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nomadic norms

A studio final project, we were first asked to interview a friend and explore program through dialogue. I decided to interview my best friend, my older sister. 

To the left are three questions I selected to guide the exploration of our home. One of the first qualities I inferred was the consistent usage of honest, indicative materials.


Located in Strathcona, our site is a 25′ x 115′ lot, accessed by street and lane. Strathcona is a hilly area with frequent elevation changes. Here, the laneway is level with our site, while street level is 2m lower.

In addition, the possibility of proliferation is considered in response to the evolving societal need for more dense and complex urban housing. 

Above is the mid section of the lot, displaying the mirrored format of the house.

Beginning with a mirrored duplex format, the first iteration attempts to interpret the dialogue and re-assemble it into an armature with spatial and material implications.

Rather than the sensation of a permanent home, my sister and I have only ever known sporadic relocation. And although we have always craved a sanctuary of our own, our nomadic lifestyle has formed much of who we are today: flexible, ever-changing, and episodic.

Instead of masking those elements, I decided to celebrate them by inviting the nomadic qualities of our past into the confines of an intrinsically static home.

Much like how a tree’s roots are embedded and stable, this home is meant to be an enduring sanctuary for my sister and I to revolve and return to.

Our lives are constantly in transition. This is evoked in the rainfall that is harnessed and circulated to the fixed gardens and focal ornamental Prunus Asano that nurtures the vitality of our home.

Taking precedent from the Seattle Public Library by OMA, the house is an episodic journey of program guided by materiality. I chose each level’s primary material based on our experiences. 

For instance, my sister is an avid gardener. Her place is among the light and plants on the top level. The main floor is inspired by the summer wooden cabins our family visits for our annual summer vacation.

The topographical change I envision addresses the street level difference of our site. It enables our half of the house to have both main floor and basement access from the street front. There is also direct access to the central atrium from the side walkway.

My sister and I have lived in cramped basement suites for most of our life. Here the basement, typically devoid of light and used for storage, is instead encased by high-set windows and white marble stone, becoming a public shared space for leisure and health. 

The main floor’s primary material is a dark, warm wood. It’s inspired by the summer cabin we frequent annually in southern Taiwan and is a shared social space.

Like every other level, it has an open view of the atrium. It is the only floor with direct access to the basement, an extension of social and leisurely enjoyment.

The second level is finished with smooth concrete, enabling a distraction free work-space with acoustic insulation. Movable sliders accommodate a flexible space, free to facilitate any type of need or preference.

The top floor cultivates a mini-level garden aside the atrium. High and generous skylights and wide open windows allow maximum sun exposure for nourishment. 

With direct access to the atrium ramp, it re-contextualizes the concept of the urban community garden while retaining some level of privacy and ownership.

Finally, the central atrium is meant to be more than just home to a cherry tree; it represents the convergence of two homes. Along with the basement, it is a shared area of communal enjoyment. Reflective glass (much like the types used on skyscrapers) permit optimal light exposure while retaining privacy between the two homes.

This is the laneway view of the house.

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Interview Questions 3
Nomadic Norms - Site Plan Diagram-03
Rain and Roots
Material Level Change
1st Iteration
Nomadic Norms Mid Section-03
Nomadic Norms Plans
Nomadic Norms Front - Trace
Nomadic Norms - B1 windows
Nomadic Norms 1F - Trace
Nomadic Norms 2F - Trace
Nomadic Norms 3F - Trace
Nomadic Norms Atrium - Trace
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