DSGN 341: Project 3 – West Texas Cabin

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You have received a commission to design a small cabin located on a 1,500 acre ranch southwest of Abilene outside of View, Texas. The cabin will serve as a retreat for your clients, a retired entrepreneur and his artist wife, who live in Nashville, Tn. Having grown up in the area, they have an emotional connection to the land and enjoy the peace found at the ranch. Their desire is for the cabin to be built using principles of sustainability and inspiration from the vernacular.

The house should meet the following requirements:

  • Responds to surrounding context (views, environmental conditions, etc.)
  • Provides a clear connection between inside and out
  • Incorporates sustainable design principles
  • Utilizes compressed earth blocks for exterior wall construction
  • 900 sf (net area) that includes:
    • Living room
    • Kitchen/Dining
    • Bedrooms (x2, 8′ min. dimension)
    • Bathrooms (x1)
    • Laundry room/closet
    • General storage (indoor/outdoor)
    • Space designated for mechanical/water heater
    • Outdoor space (not included in total net area)


  • Explore the relationship between site and building
  • Gain a better understanding of tectonics and its expression
  • Determine an appropriate response to a given context (and be able to justify the response)
  • Evaluate and respond to environmental conditions (sun + wind)
  • Respond to firmness, commodity and delight through design
  • Examine materiality (including traditional and contemporary materials)
  • Develop design process
  • Develop technical skills including model-building and sketching
  • Utilize digital tools for design and visualization
  • Increase visual and oral communication skills

Design Process:

  1. Gather relevant contextual information. This includes the following: site plan, solar path, predominant winds, annual/monthly rainfall, types/sizes/shapes of surrounding houses. Print and organize this information so it is easy for you to access. Surround yourself with it and bring it to every class meeting. Seriously, this information is very important.
  2. Create a diagram of the site plan and overlay the information gathered above.
  3. Develop a parti (organizing concept) that relates the building to the site. Consider orientation, public, semi-public and private zones, outdoor space, etc.
  4. Begin to develop floor plan, elevations and massing simultaneously. Please avoid designing in plan only and then “extruding” the building from the plan. Oh, and do this by hand for a bit.
  5. Don’t forget all that you have learned about the site as you design. See #1.
  6. Once you’ve got a good idea of where you are going, you can begin to use the computer to assist you with design. Everyone will use Revit and SketchUp on this project.
  7. Develop the design at all levels and create representational drawings to communicate the design intent.

Writing + Sketching

Final Deliverables

Drawing Set:

Size: 11″ x 17″ (landscape). Do not bind. We will pin-up individual sheets at the scheduled final exam date.

  • Cover page
    • Project info: project name, student name, DSGN 341, Fall 2011
    • Drawing Index (table of contents)
    • One exterior perspective (greyscale w/shadows)
  • A1.0 – Site Plan
    • Identify house on site plan
    • Identify contours, road, walkways and landscaping on site plan
  • A1.1 – Furnished Floor plan
    • Label all rooms
    • Show furnishings in rooms
    • Show all permanent fixtures and casework (plumbing, cabinets, built-in furniture, etc.)
    • Show elevations and section symbols
  • A1.2 – Dimensioned floor plan (show built-ins, but not furnishings)
    • Label all rooms
    • Show all permanent fixtures and casework (plumbing, cabinets, built-in furniture, etc.)
    • Do not show movable furniture
    • Provide overall dimensions, dimensions locating openings in exterior walls (windows and doors), interior dimensions from wall to wall, dimensions locating all door positions
    • Show elevation and section symbols
  • A2.0 – Roof Plan
    • Indicate roof slope graphically with arrows pointing down slope
    • Note roof rise/run (i.e. 3:12)
  • A3.0-3.1 – Building Elevations
    • Four primary elevations (two per sheet)
    • Rendered w/shadow (greyscale)
    • Label important heights (grade, floor, eave, top of roof)
    • Include some portion of grade line in each elevation
  • A4.0 – Building Sections
    • One longitudinal
    • One cross
    • Label important heights (grade, floor, eave, top of roof)
    • Show call-out for wall section
    • Include some portion of grade line in each elevation

Important Notes about Drawings and the Drawing Set:

  • Each sheet (excluding the cover) needs to have a title block that contains: project name, student name, DSGN 341, Fall 2011, sheet name and number.
  • Include graphic scales, labels, symbols and north arrow where necessary.
  • Be sure to reference elevations and sections to the appropriate sheet and drawing number in the set.
  • Line weights. Use them to establish spatial depth.
  • Poché works well to define space.
  • Click here for a Revit file with sample title blocks.

Scale Model:

  • Scale: 1/8″ = 1′-0″
  • Make sure it is finely crafted! (Keep a sharp blade and use your drawings as templates.)
  • Use chipboard, illustration board or museum board – NO FOAM CORE
  • You can also use basswood. Especially useful for smaller details (such as window frames).
  • Create a base for the model (flat site). Include street and sidewalk.

Process Documentation:

  • Photocopies of sketches – Turn these in as part of your final Design Process Book
  • Writing (post to blog on specified date below)

Digital Files:

Upload the drawing set (saved as a high quality PDF*) to the class dropbox on myACU.

*Prefix each file with your ACU username followed by an underscore (ex: bly95s_project 3.pdf)

Schedule + Deadline

Week 1

  • Tues., Nov 15: Introduce project, discuss context
  • Thurs., Nov 17: Site visit, work day

Week 2

  • Tues., Nov 22: Work day
  • Thurs., Nov 24: No Class (Thanksgiving Holiday)

Week 3

  • Tues., Nov 29: Explain expectations for final deliverables
  • Thurs., Dec 1: Small group critique @ beginning of class, begin work on final deliverables

Week 4

  • Tues., Dec 6: Discuss dimensioning and roof plan, work on final deliverables.
  • Thurs., Dec 8: Design Process and Conclusions Statement due (beginning of class), Discuss wall section, work on final deliverables.

Finals Week

  • Project due (including comments to blog posts) at scheduled final exam time.


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