As a culture, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors. Architecture sustains our way of life; it supports our very being; it defines our life experience. But it also connects us to the world outside of our windows and doors.
However, certain geographical locations provide their own set of challenges when it comes to designing spaces that foster the interaction between inside and out. While some architects may work around these conditions, Peter Brachvogel, AIA, and Stella Carosso, principals of the Pacific Northwest architectural and urban design firm BC&J, have been known to utilize the local habitat within their design.
For Brachvogel and Carosso, the biggest challenge isn’t necessarily designing something environmentally friendly — that is already built into the ethos of their approach — it’s creating something that can nourish and enrich the lives of the people who will dwell in the space.
“The kinds of spaces we create are not so much about the style, but rather the substance and authenticity of the space that allow people to come together,” Carosso says.
The firm’s introspective approach to architecture is inspired by the unique needs of their region, a part of the United States that receives some of the lowest amounts of sunlight, with an estimated 58 clear and sunny days each year.
As weather patterns around the nation continue to evolve, contemporary architects have adapted their designs. BC&J uses expansive windows to enhance the mood of a building and connect people with the outdoors, even when it’s dreary.
“In the Pacific Northwest, it has become absolutely essential for buildings to have a large number of expansive glass windows in order to bring in the light, to be part of the world beyond, to be part of nature,” Carosso says. “People move here to experience nature, but because of our weather, it’s very easy to be stuck inside. Using windows in architecture can help draw people outside and make them feel more a part of the community and world around them.”
By using energy-efficient glass options, BC&J makes a positive impact on the environment while giving people spaces that connect them with others and allow them to experience the inspiring beauty of the great outdoors.
“As dreary as our region can get, it’s still magical when you have a window wall that looks out into the forest or bay,” Brachvogel says. “Living within these kinds of spaces really helps the soul come alive. It’s beautiful and moody and evokes all kinds of emotions. And if the buildings we design can foster this joy, then that’s a good thing. We’ve done our job.”
Learn more about BC&J’s approach to contemporary architecture and environmental stewardship.