Integrity of Place - The Case for Progressive Contextualism

ALTUS Architecture + Design is a firm that focuses on creating places for living that reflect the identity of the client and are inseparable from their context or site. As a full-services architecture and interior design firm the work that we develop with our clients extends the ideals and issues of the project through to a level of craft. We believe in the refinement of human scale, the celebration of light, the intrinsic characteristics of materials and excellence of execution, culminating in work of lasting integrity. 

The classic role of the architect who develops a "unique and custom" design for an individual client in a particular place often leads to a formulaic methodology with predictable "signature" results of an individual style attributable to the architect, with the client succumbing to the will of the architect. It is the belief of this firm, that in this period of maturing Modernism, advancing technology and emerging green design, that one must understand the qualities and issues present in all great architecture over time. For it is these issues of design integrity that can be made unique in each project. The homes on this site are an exploration of such issues that result in progressive contextualism - a belief in place making that allows each project to express an individual identity while evoking intangible experiential qualities. 

First among these issues is the celebration of the site and the gifts of the land. Each individual location has a sense of place and identity that should be amplified, whether it is on a lakefront site or 8 floors above the city. Thoughtful placement and composition of the aspects of the house on the site, with the integration of landscape design allows the project to be a natural extension of that place. Indoor and outdoor spaces merge, integrating the living experience with the site. 

Equally important to the creation of architecture is the capture and development of natural light. Great residential architecture seeks to celebrate the rituals of the day, and light is the spiritual food that nourishes the soul, transforming these experiences. Understanding the path of the sun, one can compose the spaces within and outside the home with natural light, enriching the experiential qualities of space and creating a sense of place. 

What is unique in residential design is the exploration of spatial dynamics with a human scale. Creating a sequence of events through a space allows one's senses to become engaged, creating a visceral experience. We believe in narrow houses that draw in natural light and sculpt spaces inside and out. Developing compressing and releasing spaces creates dynamics of intimacy and openness, nurturing a relationship with the place. 

The most identifiable aspect of architecture and perceived value of design is the quality of materials. Beyond cost, each material we select to build with has intrinsic qualities that evoke characteristics of solidity, plasticity, texture and color, while also absorbing or transmitting light. An exploration of these qualities transforms the experience of each house and conveys a relationship with the craft of building. 

The understanding of these issues has resulted in the projects depicted here. Each project is unique - a reflection of its specific location and owner's identity, balancing what is timeless and progressive, and evoking memorable experiences. 

Thank you for the opportunity to present this work to you as an invitation to consider the potential of your project. You are welcome to contact our firm with questions or requests for references and service options. 

Best wishes, 

Timothy A. Alt, AIA 

Issues to Consider For Your Project

Prior to the development of any home design or remodeling project there are important issues for you, the owner, to consider.  The qualities and character your home conveys reflect your way of living and personal values.  It is our goal to integrate these qualities into the architecture we develop with you by establishing a program, or narrative, of all the potential aspects that are meaningful to you.

Please review the following issues to help you determine what is important to you:

  • What are the activities or rituals that take place in your home that express your desired lifestyle?
  • How can your home be designed to sponsor these activities?
  • What are the aspects of your personality that your house should capture?
  • What are the qualities that the site or house has that distinguish it for you?
  • Light is the creator of architecture.  Please consider the qualities of light and orientation to daylight at different times of the day.  How should light be captured in the various spaces within your home?
  • What are the important views to and from your house that you wish to develop?
  • In most homes there is a natural hierarchy of public and private spaces.  Consider what these spaces are in your home and how the integration or segregation of these areas should be developed?
  • When thinking about the characteristics of your home, what materials and colors, details, or other qualities should your home have that make it special to you?
  • If a house is a society of rooms, describe the qualities of each room, regarding: Size and scale?  Relationship to other rooms? Qualities of light and orientation to daylight?  Materials which capture the spirit of each room?
  • Develop a series of goals, in descending priority that the design of your home should accomplish.  What is motivating you to do this? And what is most important to you in the process of creating or recreating your home?
  • Consider the financial ramifications of your expectations and determine a budget range or limit that is realistic for you and your goals.
  • Also, consider the length of time you will spend in your home, from a short time to a lifetime.  How does this shape your goals?

These are important issues to consider and define for yourself.  These issues will also become the springboard to the creation of your program for design.  Spending time to consider these items will also empower you in the design process and strengthen our opportunities for success.