tsui design and research inc.
architecture city and regional planning clothing industrial design
eugene tsui in the media home research contact us

back to architecture

Remodel & Addition for Remy & Vince Reyes
Oakland Hills, California USA

Owners: Vince and Remy Reyes
Location: Oakland, California
Project Managers: Mr. Scott Looney and Ms. Tze Yan Szeto
Contractor: Mr. James Corrie, Man Made Construction and Tsui Design & Research Inc.
Date: 1991 to 1993 (Design and Construction)
Cost: $44,000.00
Square Footage: Approximetly 700 square feet

Construction Materials: Douglas Fir, plywood, acrylic panels, marine fiberglass, galvanized metal pipe, steel cable, "Structolite" plaster, concrete and schedule 40 steel pipe.

Special Features: Spiral viewing window, frameless acrylic openable windows, earthquake resistent tension cable shelves and tables, hand-sculpted structural plaster, radiant recycled water floor heating, hinged "dragonfly" roof ventilation "wings" operated by hand ratchet cranks, earthquake resistent truncated cone structural design, "Polygal" thermal/transluscent skylights, outdoor tension cable bracing system.

Owner Requirements: Convert the ground floor to accommodate a single bedroom, a bathroom, office/study, photo gallery, storage areas and an exterior solarium recreation room. Include a stairway up to the second level (main entrance level).

Ecological Requirements: None

General background of the Project: Vince and Remy Reyes live in a house in Oakland, California with their three children and grandfather. They needed more room in their home and wished to remodel an existing ground floor/basement as well as build an exterior recreation room to their house. The Reyes' wanted something innovative with the feeling of softness and continuity. The overall design was developed jointly between architect and owners with both parties sketching out their ideas and the architect bringing the ideas together in a cohesive whole. Working drawings and the issuance of a permit to build went smoothly. The building department personnel were excited about the project. In fact, when the building inspector arrived to issue the certificate of completion, he brought his camera to take photographs. Similarly, the neighbors seem very supportive of the project during its construction and enthusiastic individuals freely volunteered their time to see the project to completion.

View of the master bedroom.

The structure is the first instance of creating a "living" architecture or what we call an Evolutionary Architecture at TDR. That is, using nature as a basis for design and producing buildings that contain working and moving parts as significant features that respond to environmental, technological and programmatic requirements. With the introduction of buildings that move, architecture is better able to respond to the changing requirements that are put upon it--like a living organism. Architecture is no longer a static machine. This new sense of structure and order is a natural evolution that will take us into the 21st century. Gone is the heavy-handed and dark roof structure. Gone is the box-like rigidity and confining implications of rectilinearity.

The TDR team of skilled and unskilled laborers finished the project in eleven months.

The wings were molded out of UV treated, marine fiber glass

Professional cost estimators and contractors bid on the project with square foot costs in the $150 to $250 range. Some estimators could not give a cost to the design. These bids were beyond the budget of the owners therefore a team of intern architects at Tsui design and Research, Inc., organized to construct the design. In total the construction required eleven months of labor and the involvment of of twenty-six skilled and unskilled laborers. A great deal of experimentation was involved in the construction. New kinds of materials had to be found and new application techniques were created. For instance, a fire-resistant plaster material called "Structolite" was applied as an interior sculptural finish over one-inch diameter "truckers rope" to create the undulating wall treatments. Under normal circumstances the sculptural details would have to be custom plastered. We created a simple, economical procedure that eliminated costly hand-forming. Innovative applications were created almost weekly with great success. The greatest challenge throughout the construction was to keep up the spirit of daring and imagination without succumbing to conventional means and results.

View of the office/workspace and spiral window.

Specifically, the interior contains a master bedroom, two walk-in closets, a hall photo gallery, an office/workspace, a bathroom and three large storage areas. A carpeted stairway leads to the upper floor. The gallery culminates at the solarium recreation room half circle in plan. This glass, wood and stone structure is shaped like a truncated cone with an unusual wing-like roof with hinged fiberglass "dragonfly wing" structures that open and close with a turn of the crank. This opening roof feature allows cool breezes and sunlight to enter the room directly and maintains an even and comfortable temperature range throughout the year. Experientially, the intention of this design is to let the viewer directly observe the changing qualities of light and to be sentiently aware of the movement of clouds, the sun and moon and the presence of stars.

View of the ceiling of the solarium showing the eyelets of the wing structure.

All walls, floors and ceilings were designed to be continuous--to convey a sense of unity and repose and to let the spaces seem expansive. With this curvilinear quality of unity the eye is carried around the space; there are no visual planes and corners to cut and butt up against one another. All is a harmonious play of soft light. Ornament becomes an integral feature of the structure. The continuous curves of the shelves, suspended on thin steel cables, are well suited to children for there are no sharp angles to fall on or bump into. Tables and walls gracefully accommodate the natural flow of circulation. Floors are radiantly heated by recycled hot water running near the surface of the concrete slab. All rooms are comfortable and evenly heated. The natural colors of deep red, natural wood and white gives the whole a countenance of quiet dignity. All aspects of the construction are custom crafted with close supervision and participation by the architect and much of the work was done without experienced labor. Many of the details were drawn in actual size on-site by the architect. Curvilinear characteristics have a deeper value than mere appearance. Curved forms are able to support themselves and resist forces much more efficiently than flat and angular surfaces. Curved surfaces use 1/3 less materials per given volume than rectilinear forms. The solarium is conical in shape--one of the strongest shapes in nature--and can resist shaking. It is also a very stable form as the base is greater in area than its upper portion. The conical form is also very efficient in cooling because the hot air rises and is funneled quickly out of the space.

View of the solarium/exercise room under construction.

View of the finished solarium/exercise room.

All heating and cooling is passive. Even small details such as the steel cable tension wires holding the shelves and tables were designed to address earthquake forces quickly by allowing the shelves to "float" and flex during shaking. Using these steel cables provided a tremendous cost savings. The cable hardware cost about $150.00 total. Compare this with the cost of $1000.00+ for typical labor and materials. The cables were in-place within half a day as compared with two to three days for a skilled carpenter. By inventiveness and resourcefulness it is estimated that the cost savings to the owner was nearly $96,000.00 based on bid costs by other contractors.

back to top
© 1998 tsui design and research, inc.
no content displayed on this site can be used or copied
without written permission from tsui design & research, inc.
symbiosis | holoscope