Cross Your Fingers House

Cross Your Fingers House


The design style requested by the owners is Rotterdam Modern. Rotterdam, being Europe’s largest seaport, infers an industrial quality. Plus, with Rotterdam being completely rebuilt after WW II adds Modern to the mix. The primary layout has 2 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a kitchen, living, dining and family rooms. The site has broad southern views of forest and Monterey Bay.

Further key functions include passive energy efficiencies and fire resistant materials. Together the design composes these requirements into a dynamic but simple design. 

Paying Tribute to James Hubbell

Paying Tribute to James Hubbell


Dear Thamby,

Like so many of you, I’ve spent the last week reflecting on all that James Hubbell meant to his family and community, the world, and to each one of us. Your stories about James recount how he changed your perspective on the many ways art shapes not only a house, a garden, a school, a park, but life itself. His friendships and influence — especially the way he opened hearts — was truly global. Thank you for reaching out to the Hubbell family and all of us who worked with him.

I have an indelible “first meeting with Jim” moment that I cherish. Twenty-three years ago, I visited his home and studios while working as a documentary filmmaker. I was fascinated by his work and life. He graciously shared his home, his work, and his life’s story… and my life would never be the same again. Two documentaries would follow that visit, along with James asking me to be the foundation’s Executive Director.

Despite being photographed and filmed thousands of times, Jim disliked having his picture taken, but on his last in-person visit to Ilan-Lael, October 27, 2023, at age 92, he ignored the lenses. Jim and I talked about this-and-that while photographers Laurel Costa and John Durant, with the assistance of graphic designer Laurie Dietter, bustled about capturing the action. Jim was in his element: the small stone-walled room where he did most of his “creating” for about 70 years. He quickly became engrossed in turning the pages of his last sketch book, organizing his drawing tools, and tracing with skilled hands the rough edges of an unfinished bronze. He was in his most-familiar, most-satisfying place—with art at his fingertips and nature surrounding him. It did my heart good to have seen it in person, and I have re-lived it this week by viewing the footage and stills of him again to share with you soon.

You can count me among the grateful multitudes who have not only learned so much from this humble genius but have promised to carry on where he left off. Thanks to his and Anne’s vision for Ilan-Lael Foundation, we will not encase his life’s work in amber.

Ilan-Lael’s future is bright. Fulfilling James’ life’s work to educate and share art and nature’s jubilation, we will carrying forward his vision. We will strive to make the world a better place, just as he wanted us to. The Foundation has been moving in this direction for decades, and now we will pay this tribute to James. We, and you, and the generations that follow us, will ensure that his amazing and timeless love of beauty lives on. Thank you, James, for everything.

—Marianne Gerdes

Excited to Refine

Excited to Refine

Early in my career I had the opportunity advance my craft of timber framing. The timber is mostly rough sawn clear heart redwood from the owner’s property. Very beautiful.

Below, Corner 4×10 Top Plate. Allows for a pair of 4×8 corner posts, each with double tenons.

Below, The slots are for water proofing. The mortise is for a window header.

Below, Double tenons on a 4×8 post as the top plate settles in.

Below, Here is a window sill, with slope to the outside, mortised into a post.

A nap? The hat has a patch that reads Mendocino Fighting Abs, with a tiny abalone shell in the middle. The volleyball team’s motto: “you can beat us, you can pound us, but we are still tough”

Looking upward at a corner. 4×10 sill. Double 4×8 posts. Window sills and headers forming a corner window. And double 4×10 top plates crossing.

Above, Another view.

A broader view near the entry. The post is a from a nicely shaped bay tree. The roof framing showing how the rafters and decking fan around the roofs hip.

Above, A window view.

The Entry – years later, with an addition to the left

C Residence

C Residence

C Residence, Bonny Doon, CA
New home, Permit ready, 2345 sf. CZU Fire replacement

With this tragedy came the hope for renewal. The program was to design a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath open plan home, stylistically Berkeley/Bay Area, assuring single level aging-in-place features, as fire resistant and energy efficient as practical, while taking advantage of new ocean views (as the trees burned away).

While looking more Ranch in style than a classic Berkeley hillside home, this plan was chosen as a best fit to the site, views, accessibility, and cost. To this, as observed over time with fire rebuilds, there seems to be a cost escalation that comes with disasters.

Elements to notice: Double framed 2×4 walls with blow in insulation chosen to efficiently and economically create the external wall element; vaulted ceilings throughout; arched shape in Section A is a Madrone log*; and 2x steel tube eave brackets. Overhangs were chosen to provide shading, protect the upper portion of walls, and have ‘exposed’ rafter tails with character (a la Berkeley Hillside homes from 1900-1930, in particular). But with fire resistance a priority this version of eave ‘expression’ was designed.

The floor plan: (Click to enlarge)




Passive House Accelerator Catalyst for Zero Carbon Building

Passive House Accelerator Catalyst for Zero Carbon Building

Thanks, in part to the pandemic, a keen group of Passive House practitioners, has put together an on line forum that makes most everything
Passive House broadly available. From the weekly Global Passive House Happy Hour and the Construction Tech Tuesday (just started) to
the myriad articles and case studies, you will find so much to learn and absorb. Since, in reading this, you are already interested in buildings and architecture, get to know Passive House.

It is the future.