Ross School - Senior Project 2006-07

Student: Branson Wright              

Mentor:  Kenneth Sacks

Consultant: Dan Rowen

Domain: Visual Arts


Title: Architectural Philosophy


(Catalog Entry)



- Basswood

- Balsa wood

- Super Glue

- Super Glue Accelerator (a spray that makes the glue dry quicker)

- Flocking (green powder)

Design: The Design Process consisted of Sketches in my process folio and 3D renderings on Sketch Up. The Sketch Up Photos couldn’t be included due to the version. In addition I also looked at books from the library for ideas.






Architecture, to me, is the combination of some of my strongest talents, engineering and creativity. My senior project is a community of houses that I designed that reflect my education at Ross in terms of helping society. Therefore my buildings focus on solving certain problems in the Hamptons that relate to architecture. Hopefully by solving these problems now, I will be able to make a difference in the world in the future.

The Boys Harbor Duke Estate, off of Springy Banks Road in East Hampton, New York, is for sale.  I believe that this place is the ideal location for my Senior Project. I chose this site because it offers unique areas and spaces, particularly, the large field that could be used for numerous purposes. Also with new restrictions in clearing, a permit to clear an area as big as the one on the Duke Estate on a new site would be impossible.  The Duke Estate already has existing clearing for buildings. This is important for me because I believe the less clearing I need to do the more I am contributing to environmental conservation.

The land is being sold for around $40 mm. The plan is that the Town of East Hampton would buy the Duke Estate.  Then the Town would sell half of the land (the waterfront part) to raise the money to fund an affordable housing community on the other half.  Assuming money gained exceeded the cost of the project, the excess funds would be used to meet other community needs.  After the Town buys the land, it will then send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for design concepts for the creation of a new affordable housing community. My senior project is a proposal for that community.

My design proposal consists of four houses that address community issues through architecture. These issues are affordable housing, Green architecture (building materials), and a building’s ability to be organic with its environment. Some of these buildings deal with all these issues at the same time, while others focus principally on one of these themes. Also, the social structure will be based on the concept of a utopian society. 

The utopian idea appeals to me because values such as equality and unity are required to make the system work. People do things for each other in order to have things done for them. This is a good environment for someone who has a low income and can pay through bartering for the work of others with their own labor. However, the major utopian idea in my community evolves the energy field. My idea is that the solar panel units will not be on the houses themselves, instead the field will become a solar panel field. The field that once harvested energy from campers on holiday will now harvest energy from solar panel units.

The utopian part is about the efficiency of the panels. Panels on regular house are stationary and cannot be moved. They are positioned to where the average sunlight hits. However as seasons change, the arc of the sun changes due to the positioning of the sun. In order for the community to produce the maximum amount of solar electricity, the panels must be moved to the most efficient direction. Thus the community must count on each other for the panels to be most efficient.  This efficiency will enable the community to produce excess electricity, which can be sold for a profit.  These profits then can be used to help support the community.

I developed a concept for one house I called the “Hobbit House”.  This building is based upon my favorite house that I visited while at the Cal Poly Summer Architecture program, called the “Hay Bale” house. The design is somewhat soothing with its soft curves and natural grassy top. However, its purpose is much more interesting. First off, the building is half under ground. This is because the earth will keep the building at a constant temperature of around 60F degrees, thus, naturally insulating the building and keeping it warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.  Second, it is also made of straw bales, which is a good insulator and very cost efficient. Third, this house best represents a buildings ability to be organic with its surroundings.

Hay bale houses have been built since the 1800s and the first one in the U.S. was in Nebraska. They are now making a huge comeback with their vast advantages. To start, building a straw bale house costs around 10 dollars per sq foot., as opposed to a stick wood house with costs around 80 to 100 dollars per sq foot.  Straw bale houses also are more resistant to fire when incased in stucco plaster.  Straw bales are so thermally efficient that utility bills plummet. One test conducted for the federal government that compared utility bills from conventional wood houses with bills from straw bale homes found that straw bale homes saved as much as 75 percent on utilities. I have now decided to propose that all of my homes for the community be built out of straw bale.

I feel that in my final Project, I fulfilled my goals in designing and building models that express ideas of issues that I wanted to address.

Works Cited

"FAQS About Straw Building." CASBA. Viewed 1 Jan. 07 <>.

ICARUS. "Talk Energy." ICARUS. 20 June 06. Viewed 1 Jan. 07 <>.

International Architecture: Year Book. Mulgrave, Australia: The Images Group, 2001.

Martinez, Alice. "Straw Bale Construction: an Update." San Diego Earth Times.18 May 06.

Ruskin, John. The Seven Lamps of Architecture. New York: Dover,1989.

Scott, Geoffrey. The Architecture of Humanism. New York: Norton, 1999.

Community Member (Details)

Name: Dan Rowen

Profession: Architect

Cell #: 1-917-8607006