The Uphill Patio

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We have seen how the Uphill Patio solves the problems of drainage and lateral thrust, how it functions as an emergency exit or second entrance, how it adds to the aesthetic appeal of a given neighborhood, and why it makes the perfect greenhouse and promotes energy savings.

Now we'll see how the Uphill Patio allows a good view, a balance of light, and cross ventilation.

Remember first that on the designs of most underground houses today the wall against the hill is solid with no windows. A few of the architects are sinking costly light wells, and some are advocating wind scoops, but these are single function features. Such features don't come within a mile of the ten benefits of the Uphill Patio. They don't even come within a hundred yards of providing balance of light, cross ventilation, and a good view, all three at once.

A balance of light is desirable to keep things from looking dark and shadowy on one side, and to keep one part of a given room from being dingy. It also cuts electrical or kerosene bills and promotes energy savings. It makes a room much more cheery to have light coming in from at least two sides.

Cross ventilation is desirable to clear wood smoke out of the air, to whisk away cookine odors and other possibly objectionable smells to provide a cooling breeze, and in the evening, to dry up the dampness which sometimes occurs inside on hot summer days (Warm, moisture laden summer air coming in contact with the cool walls of an underground structure creates a minor condensation "problem"; the walls feel clammy. In the winter, however, the high humidity of some underground houses is a distinct health} plus.)

The Uphill Patio cannot provide balance of light and cross ventilation all by itself, of course. These are only possible when other windows and doors are added through incorporation of Royer Foyers, Offset Rooms, clerestories or gables. The Uphill Patio can, however, give us a unique view by itself.

The Uphill Patio can give us what we call a controlled view. That is, a view that can be altered only by consent of the owner of the house. Which is to say, no matter what things neighbors or business or governments construct nearby, they can't ruin your view. Because that view—of the Uphill Patio—is of a garden you've planted yourself bounded by walls you've constructed yourself.

The deeper your windows and the narrower and shorter the patio, the more protected your view, or, to put it another way, the higher the trajectory of sight. This means that the deeper, shorter, narrower the Uphill Patio, the higher and closer to your property lines your neighbors may build without your being forced to view whatever it is that they have constructed.

Obversely, the more protected the view the more restricted it is. Panoramic sweeps— unless mirrors are used—are possible only of the sky. But that's all right. Those wide sweeping views may be obtained by other means; by clerestories, by Royer Foyers or by gables. The challenge here it to make full use of that Uphill Patio.

The Japanese have been making use of restricted view areas for centuries and have been doing a magnificent job of it. Their rock gardens, created within the confines of a courtyard are recognized the world around as works of art. This ability to create beauty in the smallest of areas elicits the admiration of gardeners and landscapers everywhere. Your Uphill Patio might too if you put some effort into it.

Again, we hope that the walls of the patio are of PSP rather than concrete. Concrete is cold and impersonal, while the posts and shoring have warmth and character. Knot holes and the grains of the wood should add interest to, rather than detract from, the beauty of the patio. With wood it is also easy to drive nails, eyelets, holders and so forth to aid the climbing or hanging plants.

Your patio wall should consist of mini-terraces or "steps back" anywhere from a few inches to a number of feet in depth. These should be planted with a mixture of things: flowers, shrubs, vegetables, hanging plants, climbing plants, vines, ivy, or whatever the gardener can conjure up.

Remember to plant plenty of climbing or hanging varieties to cover those wall spaces. What ever happened to vertical greenery in the United States? Even the Ivy League colleges have little ivy on the walls anymore. Yet a wall can be a beautiful, flowering, air purifying, ocygen producing, wildlife sheltering, living surface too, if anyone takes the effort to make it so.

The lowest terrace of the patio itself (as opposed to the patio walls) may or may not be devoted to outdoor living space. It makes a dandy barbecue area, earing or lounging area. If used as such it should probably reflect the mode of decor of the interior. This helps to make the transition from interior to exterior. It helps to bring the outdoors indoors, as it were. If the walls of the interior are white (as suggested) then this part of the patio should probably have white walls, too. White walls are particularly desirable in the lowest reaches of the patio where light is dimmest. Any aid here which will help to reflect light through the windows and into the house should be used.

Because sunlight may rarely, if ever, penetrate to the lowest reaches of the patio, rocks, weathered, or gnarled pieces of wood or driftwood should probably play an important part of your garden there. Ferns grow well without much sunlight and look handsome among such inanimate natural art objects. The middle terraces of the patio might best be planted to bright flowers which thrive in partial shade. The highest, sunniest, and least visible terraces, might best be suited for your vegetable crops. The vertical walls, as we have said, should be profuse with hanging or climbing vegetation, even if it does cut down somewhat on light reflection.

Drawing below illustrates Uphill Patio, barbecue windows and use of patio barbecue area. Two possible uses of mirrors are also indicated: To reflect sunlight into house through north windows, and to obtain view downhill over roof of house. (Special note by author: Drawing originally depicted man holding cup, woman about to pour tea. Drawing was made in Western Massachusetts, snakepit of Womens Liberation Movement, where it was declared that for wife to pour husband cup of tea was exploitive and degrading. Surreptitious and unauthorized change was made in drawing (fry pan substituted for cup), not to be discovered till author was thousand miles away. Change was intended to make it appear husband was helping to cook meal. More accurately reflecting current attitudes than impulsive young illustrator could have guessed, drawing actually now depicts vindictive Liberated Woman, behind husband's back, about to pour tea into fry pan.


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There is one other eventuality which we haven't covered here: despite your best design efforts your "controlled view" out the patio could become marred. Neighbors could build a twenty story highrise one foot oft your property line. Or the electric comparr. might string a high voltage forest overhead Or wishing the widest, shallowest, longes: sunken patio possible, you might even build with a view of someone's ugly edifice visible from the start. What then? The answer here may be to keep the greenhouse covering over the patio year-round creating an artificial skv which blocks the offending structures from view. You will have to design so that on warm days the trapped heat may escape (if you do not have some way of capturing and storing it), but then you will have to design for this to have a fully functional greenhouse anyway. There may be one additional benefit from this year round greenhouse: as the atmospheric pollution continues to grow, your greenhouse attached to your dwelling is a way of filtering and purifying the domestic air you breathe.

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Building Your Own Greenhouse

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