|The most efficient systems are the simplest.
My basic philosophy has always been to build
a house that improves the environment instead
of compromising it. I want to help people
ground back into the earth, into nature.
THE POST – AND – BEAM CONSTRUCTION
of traditional Asian houses makes them quite
versatile. These timber-frame structures are
built with precut parts ready to assemble
on-site or to dismantle and carry out to a
different location. This chapter features
Asian-Inspired timber-frame products developed
by innovative companies offering houses made
with prefabricated modular components, or
“kits” – The Bali T-house
developed by Tony Gwilliam, The Minahasa House
of Carey Smoot, Source tropical, the Rikyu
prototype developed by Paul Discoe. Joinery
Structures and the Haiku House produced by
|Gwilliam modeled the
Jasmine Pavilion at “Bali T in
the Rice” in Lodtunduh, near Ubud,
Bali, after classic Balinese structures.
The dramatically pitched fish-scale
shingle roof resembles a wizard’s
These high-quality “houses-to-go”
are rewriting the definition of kit houses.
Besides the strong aesthetic appeal of these
Asian-Inspired designs, their modular systems
give them wide flexibility with floor plans.
As these designs illustrate, prefabrication
does not limit the homeowner to generic
and identical results. Their affordability
and durability make them further attractive
Committed to earth-friendly design; these
companies build their products with natural,
nontoxic and reused wood materials.
|DOING MORE WITH LESS: THE
Whilst traveling in Bali, I often found myself
staying in simple pavilions amongst the rice
fields. I felt happy there, protected from
the sun and rain yet connected to the universe
around me.... One day in 1996, this brilliant-yet-simple
came to me and the first T-house
was soon handcrafted in Ojai, California,
later to be followed by others back in Indonesia,
design celebrates Bali’s colorful
fusion of Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Architect : Tony Gwilliam
|International architects Tony Gwilliam,
“design outlaw” on the ecological
frontier, worked alongside Buckminster Fuller
in the geodesic dome industry before envisioning
his own design for earth-friendly shelter.
With Fuller, Gwillliam developed and manufactured
the lightweight high tensile aluminum and
silicon dome structures as an efficient and
economical alterative to traditional western
housing. While the building boom surged in
the 1980s and 90s, launching wide-scale production
of houses with astronomical footprints constructed
with toxic building materials (from particleboard
to PVC), Gwilliam continued to champion the
cause of the housing industry’s underdog-the
environmentally sensitive small-scale house.
In the pioneering spirit of Fuller’s
dome or Ford’s Model T,
Gwilliam designed a prototype to improve the
quality of life – the T-house.
For years, Gwilliam had sketched ideas for
simple structure, “a space for conscious
living.” At last he came up with the
Gwilliam’s design concept swaps Fuller’s
futuristic “autonomous dwelling machine”
for an interdependent “living system”
model inspired by traditional Asian architecture-the
bale, the pavilion structure in Indonesia
compounds (Balinese families do not live in
a “house” in the western sense,
but a compound with separate pavilions), and
the Japanese teahouse, as the name T-house
||This simple bale (pavilion)
provides a versatile retreat for meditation,
tea time, or relaxation.
Built on a humble scale with simple rustic
materials, the T-house
is designed to work with
nature, as in Asian tradition. Western architecture
traditionally “fights against nature
and the outside,” observes Gwilliam.
Asian design encourages harmonious balance
between the architecture and the natural world,
and is outward oriented –open to nature-rather
than inward oriented.
Though not intended for mass production –
the T-house is
geared for small eco-village or resort development
in tropical regions-the design’s modular
kit-system construction makes it versatile
and affordable. Crafted in sustainable natural
materials-ironwood, alang alang, and bamboo-harvested
from forest in Indonesia, the T-house
is also good for the earth. Gwilliams design’s
models environmental stewardship with its
small footprint. “One point I wish to
emphasize is the importance of small when
it comes to ecological design, “says
|This Bali T room provides
a pool side painting studio and retreat
you are building a McMansion, even with green
materials, the energy both for building and
in use is immoral, whereas if good materials
are used well to fit their characteristic,
then sometimes a more exotic material may
be more suited for the job…. It’s
a matter of choosing the best fit. We use
ironwood for our houses because it is very
strong and durable, providing a long –lived
house, very resistant to rot and insect. It
may be disassembled and moved, modified, bought
and sold, and remodeled, but the structure
will provide a family home for at least 100
years, and after that, much of the wood will
be reused in other ways before composting
and completing the cycle.
As an experiment in “minimalist impact
living,” Gwilliam and his partner, Marita
Vidal, an architect from Argentina, developed
the pilot project Bali T
in the Rice – a village of T-houses
located on a rice plantation near Lodtunduh.
The success of this project spawned a second
eco-village near Ubud, in Central Bali, and
has attracted an export market in the tropical
resort industry. Gwilliam plans to introduce
his ecological village concept in other Indonesian
countries as far as Cambodian, where he will
teach people how to build these economical
nontoxic houses for their communities.
||A classic Balinese woven-bamboo
design was selected for the ceiling.
The T-house aesthetic
appeals to the “connoisseur of the simple”-
those who appreciate the economy and elegance
of its minimalist proportions as well as the
sensual beauty of its handcrafted material.
“The house is more like a beautiful
wooden bowl or a piece of furniture than a
building, “Says Gwilliam. One of the
most complete and authentic Bali T-house
designed and built in the United Stated is
this charming yoga pavilion perched, birdlike,
over a Japanese water garden at a private
residence in Santa Barbara.
garden design inspired the intimate
water garden for this T-house
The owner, a documentary filmmaker, learned
about Bali T-house
from a friend and contacted Tony Gwilliam
to create a garden sanctuary for her in a
sheltered wooded area behind her residence.
The natural landscape in that part of the
property, shaded with fragrant cedars, lends
itself to the “deep environment of peace”
provided by the design.
architecture features versatile kit-system
construction with modular components that
can be variously configured to suit a client’s
needs. Depending on design preferences and
program, the modules can be vertically stacked
in to a two-story structure or expanded horizontally
into a compound-style arrangement as in many
traditional Balinese villages. This yoga pavilion
features a one-module, single story plan.
Its structural components were crafted in
Bali, precut according to the prescribed footprint
(specially engineered for California code
requirements), and shipped in a twenty-foot
container to the site. A local contractor
and a crew of four workers assembled and erected
the pavilion in less than two weeks.
Like most Bali T
structures, the yoga pavilion was constructed
with plantation-grown ironwood, a dense tropical
hardwood resistant to termites that lasts
over a hundred years. The graceful shingled
roof was based on a Balinese thatched- roof
design. The timber – frame (post and
beam) components were assembled with traditional
pegged joints, with the structural pillars
anchored into concrete piers. The materials
are use efficiently in the construction process
due to the precise measure every millimeter
||The Pavilion projections
over a lily pond to heighten the connection
with the sensual pleasures of the natural
The pavilion’s simple interior reflects
the influence of Japanese house design, where
wood itself is the primary element of the
décor and space is fluidly partitioned
with flexible components-removable screens
and blinds, futons, and floor cushions-to
maximize limited space and open the interior
to nature. The interior can be configured
for dinning or sleeping arrangements: the
center floor panel lifts up and transforms
into a kotatsu
(a low wooden table with a heater underneath).
Ironwood and glass pocket doors, with a grid
pattern reminiscent of traditional shoji
(paper screen), slide away for an open-air
experience. Traditional Japanese teahouse
garden design inspired the intimate water
garden. The pavilion projects over a koi pond
to heighten the connection with the garden
and the sensual pleasures of the natural environment.
|The structural pillars
of the pavilion are anchored into concrete
simple and versatile interior reflects
the influence of Japanese house design.
A center floor panel lifts up and transform
into a kotatsu table.
ceiling is crafted with woven bamboo.
The owner enjoys the peace and beauty of this
garden retreat for her yoga practice. The
pavilion also provides a delightful space
for small social gatherings. Soon after the
yoga pavilion was built, the owner was married
there and held a wedding reception in the