Perfection

Perfection

This landscape is the stuff of legend. Bold. Uncompromising. Mysterious. Mythic. No wonder that it has held such power over generations of explorers and artists. Gram Parsons. The Eagles. U2. Queens of the Stone Age. Modern day pilgrims come to the desert to find inspiration, answers and a little peace away from the pulse of the city.

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Invisible Forces

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In 2008 Scott M B Gustafson was interviewed in Boulder, Colorado on KGNU radio’s program Art Aloud about a project he completed in school at Kansas State University called Invisible Manhattan. Inspired by Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities, this project expressed the social power of hidden radio broadcasts through 3D computer modeling techniques.

Zero Energy Ready Homes

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MAISON ORION is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy to bring homes of the future to families today.

Zero Energy Ready Homes meet the extraordinary levels of excellence and quality specified by the U.S. Department of Energy guidelines. These stringent criteria exceed the standards for ENERGY STAR Certified Homes and cover these six categories:

  • Healthful Environment - Every DOE Zero Energy Ready Home has a comprehensive package of measures to minimize dangerous pollutants, provide continuous fresh air, and effectively filter the air you breathe.

  • Comfort Plus - Superior insulation, windows, air sealing and space conditioning systems included in every DOE Zero Energy Ready Home surround you with even temperatures, low-humidity, and quiet in every room on every floor

  • Advanced Technology - Every DOE Zero Energy Ready Home begins with solid building science specified by ENERGY STAR for Homes, and then adds advanced technologies and practices from DOE’s world class research program, Building America.

  • Ultra Efficient - Compared to a typical home, an ultra efficient Zero Energy Ready Home is inexpensive to own. In fact, every DOE Zero Energy Ready Home is so energy efficient, a small solar electric system can easily offset most, or all, of your annual energy consumption. We call this Zero Net-Energy Ready.

  • Quality Built - Advanced construction practices and technologies are specified for every DOE Zero Energy Ready Home. Then they are enforced by independent verifiers with detailed checklists and prescribed diagnostics.

  • Durability - The advanced levels of energy savings, comfort, health, durability, quality and future performance in every DOE Zero Energy Ready Home provide value that will stand the test of time, and will meet and exceed forthcoming code requirements.

Learn more at energy.gov/zero-energy-home-tour

Enduring with Grace

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Our profession requires a range of skills with playful creativity on one end and technical and analytical precision on the other. I have committed myself to developing broad competencies across this arc in order to be the best architect I can be. My years of experience in construction trailers and climbing ladders on job sites feed back into my decision making processes during design and technical detailing. I don’t see architecture as the creation of static objects, but rather as the thoughtful organization of human activities. Existing in space and enduring over time, buildings and landscapes must gracefully accept the weather and seasons and be robust enough to withstand years of continual use. Instead of responding to passing trends of fashion that quickly fade from favor, buildings which delight the senses stay relevant over generations because feeling taken care of never gets old.
— Scott M B Gustafson, Architect

Somerset Township House - Schematic Design

Somerset Township House - Schematic Design

Work continues on the Somerset Township House. The Schematic Design phase is wrapped up which means the size and arrangement of all the major rooms has been decided, as well as the locations of exterior windows and primary building materials. The land surveyor has completed the topographic survey of the building site and we can site the home confident that rainwater and melting snow will flow away from the foundations.

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The Peace of Autumn

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The Peace of Autumn

Today the peace of autumn pervades the world.

In the radiant noon, silent and motionless, the wide stillness rests like a tired bird.

Spreading over the deserted fields to all horizons its wings of golden green.

Today the thin thread of the river flows without song, leaving no mark on its sandy banks.

The many distant villages bask in the sun with eyes closed in idle and languid slumber.

In the stillness I hear in every blade of grass,

In every speck of dust, in every part of my own body, in the visible and invisible worlds,

In the planets, the sun, and the stars, the joyous dance of the atoms through endless time.

Rabindranath Tagore

Somerset Township House

Somerset Township House

Schematic Design is well under way for a home we are designing in Somerset Township, a community in south central Michigan in Hillsdale County. The clients own a ten acre parcel that was partitioned off from a larger farm property dating back to the late 1800s. After many years of living in the metro Detroit area, they are seeking a little peace and quiet and a deep connection to nature.

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Cycles of Seasons and Days

Cycles of Seasons and Days

The Maison Orion team (Tallulah and Scott) are currently living and working in a rented townhouse outside of Ann Arbor. The neighborhood stopped construction sometime in the past and only about 50% of the buildings were completed. The back half of the development has roads without the final layer of asphalt and the elevation of the apron along the gutter is 1” higher. Fire hydrants and telephone equipment are lost in the vegetation and wildflowers spout from every crack in the pavement. Far from being strange or upsetting, it is rather pleasant to see nature continue to thrive and turn these future homesites back into “wild” prairie as they once were.  These photos were taken last evening around sunset as deer walked in the tall grass and lightning bugs began sparkling in the sky.

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Retail Refresh

This project is a study from June 2014. A developer asked us to re-imagine the facade of a small commercial retail strip center in Gardena, California. Upon learning of the long history of Japanese Americans in the area, the design took inspiration from pleated samurai garments. The large screen of vermilion colored cement board planks gives the building a bold and distinctive appearance, while slate grey paint on the base unifies and grounds the building. The two fictitious tenants are Kaizen Coaching, a training academy for mid-career development of personal and teamwork skills and O-Kazu, a fast casual vegetarian restaurant focused on fresh vegetables and perfect rice. Unfortunately, this project did not proceed any further.

Click on the image below to activate the 3D model. Use the arrows in the lower right hand corner to expand the view to full screen. The left mouse button allows you to orbit around the model and the scroll wheel controls zooming in and out.

 eXISTING CONDITIONS IN JUNE 2014

eXISTING CONDITIONS IN JUNE 2014

Maison Orion is not licensed to practice architecture in California. Had this project moved forward past the concept stage, it would have been further developed in collaboration with an architect licensed in the state of California acting as the "Architect of Record".

Invisible

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In 2008, while living in Boulder, Colorado, I was interviewed for a radio program on KGNU about a project I worked on worked on in college. Entitled "Invisible Manhattan" after the town where Kansas State University lies, the project drew inspiration from Italo Calvino's book "Invisible Cities" and used 3D modeling software to give visual presence to otherwise hidden forces in the city.

Habitat for Humanity Huron Valley

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This summer the MAISON ORION team will be volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Huron Valley. Though we will be likely hammering and painting and not planning and designing, we see this opportunity as another way to achieve our goal of creating places that make people feel comfortable, welcomed, cared for and loved. We are participating through the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, one of 17 or so congregations that support the work in Washtenaw County. This year the focus is on renovating two homes in Ypsilanti.

Some background on Habitat for Humanity Huron Valley from their website:

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley works to enrich Washtenaw County through a legacy of affordable home ownership for families of low-income.

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley is a source of hope and inspiration for Washtenaw  County, the State of Michigan and the entire world.  We are a leader in enabling more citizens to have greater opportunities to improve their lives through home ownership. Our impact is seen in revitalized neighborhoods, families achieving financial stability and children who achieve more in school and in life.

We are leaders in the affordable housing business and take the lead in pulling people together – developing partnerships and collaborating with a variety of organizations – to reduce poverty levels and increase the numbers of households of homeowners.  Through affiliations with state and local government, we pursue political action to benefit affordable housing efforts.

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley (Habitat Huron Valley) was founded in 1989 when a few local residents saw a need to create more affordable home ownership opportunities for residents of Washtenaw County. As the 7th Habitat affiliate incorporated in Michigan, Habitat Huron Valley is proud to be recognized as a productive, progressive affiliate and are ranked No. 1 in the country for number of renovated homes, No. 8 in the state for number of families served and No. 1 in the state for the amount of dollars we send to build houses overseas focused in Haiti and Guatemala. To date, we have built or renovated more than 200 homes, and we look forward to continuing to create more home ownership opportunities in our community.

If you are interested in also getting involved, you can contact Mike Muha, leader of the UUAA Habitat Committee at habitat@uuaa.org. We hope to see you out there this summer!

Coopers Rocks State Forest

This past June we visited Coopers Rocks State Forest near Morgantown, West Virginia. Maison Orion partner Tallulah West had been there several times before. But for me (Scott M B Gustafson) it was my first visit.

I'm a terrible hiker because I take too many photographs. They are records that are easy to share, and help me to recall the feelings I experienced while in the moment. What I saw in the forest was a whole range of architectural techniques employed by nature.

Mass & Void

Light & Shadow

Compression

Asymmetry

Balance

Texture

Time

What impressed me most about our hike was walking around, between and underneath gigantic boulders. The space created by geologic fissures reminded me of experiences in the artworks of Richard Serra and the buildings of Frank Gehry. The difference is that these rocks, let loose from their ancient repose, would crush me in an instant without mercy. A friend of mine was recently telling me about the Sublime in art. It is beauty that inspires admiration and awe. When one recognizes the gap between their own power and that of nature's forces - the response is awe. That these rocks rest with such grace further enlarges their persuasiveness - they don't need to show off and they know it.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I would often visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Michael Heizer's artwork Levitated Mass pompously sits over a manmade walkway cut into the earth. It might be the single most Instagrammed rock and quite popular with visitors, but it is a spectacle that does not frighten for even an instant. As Marvin Gaye said, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby."

Los Angeles Hall of Records

The Los Angeles County Hall of Records, a rare high-rise by Richard Neutra (co-designed by Robert Alexander), sits in the northern end of the Civic Center in Downtown Los Angeles. An exemplar of modernist architecture, the building includes louvers similar to the Kaufmann Desert House. Additionally, the screen to the right of the louvers was a feature by sculptor Malcolm Leland to incorporate ornamentation into modernist buildings. (Source: Wikipedia)

This building is one of my favorites in downtown Los Angeles. Richard Neutra made human comfort his passion, and the numerous examples of solar control devices on this building are testament to that goal. Many modern buildings have 4 identical sides, but Neutra and Alexander knew that a different solution was needed for each face. Their design provides a wealth of detail and texture and humanizes what could otherwise be a very boring County office building. 

Michigan State Board of Architects

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I am delighted to announce that I have been appointed to the Michigan State Board of Architects. The purpose of boards, councils and commissions at the State level is to protect the citizens of Michigan through service and professional advice. The mission is to improve the quality of life for all Michiganders. This role aligns closely with my personal goals as an architect and reflects the values I bring to our clients. It is an honor to serve.

MAISON ORION North America

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In 2017 we relocated our base of operations from Los Angeles to metro Detroit. Michigan, Ontario and the entire Great Lakes region is an ideal location from which to design healthy, beautiful Net Zero Energy Ready homes.