Village Schematic Design Nears Completion!

By Joe Cole

architecture-group-photo-12-17-16On Saturday, December 17, Hart’s Mill members gathered for our final round of Schematic Architectural Design with our architects Suzy Cash, Frank Harmon, and Paul Drake.  We met in the Arcadia Common House, and the architects shared their work and progress since our last gathering in November.  Here is  a copy of the their slide presentation: hm-presentation-workshop-12-17-16

In November, the design workshop focused on Common House and Dwellings.  We saw three different possibilities for home design, and the architects collected a lot of feedback, questions, and preferences.   We met on the 17th of December for the last of six workshops, which marks the end of the Schematic Design Phase of architectural development.

Site Plan

As a result of our design process with the architects, we now have a new Site Plan that is listeningattentivelymore compact and sits more gently on the land than the original plan approved by Orange County in November of 2015.  The new plan moves the village slightly north and east on the site to better follow the contours of the land and reduce the amount of grading and earth moving required.  The compact clustering of homes reflected the community’s decision to design half of the homes as duplexes, and about 75% as 2-story homes, which reduced our land footprint and decreased our overall roof square footage to help us with storm-water management.  The new plan also has a smaller pedestrian path running between the homes, which we hope will allow us to use less pavement and create a more intimate sense of connection between the houses.  Overall, the new plan does a better job of meeting our values of sustainability and affordability.  However, we will have to work with the County to ensure that there is adequate access for emergency vehicles in the village, so we may have to revise elements of the new Site Plan going forward.

Common House

common-house-campusIn this iteration of design, we also saw an updated Common House design with slightly larger Dining Room and Café areas.  The architects have also rearranged the location and sizes of the Guest Rooms to create one larger suite with a private bath, and two sleeping nooks off the Library/Meeting Room.  This design choice was a response to community requests for different-sized Guest Rooms to accommodate visitors with different needs.  In the feedback rounds on Saturday, some members expressed concerns about privacy for guests using the sleeping nooks, so we may modify this element going forward to include an enclosed hallway for greater privacy.

Overall the Common House includes an indoor and outdoor kitchen, loft space above the kitchen, a dining room, café, a large screened porch for additional dining and meeting space, a library, an office, two guest areas, and a laundry room, plus patio space outdoors in the village green.  This iteration of the Common House includes additional storage and bathrooms close to the kitchen/dining/café areas, as well as the possibility of a root cellar and/or basement to be added in the upcoming stages of design.


For the Dwellings, the architects presented detailed floor plans for 5 different home see-yourself-in-this-picturedesigns: a One Bedroom home, with 1- and 2-story versions (720 and 580 square feet, respectively); a Two Bedroom home, with 1- and 2-story versions (1200 and 1280 square feet, respectively); and a Three Bedroom home (1600 square feet).  The Village will also contain two Shared Homes with five bedrooms each, but these units will be designed later. 

street-views-and-airflowsThe homes use similarly designed “blocks” or sections that make them easier and more affordable to build.  They have a 3/12 roof pitch for a shed roof style that creates an intimate streetscape.  This low-sloping roof minimizes materials and also helps with affordability in construction, while still offering 95% solar gain for photovoltaic panels.  All homes will have screened porches and patios, and most will be clustered in groups of four around shared green space for private and community gardens.  Some of the units will have clerestory windows for light and ventilation.  One design change from the last workshop is that more homes now have south-facing roofs for solar panels, and the homes that have north-facing roofs will be attached to other homes in duplexes so they can use space on their neighbor’s south-facing roof for solar panels.

For many of us in the design process, we are learning how to read maps, drawings, and elevations, and some of struggled to get a sense of what it might feel like to live in these homes and in the village.  The architects have been very responsive to our requests for more detailed visuals, and have provided models, hand-drawn sketches, computer-generated layouts, and even some 3-D images.  They have taken time in workshops to walk us through drawings and elevations to help us understand.  On Saturday, when the architects shared streetscape drawings to provide a feel for walking and living amidst a cluster of homes, community members appreciated the warmth, intimacy, and visually compelling layout of the houses along the pedestrian path

While we still carry questions and concerns around affordability, storage space, sustainability, and county approval, we have come a very long way in this six-month Schematic Design process, and it is exciting to see the results: we now have almost-finalized schematic designs for Site Plan, Common House, and Dwellings!

What’s Next

Suzy, Paul, and Frank will continue to work on drawings and design, and will present final Schematic Design materials to the community by the end of January.

This design process continues to be a challenging and inspiring journey, as we get to know one another, learn to collaborate and work together, and begin to realize our goals of living in an ecovillage.  In the Mayan calendar, Saturday and Sunday were days guided by the energies of Vision and Elegance.  Together, the community members and the architects have done an amazing job bringing both elegance and vision into the architectural design work, and the results are beautiful.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in, contribute to, and learn from this vital process of collaborative community design.

P.S. Party time!

After the workshop, Randy whipped up a fabulous dinner.  The meal was Mollie Katzen inspired from her Vegetable Heaven cookbook: a Tunisian tomato soup with lentils and chickpeas, a bulghur dish, a salad with figs and blue cheese, and pumpkin mousse for dessert.  It was heavenly, especially combined with the yummy appetizers, fizzy drinks, and desserts contributed by other members.  Anthony brought some caroling books and we had a blast making beautiful music together as Randy prepared the meal. 

For a special bonus, Suzy treated us to a display of her AMAZING rope-jumping prowess!  The rope was spinning so fast we couldn’t see it, and she was leaping under it, over it, and through it with astonishing skill!  We’d never seen such a display up close and personal, and it was so much fun to watch. 

Thanks to everyone who created a warm, delicious, and wonderful year-end celebration.

randys-buckwheat-treat randys-chickpea-stew

here-we-come-a-caroling  suzy-ducks-through-the-ropesuzy-takes-a-dive  what-do-i-do-with-this





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One Response to Village Schematic Design Nears Completion!

  1. Vanessa Girardi says:

    Thank you so much for the detailed recap of all. This blog has become an important thread of connectivity for me until which time I can be physically present.

    Thank you, to all of you for your continued communications.

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