Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Steve Amstutz, Twenty One Years of Timber Frame Design/Build

Steve Amstutz teaching Advanced Timber Framing.
For Steve Amstutz, timber framing is not just a profession, it’s a passion. Steve started designing and building timber frame structures from his shop in the Adirondacks in 1989 and began teaching at Yestermorrow in 1994. He has since developed a wide portfolio of works in the Northeast: from modest, small scale timberframe structures to cavernous barns—the timber frame typology Steve enjoys most. Particularly impressive and inspiring is a recent studio off the coast of Massachusetts for sculptor George Sherwood, which utilizes curved laminated timbers (glulams) that transition from the posts to the principle rafters, held together with custom steel bands that are tightened with oak wedges.

Steve recently returned from travels with his wife, Nan, in Bhutan, which included visits to timber framed Buddhist monasteries and timber framed cantilever bridges. Be sure to visit his blog to see some of the striking photographs from his travels and while you’re at it, visit his website, where you’ll find a portal into Steve’s professional practice and explanations of various timber framing techniques.
An in-progress photo of a studio designed and built by Amstutz Woodworking for sculptor George Sherwood.
One of the timber framed cantilever bridges Steve photographed in Bhutan.
Steve will be on campus the weekend of November 24—25 to teach Advanced Timber Framing with Nancy Bernstein. Steve and Nancy will guide you through the finer points of timber frame layout, talk you through your own timber frame construction plans, and distill joinery engineering techniques through hands-on practice on sample logs. Enroll now to take your timber framing to the next level!

Check out these recent photos from our September Timber Framing class. The class is a great way to start developing a working knowledge of timber framing while enjoying scenic Vermont.

Timber Framing at Yestermorrow, September 2013.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Big Dreams for Small Structures: Learning Tiny House Design and Construction

Charlotte Leib, Community Outreach Intern

This past June, Yestermorrow hosted its inaugural Tiny House Fair, which attracted over 100 tiny house enthusiasts and many tiny houses to our campus. Though the summer crickets have quieted, the tiny house conversation continues here. Campus is especially buzzing right now with big ideas on small living as thirteen students learn the ins-and-outs of the Tiny House Design/Build process in our two-week course.  Follow along as students develop their designs with Instructor and Yestermorrow alumna Lina Menard at This Is The Little Life.

The students, who arrived on campus Sunday, September 29, are among the many that have come to Yestermorrow since 2011 for our Tiny House Design/Build course. This year’s class includes students Canada, Australia, and the U.S. At the beginning of the class, their knowledge of the tiny house design/build process spanned a broad spectrum; by the end, they will share in common the collective experience of building a tiny house and designing their own small-shelter plans.
Brace yourselves for the roof!
Check out our Facebook page for progress photos.
The students join a growing social and ecological movement toward tiny living — a movement sparked by early tiny house enthusiasts like Dee Williams, who turned heads in 2004 when she downsized from her 1500 square foot home to an 84 square foot tiny house on wheels. Students had the chance this past Thursday to speak with Dee on Skype as they embarked on their own tiny house designs. Students also had the opportunity to tour numerous tiny houses in the Mad River Valley and Montpelier and to discuss the design/build process with the homeowners.

Thanks to these conversations and the collective century-plus of design/build expertise offered by Yestermorrow Instructors Patti Garbeck, Paul Hanke, Lina Menard, and Lizabeth Moniz students have begun to “think outside the box” as they work to fit their life essentials within just a few hundred square feet.  At the end of week one, the class had raised two walls of the tiny house they are building for client and former Yestermorrow intern Day Benedict.  Many students spent Sunday, their day off, in the studio hashing out design details. I caught up with Cate Woulfe and Evan Skandalis at their drafting stations to discover how the class has given direction to their tiny house dreams.

Cate chiseling a birdsmouth for a rafter.
Her favorite safari hat completes her worksite outfit.
Cate comes to Yestermorrow from West Hartford, Connecticut with an Associates Degree in Architectural Technology and years of experience working in commercial design and as a locksmith. In 2009, after the economic downturn put Cate on a hiatus from commercial design, she enrolled in Straw Bale Design/Build at Yestermorrow to try her hand at natural building. Now, she’s back on campus to skill up for her next project: building a tiny house.
“I returned to Yestermorrow to jump back into the design process and build my self-confidence in building and its intricacies,” Cate explains. “I want to gain the sense of security that I can always build my own shelter.”
With “sunlight” as her design parti, Cate is designing her tiny house to recall her grandfather’s sunlight-dappled general contracting studio, where she remembers sitting by his side and learning how to draft. She is also planning to maximize passive solar gain in her new 160 square foot home, which will allow her to adopt a more mobile lifestyle as she makes plans for her ideal home, a 500 square foot, off-the-grid small house constructed with natural building methods. While discussing her urge to downsize, Cate reflected “the fewer encumbrances there are, the more opportunity there is to live life differently.”

For Evan Skandalis, a Seattle, Washington native and Outdoor Education major from Evergreen State College, this two-week immersion in the design/build process has been completely new, while the process of pairing down his possessions for life in a tiny house has been a natural progression thanks to his years of hiking and camping.
At his drafting station, Evan draws out his tiny house dreams late into the night.
It's the little details in Tiny House design that count.
Evan explains how the direction of the plywood sheathing
contributes to proper shedding of rain and snow.
Like Cate, Evan finds the spatial constraints of tiny house design liberating rather than limiting. “If you’ve already subtracted everything, what do you add back?” Evan asked out loud at his drafting station on Sunday, waxing philosophical. He explains his design approach as “not strict minimalism” but instead a consideration of the elements of a house needed to support what he enjoys most in life.

Choosing a six-inch cast-iron skillet he found at the Waterbury fleamarket as his design parti, Evan has prioritized the kitchen and garden in his tiny house plans and has given special attention to how the structure will allow him to relate to the outdoors.
“A huge part of going tiny is tapping into the community: getting to know your neighbors, going to the laundry, going to the park…Some people, like Dee [Williams], choose not to have a fridge, so they rely on their local co-op.”
Evan hopes that by integrating outdoor space into his tiny house, he can live closer not only to nature, but also to his community. He imagines his tiny house as a form of urban infill enabling him to serve as “eyes on the street.”

This sort of symbiotic tiny house settlement has taken root already at Boneyard Studios, in Washington D.C. In Berlin, travelers can get a feel for “urban camping” at the Huettenpalast, an old warehouse in Berlin filled with artfully arranged caravans, campers, and small cabins. The post-industrial “hut palace” attracts travelers who happily trade the anonymous corridors and carpeted quiet of the standard hotel stay for a bed within the Huettenpalast’s kaleidoscope of interior-exterior spaces created by the warehouse, its courtyard, the cafĂ©, and the caravans.  Closer to home, in Portland, Oregon, the Caravan Hotel offers an offbeat urban oasis where visitors can test-drive tiny house living.

We’d love to hear about other spaces and places amidst a tiny house transformation, or what you would choose as your tiny house design parti.

Caravan Hotel, Portland. Wouldn't you like to stay at a hotel like this one?