area into the open outdoor space, and celebrating fundamental elements of our existence: the sphere of the omnipresent blue sky and a narrow pool running along the entire length, clad in blue material. Here the great horizontal of the spatial composition tilts into the vertical: Mehrotra colours the wall that follows the pool of water blue as well, making pool, wall and sky all of a piece. The extension of the water with the blue wall into the living room suggests the concept of living expressed by the courtyard: a spatial connection on the one hand and on the other hand the inclusion of the refreshing and stimulating element in the main area where much time is spent in a hot climate. The very presence of a shimmering pool is enlivening, but the pool also suggests a cooling swim, of course. This “synthesis in blue” becomes the most expressive design element in the house. The architect very deliberately allows the cooling effect of this colour to dominate as a counterpoint to the outside temperature. In this house, colour is not something applied, but entire walls are “plunged into colour,” like the red in the corridor leading to the dining area. It becomes an integral  part of the architectural sub-figures, and lends them an individual quality, but this does not break the whole composition down. Coloured, smoothly rendered surfaces inside are contrasted with the tactile qualities of natural materials: on the outside the house is clad in sandstone, large wooden doors form independent areas of material, the entrance is a rough exposed concrete frame reminiscent of Le Corbusier, and a stainless steel rain-shield caps the living room window. The extremely carefully balanced scale of materials and colour demonstrates the architect’s high degree of sensitivity in an entirely Indian way: strong colour contrasts are derived from an everyday Indian world of magnificent hues, the sandstone,quarried in the vicinity, suggests historical Indian buildings and at the same time reminds of the nearby desert climate. The white of some of the interior plastered walls and materials like exposed concrete and stainless steel are reminiscent of classical-modern design principles. Modern details like profiling, material connections, door furniture and floor coverings show precise workmanship, but above all the intellectual intensity of the architect’s handling of his brief. The interior’s openness to the courtyard contrasts with the hermetic quality of the block-like exterior with its identical window slits. Introversion, a classical Indian motif, attempts to create communicative space that will bind the family together in the centre. The courtyard, the patio, the centre open to the sky, appears all over India as part of a domestic culture that is millennia old.

But Mehrotra enriches his building by another dimension: the roof terrace becomes a stone plateau garden, and acquires an exposed concrete pavilion for the cooler evening hours. It is only when looking out over the extensive view of the treetops from the terrace that they become aware of their central location, and the plantation becomes part of the house, a green, organic sea of trees, harmonising with the building’s broken autonomy. The strictly consistent geometry of the ground plan figure can be experienced from the roof showing the designer’s lucidity and precision, but the timelessness of the building’s formal language also expresses its occupants’ attitude to life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contemporary Architecture

Joseph Paxton – The Crystal Palace:The Beginning of Iron and Glass Architecture

The Great Exhibition:London, 1851

  • A “Great Exhibit of the Works of Industry of All Nations”
  • The building was the epitome of England’s industry, vision, determination, wealth, technical knowledge, and powers of production.
Charles Dickens said of the project:
“Two parties in London, relying on the accuracy and good faith of certain ironmasters, glass-workers in the provinces, and of one master carpenter in London, bound themselves for a certain sum of money, and in the course of four months, to cover eighteen acres of ground with a building upwards of a third of a mile long (1851 feet- the exact date of the year) and some hundred and fifty feet broad.  In order to do this, the glass maker promised to supply, in the required time, nine hundred thousand square feet of glass (>400 tons).  The iron-master passed his word in like manner, to cast in due time 3300 iron columns; 34 miles of guttering tube2224 girders.  The carpenter undertook to get ready within the specific period 205 miles of sash-bar; flooring for a building of thirty-three millions of cubic feet; besides enormous quantities of wooden walling, louver work and partition.”
The Building Delivery Process
  • 01/1850 The Royal Commission, Chaired by Prince Albert
  • 03/13/50 Competition announced for temporary exhibition building
  • 240 entries, none chosen, instead committee offered it’s own design
  • A brick structure with an iron dome – dark, heavy, permanent
Fears Abound:
  • protectionists feared foreign goods
  • environmentalists feared destruction of elms
  • the press feared foreign visitors – Papists, thieves, & syphilitics

Problems with the Committee’s Design

  • 17 million bricks, 200ft dome, extensive foundations, a permanent structure
  • By 06/50 things looked bleak
Enter the “White Knight”: Joseph Paxton
  • founded newspaper, wrote books on  horticulture, wrote articles on greenhouse design
  • knew several people on Royal Commission
  • they found loophole to allow design submission

Architectural Conservatory:Prof. Richard Bradley , 1718

  • School of Botany at Cambridge
  • conformed to rules of arch., but considered welfare of plants.
  • glass dome, thin Corinthian columns., white tile walls
Great Conservatory: Paxton, 1836
  • Longest glass building in the world
  • 277’L x 123’ W  x 67’ H.
  • Laminated wood beams,  cast iron columns along the nave, ridge & furrow glazing system
Great Wall at Chatsworth; Paxton, 1848
  • 330’ long enclosure of an exist. masonry wall
Victoria Regia House: Paxton, 1850
  • cultivating a growing Victoria Regia Lilly from S. America
  • leaves supported by thin cantilevers
  • first “flat roof” installation of ridge & furrow glazing system
  • two tilted 49” glass panes + sash equals 81”, c/c.
  • 24’ girders + deep gutters + trussed Paxton gutter
Victoria Regia House:Gutter Details
  • external & interior waterways
  • change of depth
  • trusses with “pretensioning”
For the Crystal Palace, Paxton…..

  • promised a full set of drawings in 10 days based on a sketch during a RR board meeting,
  • he & estate staff produced drawings in seven days – almost exact to what was actually built

After Paxton’s First Sketches Were Accepted….

  • Fox Henderson & Co. undertook calculations and the prep of detailed drawings.
  • bid of £150, 000 – if left standing
  • bid of £79,800 if leased
  • now the building committee needed to approve the plans
Paxton Leaked Design to Illustrated London News:
  • cheaper, quicker, assemble/ disassemble, no brick, stone, mortar, light foundation, day lighting, no interior walls, 25% greater area
  • committee was furious
  • public overwhelmingly positive
On 07/15….

  • Royal Commission rejected Building Committee’s design & accepted Paxton’s lower bid
  • added transept to save the elms
Construction Drawings:
  • Fox – 7weeks, 18hrs/ day to produce drawings
  • as soon as drawings were finished, Henderson set up production schedule
  • small crew installed drainpipes & light foundations

  • Overall Building: 1848’ x 456’
  • Nave: 72’W x 64’ H
  • Transcept: 408’ x 104’ H
Cast Iron in Buildings:
Crystal Palace
  • 3,300 columns from 14 1/2 to 20 ft tall
  • 34 miles of guttering tube below grade
  • 2,224 girders
Cast Iron Applications in Buildings
  • 1796 – Shrewesbury Warehouse
  • 1809 – cast iron dome in Paris
  • 1849 – cast iron facades by J. Bogardus
  • 1851 – Crystal Palace
  • 1855 – Bessemer Process for steel making
  • 1884 – Home Insurance Building, Chicago
Cast Iron in the Crystal Palace
  • Column ends were lathe turned
  • Canvas gasket dipped in white lead at the joints
  • 3’ deep collar with connecting lip
  • Girders secured with wrought iron wedges
Strength Testing:
  • several iron bridges had failed in the 1840’s
  • for public assurance: marching soldiers and rolling cannon balls
  • for the engineers: hydraulic press tested 214 girders with 24’ span
  • tested at 15T and 22T
  • first private testing laboratories & concept of factor of safety

  • 600,000 cu ft of wood milled into >200 miles of gutters and sash bars
  • milling operation input rough beams and output finished profiled gutters
  • dipped in paint trough and run across fixed brushes to remove excess
  • Chance Bros. & Co. won the contract
  • largest sheet ever made, 10” x 49” from the cylinder process
  • this contract equaled 1/3 of England’s total prior production
  • suffered from excessive light and heat gain
  • canvas was stretched from ridge to ridge with drain holes over the furrow
  • sprayed with water for cooling
  • also included a mechanical ventilation system


  • laminated wood beams reinforced with iron rods
  • sloping sash bars for the glazing system
Time & Budget
  • 9/26/50: First column on site and columns placed just 18 hrs after casting
  • 01/51: Structural frame completed
  • Bid: £79,800
  • Change Orders: £27,980 + £35,000
  • Total Cost: £142,780

The Exhibition:

  • By 9/25/51: £451,000 in receipts
  • On 10/7/51: almost 100,000 guests
  • On 10/11/51: closed to the public
  • On 5/12/52: Sold for £70,000
After the Crystal Palace
  • Lyndhurst by Lord & Burnham
  • Hothouses for the millions
Horeau & Turner: 
  • Prize Winners for Exhibition
  • Paris & London proposals, Paris executed
  • Train stations, other exhibitions, NY etc.

Hot Houses for the Millions 

  • Residential Greenhouses
  • Winter Garden in the Anglo-Japanese Style
Glass House by Bruno Taut
  • “Expressionist” architecture
  • Built at the Cologne Werkbund
  • Concrete lamellar structure
  • Glass ceilings, walls, floors, tiles


  • professional A/E jealousy and fear
  • shift from A/E to design/ build
  • concern that modular buildings could not be suited to individual sites/ needs
  • search for an appropriate aesthetic
Influences on Today’s Building Practices
  • structural frame
  • standard rolled shapes
  • standard details
  • strength testing
  • prefabrication: assembly/ disassembly and published with enough detail to allow others to build
  • project management

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contemporary Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright – Usonian House

Wright had long been interested in designing affordable homes on a massive scale for the American middle class. In 1901 he published designs for elegant, inexpensive suburban homes in several issues of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Wright was also interested in urban planning. He began thinking seriously about that issue in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Like many contemporary social reformers, Wright believed in the moral and political values exemplified by home ownership and believed that well designed, tasteful dwellings would produce a happier, more harmonious and enlightened society.

Wright discussed his views in publications, lectures and notably the Disappearing City. He gave visual form to his ideas for a model environment in Broad acre City. The notion of the Usonian houses was hatched about the same time.

Frank Lloyd Wright began developing prototype housing in the 1930’s. The first “Usonian” house to be built was the Herbert Jacobs house, in 1936 in Madison, Wisconsin. In that house, Wright used two ideas that promote prefabrication in house production:

  • Board and batten walls, produced off site and set in place.
  • A floor-planning grid of 2 by 4 feet, based on the size of available materials (especially plywood) to reduce cutting and waste.

The design for the Usonian house was a kit of parts, which included a concrete slab, an insulated roof slab, and sandwich panels for the walls.

To shelter Usonia’s citizens, Wright designed a series of appropriate housing schemes—the Usonian houses. Among the earliest to be built was the Rosenbaum House in 1939. Constructed for a college professor in Florence, Alabama, the Rosenbaum House is typically Usonian. Its single-story plan is divided into two wings—the more public living room on one side and the more private bedrooms on the other—, which meet at a “service core” comprising kitchen, bath and hearth. As in the Prairie Houses, the hearth is the metaphorical center of family life. The two wings of the house extend to embrace the generous garden

Wright experimented widely with the proper materials for his Usonian houses. The Rosenbaum House is built of brick and cypress and in later houses he experimented with various combinations of masonry and wood construction. The Rosenbaum House is heated through its floors, which are pigmented concrete slabs embedded with pipes carrying heated water.

He always felt that maybe Usonian was a system, construction system, which the ordinary person could use. They could go to the lumberyard, or the building material yards pick up the concrete blocks, and they would have a concrete man lay the foundation and a mason set the first course of block. And then after that, they would stack them like building blocks, like a child would.

And then you put steel rods in-between the blocks and pour the grout. You didn’t have to strike a mortar joint as you do with regular concrete block. You just stack the blocks and then pour the grout in-between. He had started that system way back in 1922 in California, and till 1956 still working with that system.

The American System-Built House, a collaborative effort between the Arthur Richards Company and Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1910s. Wright designed a series of standardized housing units for the Richards Company, from bungalows to two-story houses, including duplex apartments. Potential homeowners could choose from a catalogue of Wright designs that, in addition to offering houses of varying sizes and cost, included a selection of add-on features for each house model should the individual’s budget allow. Sales and construction of American System-Built Houses were handled through a network of local representatives franchised by the Richards Company while authorized contractors built the houses.

The American System-Built Houses were American System Ready-Cut structures, a form of prefabricated houses. Prefabricated houses today are constructed of whole wall units manufactured in a factory and assembled on-site. The Ready-Cut system referred to “ready cut” parts that were manufactured in Richards’s factory and shipped to the site where they would be assembled. According to the manufacturer, all of the elements of the building, including wood studs, millwork, and trim were pre-cut to size using mass production factory methods, thereby eliminating the need for an architect as well as expensive, labor-intensive carpentry work at the building site. These wood framed structures were developed on the basis of a two-foot module creating an economical use of standard lumber sizes with minimal waste as well as allowing for variations in a design’s plan if required by the client or building site. This series of houses offered the public an opportunity to build a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house at an affordable cost.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a champion of affordable houses for the middle class and worked throughout his career on developing quality economically priced housing for the American family. His development of the Usonian House was a later reflection on this desire.

Due to America’s involvement in World War I and the succeeding shortages in labor and materials, the American System-Built enterprise was short-lived. Records from the Richards Company have been lost; there is no complete listing of executed American Systems-Built structures. Less than twenty structures have been identified; fifteen buildings are still in existence and are located in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.

Contemporary Architecture

Walter Adolph Gropius – The Gropius house and The Bauhaus


  • Born in Berlin on May 18, 1883 as the third son of building advisor to the government with the same name, and Manon Auguste Pauline.
  • Studied in the Colleges of Technology at Berlin and Munich till 1907.
  • Later, worked under the German architect Peter Behrens from 1907 – 10.
  • Formed a partnership with Adolf Meyer in 1910.
  • Established the world-famous Bauhaus School of Architecture in 1919 in Weimar, Germany.
  • Served as the director of the Bauhaus from 1919 – 28.
  • He later moved to America and founded The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC) in 1945 in Cambridge.

The Bauhaus School:

  • Literally means “house for building”.
  • Founded at Weimar by Walter Gropius in 1919.
  • Moved to Dessau in 1924 due to economic considerations.
  • Forced to move to Berlin in September 1932 by the Nazis.
  • During its brief span of existence (1919-1933), the Bauhaus School of Design had 3 directors, Gropius (1919-1928), Hannes Meyer (1928-1930) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1930-33).
  • During the directorship of Walter Gropius, the work was mainly in his office, while the building department, headed by Hannes Meyer, enabled an independent training in architecture based on the requirements of the users.
  • The buildings of Gropius and Meyer were, in many ways, ‘Bauhaus buildings’. He regularly let students work on the commissions in his office and always tried to sell products and services from the Bauhaus workshops to his clients.

The Gropius House, Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1938:


The Master Bedroom Suite:

  • A glass wall separates dressing room from sleeping area creating the illusion of a larger space. The wall separates two heating zones allowing one to sleep in a cold environment but dress in a warmer one.

The Guest Bedroom

  • It was used it as a sitting room when there were no guests, and in the winter, Ise (his wife) took advantage of the southern exposure and used it as a greenhouse.

Ati’s Bedroom

  • It includes a walnut and birch desk designed by Walter Gropius and made in the Bauhaus carpentry workshop in 1922. Paired with the desk is a tubular steel and cane chair designed by Breuer during the years of the Dessau Bauhaus in 1928.

Ground Floor Hallway

  • The curved staircase faces away from the entry, signifying the upstairs as private space.
  • Gropius used glass blocks and a floor to ceiling window to transmit natural light to this area.

The Dining Room:

  • The dining table and chairs were also made in the Bauhaus workshops under the direction of Marcel Breuer. The chrome and canvas chairs are paired with a Formica dining table designed in 1925.

The Living Room

  • Gropius maximized space along the north wall with bookshelves and storage cabinets. Large windows frame the landscape and expand the interior spaces.

The Study

  • Gropius designed the study to accommodate the double desk that fits perfectly under the north facing window.
  • The study acts as a passageway into the living room.

Impact of Gropius House:

  • Modest in scale, revolutionary in impact.
  • Combined the traditional elements of New England architecture — wood, brick, and fieldstone — with innovative materials rarely used in domestic settings at that time — glass block, acoustical plaster, and chrome banisters, along with the latest technology in fixtures.
  • The family home became a showcase for Bauhaus design and philosophy.
  • Ise Gropius bequeathed the house to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) in 1984 to continue the tradition of teaching the principles of the Bauhaus Movement.

The Bauhaus, Dessau, Germany, 1925-26.:


  • The primary structural material is steel reinforced concrete.
  • Window facades are designed as hanging (non-structural) walls.
  • The Wassily Chair designed by Marcel Breuer

This slideshow requires JavaScript.