Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Collage Environments: The Happenings

Pop Artist Yayoi Kusama’s Spaced Out. See the multiplication of the space and the idea of infinite in the location of mirrors and lights. Internet download.

Happening was an event that combined elements of painting, poetry, music, dance, and theatre and staged them as a live action. The term Happening was coined by American artist Allan Kaprow in the 1950s. The nature of Happenings was influenced by Italian Futurist performance, where the convention of “proscenium architecture” was assaulted, where the “actors” could consist of moving lights, machinery, and the audience, and simultaneity noise-music were developed. (
Probably, it can be seen as the negation of the Architecture, of the static building, the space is shaped by weird acts and consequent behaviors.
With the rise of Pop Art, both the environment and the Happening took on a new and special importance. …One was that Pop specialized in the “given”; this led artists to experiment with the literal reproduction of reality…There was too, the consuming interest taken by Pop artists in the Phenomena of popular culture, among them such enfolding experiences as amusement arcades and side-shows in circuses”. (Lucie-Smith, 1995)

Pop Artist Yayoi Kusama. Endless Love Room. 1965-6.

The Happenings were designed for a brief life, they are dead every time they happen. It is an ephemeral game, the game of obsolescence felt in a certain state of mind; the objective is to stimulate as much fantasy as possible.
The situations can be commented by the stories told through the years, they can be printed in photographs, but you need to participate to feel the real nature of a “Happening”.

Jim Dine, The Car Crash, 1960.

Stuart Brisley. And For Today. 1972. From

Rudolf Schwarzkogler. Action. From

The Happenings were designed for a brief life, they are dead every time they happen. It is an ephemeral game, the game of obsolescence felt in a certain state of mind; the objective is to stimulate as much fantasy as possible.
The situations can be commented by the stories told through the years, they can be printed in photographs, but you need to participate to feel the real nature of a “Happening”.
These are the rules of the game as explained by Allan Kaprow (edited by Jeff Kelly):
1) The line between the Happening and daily life should be kept as fluid and perhaps indistinct as possible. For example, two cars collide in a freeway; violet liquid pours out of the broken radiator of one of them, and in the back seat of the other there is a huge load of dead chickens. The cops check into the incident, plausible answers are given and this is a normal situation of an accident.
2) Themes, materials, actions, and the associations they evoke are to be gotten from anywhere except from the arts, their derivatives and their milieu. Eliminate the arts and whatever is familiar to them, as art galleries, cultural buildings, nightclubs, etc. Then, a separate art can be developed. This is the goal, because “Happening” is not a total art, it is a source of energy in a “quasi art” with an uncertain identity.
3) The Happening should be dispersed over several widely spaced, sometimes moving and changing locales. A single performance space tends to be static and limiting (like painting only the center of the canvas). The stage theater is static and prevents the use of a thousand possibilities; movies can be watched, but not physically experienced. So, Happening can be developed in several points in a trafficked avenue, or different floors and rooms in an apartment house, or in different streets or cities or anywhere around the globe. This will increase the tension and will provide independence to each act with no interconnections.
4) Time, closely bound up with things and spaces should be variable and independent of the convention of continuity. Whatever is to happen should do so in its natural time, without respecting a structured scheme.
5) The composition of all materials, actions, images and their times and spaces should be undertaken in an artless and again, practical a way as possible. It means the avoidance of form theory associated with the arts, such as a serial technique, dynamic symmetry, etc.
6) Happenings should be unrehearsed and performed by non professionals, only once. Ex. a house is burned down; love letters are left on a field until the rain ruins them.
So Happenings were social manifestations materialized in a collage environment sensibility, a situation composed of sounds, time-durations, gestures, sensations, smells. The spectator was bombarded with sensations which he had to order on his own responsibility. Sometimes, the artists who took part in them seemed to engage in a desperate search for the unacceptable, for behavior which would restore them to a position as rebels an enemies of society (Lucie-Smith, 1995). For instance, the English artist Stuart Brisley who spent many hours almost motionless in a bath full of water and animal entrails. And there were also expressions of sado-masochistic fantasy. With an opposite funny tone, the Englishmen Gilbert and George performed a piece called Singing Sculptures, in which the two of them, with gilded faces, stood on a plinth and mimed to the music-hall song “Underneath the Arches”. The idea was to focus on style-stylishness, and the question of the division, or the lack of it, between the creator and what he creates.

Gilbert and George. Singing Sculpture, 1970. From


Kaprow, Allan; Kelley, Jeff. Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. University of California Press. 2003
Lucie-Smith., Edward. Movements in Art since 1945. P. 155 –158. New York, 1995

Monday, December 28, 2009

Notes on Poe's "The Landscape Garden"

Aerial picture of flower fields. Carlsbad, California. By Alex Mac Lean.

The most popular E. Allan Poe’s tales are those psychologically thrilling, related to murder, maladies, anguish. But I came across with this story and found it wonderful in the main character’s point of view about landscape. As always, he dies young, but this time, what is important is the emphasis in the pursue of happiness under certain unusual immaterial conditions (the landscape interventions), and the discussion of how man can affect the landscape design throughout scales, even with a minimalist contribution.

Trees landscape. From

Romantic landscape, 1826

Poe tells us that his friend Ellison was a very handsome man, heir of a fortune, with a beautiful bride and ample possessions.
“He admitted but four unvarying laws, or rather elementary principles:”
Health: free exercise, specifically in the open air.
The love of woman.
The contempt of ambition.
“An object of unceasing pursuit; and he held that, other things being equal, the extent of happiness was proportioned to the spirituality of this object.”

Ancient Chinese landscape painting. From

“When it had become definitely known that such was the enormous wealth inherited, there were, of course, many speculations as to the mode of its disposal.”
Instead of engaging in extravagant expenses or involving in politics, or build great buildings, or bestowing his name in institutions of charity, he decided that none possibility was adequate for him.
“I was not surprised, however, to perceive that he had long made up his mind upon a topic which had occasioned so much of discussion to his friends. Nor was I greatly astonished at the nature of his decision. In the widest and noblest sense, he was a poet.”
It means, he was not a poet indeed, but he understood the poetic sentiment:
“The proper gratification of the sentiment he instinctively felt to lie in the creation of novel forms of Beauty”.
This concept of beauty was supported by physical loveliness. Nevertheless, Ellison did not become a musician, or a poet, or painter, or sculptor.
“But Mr. Ellison imagined that the richest, and altogether the most natural and most suitable province, had been blindly neglected. No definition had spoken of the Landscape-Gardener, as of the poet; yet my friend could not fail to perceive that the creation of the Landscape-Garden offered to the true muse the most magnificent of opportunities. Here was, indeed, the fairest field for the display of invention, or imagination, in the endless combining of forms of novel Beauty….In the multiform of the tree, and in the multicolor of the flower, he recognized the most direct and the most energetic efforts of Nature at physical loveliness.”

British landscape with a train. My (filtered) screen shot from the movie The Awakening

Esteros del Ibera, Argentina. From

Being a landscape gardener would fulfill his destiny as Poet; Poe argues that no Paradises are to be found in reality as have glowed upon canvasses; in real landscapes, there will always be found a defect or an excess; the artist, can arrange the parts that will always be susceptible of improvement. Regarding landscape, Ellison takes it as the supreme art, and at this point Poe agrees it has to be true, because the artist (Ellison)
“not only believes, but positively knows, that such and such apparently arbitrary arrangements of matter, or form, constitute, and alone constitute, the true Beauty.”
So, this particular inclination triggered between the friends a kind of discussion about how to proceed with nature: with its exaltation or its improvement.
“It was Mr. Ellison who first suggested the idea…….that each alteration or disturbance of the primitive scenery might possibly effect a blemish in the picture, if we could suppose this picture viewed at large from some remote point in the heavens. "It is easily understood," says Mr. Ellison, "that what might improve a closely scrutinized detail, might, at the same time, injure a general and more distantly- observed effect."
It is interesting to see that a kind of “butterfly effect” is discussed here, together with the idea of change of scale and location for the observer’s point of view -one of the premises of design-, which in turn is involving collateral conclusions at the spatial scale where, supposedly, any former quasi-angels humans must exist:
“There might be a class of beings, human once, but now to humanity invisible, for whose scrutiny and for whose refined appreciation of the beautiful, more especially than for our own, had been set in order by God the great landscape-garden of the whole earth”.

Patagonia Argentina. From

Central Park in Huntington Beach, CA. Photo by Myriam Mahiques

Ellison then quoted a writer who had been supposed to have well treated this theme:
"There are, properly," he writes, "but two styles of landscape-gardening, the natural and the artificial. One seeks to recall the original beauty of the country, by adapting its means to the surrounding scenery; cultivating trees in harmony with the hills or plain of the neighboring land; detecting and bringing into practice those nice relations of size, proportion and color which, hid from the common observer, are revealed everywhere to the experienced student of nature. The result of the natural style of gardening, is seen rather in the absence of all defects and incongruities- in the prevalence of a beautiful harmony and order, than in the creation of any special wonders or miracles. The artificial style has as many varieties as there are different tastes to gratify. It has a certain general relation to the various styles of building……Whatever may be said against the abuses of the artificial landscape-gardening, a mixture of pure art in a garden scene, adds to it a great beauty. This is partly pleasing to the eye, by the show of order and design, and partly moral. A terrace, with an old moss-covered balustrade, calls up at once to the eye, the fair forms that have passed there in other days. The slightest exhibition of art is an evidence of care and human interest."
"From what I have already observed," said Mr. Ellison, "you will understand that I reject the idea, here expressed, of 'recalling the original beauty of the country.' The original beauty is never so great as that which may be introduced. Of course, much depends upon the selection of a spot with capabilities. What is said in respect to the 'detecting and bringing into practice those nice relations of size, proportion and color,' is a mere vagueness of speech, which may mean much, or little, or nothing, and which guides in no degree. That the true 'result of the natural style of gardening is seen rather in the absence of all defects and incongruities, than in the creation of any special wonders or miracles,' is a proposition better suited to the grovelling apprehension of the herd, than to the fervid dreams of the man of genius.
….The true poet possessed of very unusual pecuniary resources, might possibly, while retaining the necessary idea of art or interest or culture, so imbue his designs at once with extent and novelty of Beauty, as to convey the sentiment of spiritual interference. It will be seen that, in bringing about such result, he secures all the advantages of interest or design, while relieving his work of all the harshness and technicality of Art.”
Ellison’s garden is a middle state between human art and Almighty design. Its beauty is an effect in human perception, something ethereal that cannot be expressed as in landscape paintings. It is clear that technique, in itself, is not art. Art, in Ellison’s opinion, has to be imbued of spirituality to correct the imperfections of what has been given to us.

Patagonia Argentina. From

The Landscape Garden. In "The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe". Barnes and Noble, New York. 1999

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Nativity Façade of the Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia, detail. From

I´ve found it nice to offer a tribute to the work of architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926) for the Nativity façade of the Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia. (Expiatory Church of the Holy Family).
Antonio Gaudí was an architect whose buildings made Barcelona world famous in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He invented a radical new language for architecture, fusing traditional and seemingly avant-garde ideas into a hybrid natural form. He can also be said to have invented a new, popular form of ecclesiastical architecture, explicitly designed to bring the ordinary person to God. His desire to understand spiritualism is clear in this anecdote: being a young student at the School of Architecture of Barcelona, he had to design a cemetery gate; he said to the astonished professors that he had to draw the road to the cemetery and the mourners before attempting the gate. Professors flunked him.
Gaudí´s private life remains a mystery, it is possible that he dedicated his life to work and religiosity. He worked on the Sagrada Familia until three days before his death in 1926. His work was continued by assistants and, later, outside architects commissioned by the private foundation that oversees the Temple.

Templo expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia. Picture from

The Tree of Life, Templo de la Sagrada Familia. From

Nativity façade. From

Gaudí designed the Nativity façade as a landlocked ark, including most if not all of the creatures on God´s Earth. He concentrated on birds, of land and water, the former to the right and the latter to the left of the façade. As with the flora also featured here, he intended the façade to display a range of fauna that would have been present both in the Holy Land at the time of Christ and in SXX Spain. Most prominent is the pelican, but not even the lowly turkey is omitted.
Some familiar lizards and mammals, including the snake and the salamander, also appear, and there is a touch of probably unintentional ecumenism in the Buddhist turtles and tortoises supporting one of the columns. Also distributed among these images are oddly placed secular zodiacal symbols.
Most curious, however, is the effect that seems to start above the Nativity scene, in what some see as a Christmas ice cave and others as penitential tears. This appear to be a melting process, seeming to be an allusion to the impermanence of the physical, the inevitable death of the flesh. Equally they could represent the tears of God on seeing His finest creation, Man, has fared since giving His Son to them. (Adapted from Gaudí, by John Gill. P. 230, Parragon Publishing, United Kingdom, 2001).

Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus at the manger, encircled by a mule and Ox.  From

The natural materials are also fascinating. The structure is reinforced concrete faced with natural stone - the Montjuic, together with basalts and granites. ¨The Montjuic sandstone is joined for some of the interior elements by Scottish sandstone from the Clashach quarries on the Moray Firth. A "New Red" sandstone from the desert dunes of the Permian Period, some 250 million years ago, it is famous for its preservation of the tracks of ancient (and doomed) reptiles, all very geologically different from the Montjuic. But the two are similar in important ways. The Clashach sandstone had been used during refurbishment of Barcelona's old cathedral, and came to the attention of the Sagrada architects because of its similar appearance to the Montjuic, the warmth of its colour, its texture, and its durability¨. (Michael Welland, geologist.

Portrait of Gaudí. From

The Legend of the Vegetable Lamb Plant

The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, 1887, by Henry Lee. Image downloaded from

Polypodium barometz or Cibotium barometz, (golden chicken fern, woolly fern) is a species of arborescent fern. The general consensus is that the myth refers to the root of a Chinese fern, or maybe the legend was an explanation for the cotton plant. It is very interesting to know how a simple plant that resembled an animal was searched by curious travelers and ceremonies might have been developed around it in China.

Cibotium Barometz from

Cotton plant. Internet download.

As early as 445 BC Herodotus had written that “certain trees bear for their fruit fleeces surpassing those of sheep in beauty and excellence, and the natives clothe themselves in cloths made therefrom” (Lesley Gordon, Green Magic, p. 56. 1977, Viking Press, New York). This tree was known as wool-bearing tree. During the reign of Edward III, Sir John Mandeville described it and named it as Vegetable Lamb Plant. In the XVI and XVII centuries, this particular plant was made a subject of investigation and discussions by some famous writers. In his “Notes on Russia”, Baron Von Herberstein wrote that “a certain seed that of a melon, but rather rounder and longer, from which, when it was set in the earth, grew a plant resembling a lamb….which was called in the language of the country, Borametz or Little Lamb…It was rooted by the navel in the middle of the belly, and devoured the surrounding herbage and grass, and lived as long as that lasted; but when there was no more within its reach the stem withered and the lamb died”. (Lesley Gordon, 1977)

Tartarian sheep. Drawing by Thomas Bewick, 1790.

The specific lamb is the Tartarian sheep, that “is merely a variety of the common sheep, resulting from domestication. They are rather larger than those of the English breed. The color of the male is roan, or light brown mixed with white; the female is a mixture of black and white; their ears are rather long and pendulous; and instead of a tail, they have a large protuberance of fat behind”. (Thomas Brown, Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Quadrupeds. p. 571, London, 1831).

Barometz, from

Old drawing of the Lamb tree. From (By Panotea)

In his book “Medieval researches from Eastern Asiatic sources” (Vol 1, p. 154-155.1888. Great Britain), E. Bretschneider cites the legend “The lung chung yang (literally “sheep planted on hillocks”) are also produced in the western countries. The people take the navel of a sheep, plant it in the ground and water it. When it hears thunder it grows, the navel retaining a connection with the ground. After the beast has become full grown they take a stick and frighten it. Then the navel breaks off and the sheep begins to walk and eats grass. In autumn it can be eaten. The flesh of the navel (of the butchered sheep) can be planted again”. Then Bretschneider explains that “this miraculous story of a lamb that grows like a plant is nothing other than the reproduction of the medieval legend of the lamb-plant, Tartarian lamb, Agnus Acythicus. Friar Odoric, in the fourteenth century, was the first European traveler who referred to this story…., but it must have been current much earlier in Western countries, for the Chinese authors mention it in the ninth century. In the Tang Shu….(Byzantine Empire) I find the following account: There are in the country of Fu lin sheep which grow from the ground. The people wait till they shoot out, and then surround (the plant or beast) with a wall, to protect it against wild beasts. If the umbilical cord connecting the ground with the lamb is cut off, it will die….According to Odoric’s report, these lambs are found in large melons….The seed is like that of a melon, but the plant which is called barometz or “the lamb” (baran=sheep in Russian), grows to the height of about three feet in the form of that animal, with feet, hoofs, ears, etc, complete, only having in lieu of horns two curly locks of hair. If wounded, it bleeds…. In 1725 Dr Brein of Dantzig first declared that the pretended Agnus scythicus was nothing more than the root of a large fern covered with its natural yellow down, and accompanied by some of the stems, etc, in order when placed in an inverted position, the better to represent the appearance of the legs and horns of a quadruped. Linneus in 1752 received a fern from Southern China … and did not hesitate in declaring it to be the Agnus sovthicus, and to name it Polypodium Barometz…Modern botanists called the plant Cibotium Barometz. It is a tropical plant, found in South China, Assam, and on the Sandwich Islands… Medieval travelers as well as the Chinese annals agree in assigning to this marvelous plant-animal the countries of Western Asia or Eastern Europe”. (E. Bretschneider. p. 154-155.1888. Great Britain).

Polypodium Barometz. From

In 1557, Girolamo Cardano of Pavia exposed the absurdity of these beliefs. If it had blood, it must have a heart, and that the soil in which a plant grows is not fitted to supply a heart with movement and vital heat. In 1641, professor of Mathematics at Avignon, Athanasius Kircher, declared it was a plant; but confusion aroused when this woolly plant became entangled with the Astrakhan lamb skins which were a valuable article of commerce. The fleeces of these lambs were obtained before their birth to ensure a softer, whiter and curlier pelt. Most people thought it had a vegetable origin.
In 1716, John Bell walked many miles in Tartary to find this weird plant. But he could only find some dry bushes, which grew on a single stalk. It was true that no grass or leaves grew below the circle of its shade. And what was more important, the Tartarians themselves were laughing at the fable.
Sixty years later, the eminent botanical writer Dr Erasmus Darwin wrote an incredible poem dedicated to this quiet lamb located in the Arctic (!):

E’en round the Pole the flames of love
And icy bosoms feel the secret of fire,
Cradled in snow, and fanned by Arctic air,
Shines, gentle Borametz, thy golden hair;
Rooted in earth, each cloven foot descends,
And round and round her flexile neck she
Crops they grey coral moss, and hoary thyme,
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant
And seems to bleat –a “vegetable lamb”.
(Poem cited by Lesley Gordon, 1977)

NOTE. September 10, 2013

Though the fern I'm showing below was labeled as " Australian tree fern fuzz" it reminded me this vegetable lamb, at first sight it looked like lamb's ribs. It was pretty impressive on the touch.
I took this photograph on September 8th, 2013 at the Sherman Gardens and Library in Newport Beach, California.

Digital Paintings on Earthquakes

Digital paintings-photo collages by Myriam B. Mahiques

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quick Analysis of Hiroshima Urban Fabric Damage

This is a picture of Hiroshima urban fabric damage after the bomb. I will try to see if there is a possibility to measure the damage. My objective is, once I have a number, a comparison could be made with another damaged city to evaluate which city has less urban fabric destruction. A report like this -among many considerations-, could help planners to take a decision about what to save or maybe designs on tabula rasa could be needed.
My first step is to enhance the contrast. I sharpen the edges to "find" the urban fabric and see the plot graphics in 2D and 3D.

The image is converted into a binary file in order to make further analysis. This is a rough urban fabric, no buildings are recognized. The street on the left is clear in the 2D plot.

For now, I think the best way to understand the damage is to count it based on particles. The software I used, Image J will enclose what is considered to form a particle. I have chosen to see ellipses, but another tools are available. I tried them, and the particles account was exactly the same. The quantity of particles is really high: 1852 for the area selected.

I prefer to try again. When I converted the file into binary, the streets were turned black, and I'm afraid the software could interpret it as part of buildings. Then, I invert the binary image. The pattern of ellipses look better now. No central areas are enclosed, that is closer to reality, as the damage is even everywhere in the picture selected. Surprisingly, the account is pretty close to the previous one: 1823
A flood could show very different results, as water is covering the streets and part of the houses. The image surface seems softer, in consequence, the damage is less, as no house is disintegrated. Let us see a flood in a Mexico neighborhood, 2007. The quantity of particles is 431. To have more accurate results in comparisons, both images should be the same scale.

Flood in Mexico, 2007
Safe Creative #0912275203584

Searching for Urban-Cultural Cues

Here we see two different urban morphologies. First one, part of Seul (Asia) and second one part of El Monte (California, USA). For experienced researchers, urban morphologies as seen in aerial pictures can tell a lot about density, urban tissue, rugosity, zoning, heights, materials, landscape, etc. But this is not enough to understand if these morphological characteristics are universal or cultural, belonging to an ethnic group. All fixed and non fixed elements related to the five senses should be analyzed, to apply our best criteria in the urban design of a given area.

Amos Rapoport, in his book “The Meaning of the Built Environment. A Nonverbal Communication Approach” (1982, Sage publications, California) explains that as one moves into the domain of non fixed-semi fixed and fixed elements, the cultural variability and specificity tends to increase. An important issue is to discover urban and cultural cues that communicate particular meanings. Cultural cues include nonverbal behaviors, from intuitive ones (adaptors), to exact verbal translations with precise meanings known to all (symbolic gestures or emblems). In 1977, Rapoport listed some potential cues, and of course there are even more.

The landscape shows that this is a low income neighborhood. Picture by Myriam Mahiques

A simple cue of the family's religiosity in the picture above the heater. Picture by Myriam Mahiques

A neighborhood of mobile homes in Huntington Beach and the corresponding sign outside tell us about the informal life in the beach. Picture by Myriam Mahiques

Vision: Shape, size, scale, height, color, materials, textures, details, decorations, graffiti, furniture, furnishings, etc.
Spaces: quality, size, shape, enclosing elements, paving, barriers, and links, etc.
Light and shade, light levels, light quality.
Greenery, presence of planting, controlled versus natural, type of planting, arrangement.
Age – new versus old.
Type of order, order versus disorder.
Perceived density.
Level of maintenance.
Topography –natural or human- made.
Location- prominence, centrality versus periphery, hills, or valleys, exposed or hidden, etc.
Sound: Sound quality –dead versus reverberant, noisy versus quiet, human made sounds (industry, traffic, music, talk, laughter, etc) versus natural sounds (wind, trees, birds, water, etc); temporal changes in sound.
Smells: human-made versus natural, such as industry, traffic, etc. versus plants, flowers, the sea, etc; “pleasant” versus “ unpleasant”, foods and type of foods, etc.

Taco trucks are part of the urban landscape in Los Angeles neighborhoods. People is tempted with the smell. Internet download

People: languages spoken, behavior, their dress, physical type, occupation, age, and sex, etc.
Activities and Uses: intensity; type –such as industry, clubs, restaurants, residential, religious, fairs, markets, shops, recreation; separated and uniform versus mixed; cars, pedestrians, or other travel modes; cooking, eating, sleeping, playing, etc.
Objects: signs, advertisements, foods, décor, fences, plants and gardens, possessions, etc.
Temporal differences of various kinds.

A scientific analysis could be done after discovering the habitat cues. Picture and plots analysis by Myriam Mahiques

Friday, December 25, 2009

Urban Analysis and Legalization of Patio Covers

3D render of a custom patio cover, by arch. Luis Makianich.
The patio cover is highly used in California to provide shade, a nice place to stay outside. It is a space of transition, not exterior, not interior.

The construction consists of a roof, typically a built up roof with a minimum slope of 0.25 inches in 12 inches, or it can also have a different slope, with asphalt shingles or tiles. Other materials for patio covers are Aluminum and plastic. It is very easy to build, and most cities supply the bulletin with the patio cover type VB construction details.

The patio cover used as a storage. Picture by  Myriam Mahiques

A "sort of" patio cover, I would not include this area as enclosed space in urban analysis. Unless I take into account the homeowner's intentions. The considerations must be based on the researcher's objectives. Picture by Myriam Mahiques.

The patio cover is an interesting figure in urban morphology. It is located at the back, usually as an extension of the living or dining room, and as an accessory open structure, it does not count for the lot coverage, or at least if it has three sides open.
If I have to analyze an urban block containing patio covers, maybe I would disregard them. Unless I see some clues that something different is going on.
In other words, urban analysis supported by fractal dimensions is not black or white.

A refrigerator under a patio cover. Picture by Myriam Mahiques

The non fixed elements are configurating an informal dining room. This patio cover is perfectly legal. Picture by Myriam Mahiques

I have seen some cases –many cases- where homeowners are tempted to enclose the patio cover when it has wood frame. It seems so easy…….They move step by step, first of all adding non fixed elements that provide the concept of an enclosed space: why not a TV to entertain the family at dinner time, by the way, some music player, and summers are so hot, why not a refrigerator? Second step, walls and windows are added around, the structure being only the 4”x4” posts. Maybe drywall is added as a ceiling attached to the rafters.
Now, we have an enclosed space that is part of the account of occupied space in our analysis. Though, in the aerial picture, the situation for open or enclosed is the same.
The million dollars question: is it possible to legalize an illegal enclosed patio cover?
It is possible, only if the construction follows the required specifications on the California Building Code for livable areas.
Most people do not see the difference, between an enclosed patio cover and any livable area, as a dining room. I’ll mention some of them:
.- Livable spaces usually have bigger roof rafters. Not only for structural reasons, a livable space needs thermal insulation. The typical R30 does not fit between 2”x8” rafters or less, and with 2”x10” rafters it would fit if a supplement is added. Note that patio covers do not need 2”x10” roof rafters.
.- Livable spaces have anti seismic structures, as shearwalls in both directions. A couple of posts are not enough for earthquakes protection.
.- The new wall footing needs special inspection.
.- Weep screed is also needed.
.- Connections for roof-top plates, anchor bolts-footing, etc, have to follow the Code regulations.
.- Maybe the height inside is lower than the minimum required per Code.
.- Taxes and City’s fees are obviously different for patio covers and livable spaces.

 See how low the height of the back facade is. Picture by Myriam Mahiques.


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