Three Dog Night

Long before Three Dog Night became one of our favorite bands, the term had an entirely different meaning: On a cold night, you might let one of your dogs sleep at your feet to keep your toes warm. If the night was unusually cold, you might let two dogs sleep at your feet, and (as you've likely guessed by now) a "three dog night" was bitterly cold. We believe natural solutions like this should be our first choice. In many cases, the natural way might be all you need, so you can save the equipment for the most extreme days of the year.

Why We Code

Andrés Duany Guest Post

This post was written by Andrés Duany, who many readers would know as one of the founders of the New Urbanism. Andrés was one of the primary authors of the SmartCode, which is the leading form-based code in the world today. This post has been very lightly edited by permission based on an online conversation with Andrés and several other participants. Thanks, Andrés!

Cool New Stuff

I haven’t blogged in what seems like forever, but have built a lot of cool new things elsewhere on the site… Check them out!

The Lotus Mission

Here’s the story of a place type I’ve been trying to get built since 1991… and I believe it may actually happen this time! The Lotus Mission is an assisted living center for people with autism. But instead of being designed as an institution, it’s built as an extension of an existing town so that it’s completely indiscernible from the rest of the town.

Caribbean Rim Architecture from Schooner Bay to Mahogany Bay

I had the distinct honor of presenting the sustainability of Caribbean Rim Architecture to the World Congress of the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture, and Urbanism (INTBAU) in London recently. Later, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales hosted the speakers and other select attendees at St. James Palace where we reported on the Congress. …

Hurricane Design

There is no such thing as “hurricane-proof” design because experience has shown that the things we have not yet seen are greater than what we have seen, but there are ways to build that dramatically improve our prospects. Originally, before there were hurricane experts, if someone was lucky enough to survive a hurricane but their house was not, when they crawled out of its wreckage and saw a neighbor’s house still standing, they said “I’m going to rebuild like that.” …

The Dream Suite

two dream suites sit atop two keeping suites at the first light of morning

Every neighborhood should provide at least a few quirky unit types because if everything is just “bread-and-butter” homes, the place quickly gets boring. And if the place is a vacation destination, it’s even more important to have a lot of rentable places that are decidedly not like home. We’ve gone over the top at Mahogany Bay Village on Ambergris Caye in Belize, where every unit is strikingly unlike everyday houses. …

The Lean Silver Bullet - Single-Crew Workplaces like the Rum & Bean

The Rum & Bean is doing what all the experts consider impossible: it’s a business in a new neighborhood that hasn’t yet closed on a single house, yet it’s already turning a positive cash flow. Mahogany Bay Village on Ambergris Caye in Belize does plan to close on several dozen units we’ve designed before the end of the year, but as of now, there are exactly zero residents. …

The Sideyard [Courtyard]

The house type in this installment of our building types catalog is one of the most useful, and traces its American origins back to Charleston, where they still call it the “single house.” There, it’s one room wide so it ventilates easily, and opens across a broad verandah into the side garden. The classic Charleston sideyard garden pictured above sits beside a mansion, but sideyard dwellings can be as small as cottages, or anywhere in between.

The Mayfair Lane

Probably the best thing I saw at CNU this year (out of many great things) happened after the Congress was over. Sunday night, I was treated to a fascinating night tour of Buffalo by Tim Tielman and friends, and the highlight was the last stop. Mayfair Lane is a type of place I’ve never seen before; a highly inventive place type invented in the 1920s by architect  E. B. Green that inexplicably did not spread. …

White House Village - Where Poetry and Efficiency Meet

Sometimes, the worlds of poetry and efficiency collide in a really good way… such is the case when you build a village of white houses in the tropics.

Poetic things are usually considered nearly opposite to efficient things, as different from one another as an artist is from an engineer. But Leonardo da Vinci was both… and a white house in a tropical climate can be both poetic and efficient as well.

The Timber Tent

three Timber Tents at Mahogany Bay Village

There’s a way of building we call the “Timber Tent” that we hope might change construction in tropical and sub-tropical climates. While the term is new, some of the techniques are quite old, dating back past the beginning of the Thermostat Age… they’ve just been forgotten in the rush to build drywall-slathered boxes everywhere around the world, irrespective of regional conditions, climate, or culture. …

The Carriage House [Edge Yard Special]

I worked for years to persuade a developer to build standalone carriage houses in a place where I served as town planner and town architect. When he finally built a few, they quickly became the fastest-selling homes in the neighborhood… they were so hot, in fact, that I had to draw more carriage house lots into the neighborhood plan!

A carriage house is like the Rear Lane Cottage

The Rear Lane Cottage [Edge Yard Special]

Some of the most charming homes in Key West are the tiny cottages that you only find if you venture off the streets and onto the rear lanes that make their ways through the middles of the blocks. While Key West is famous for them, you’ll find rear lane cottages if you look long enough in most of the historic parts of town in America.

Rear lane cottages are a great way of getting a big range of affordability in a small area, because they usually sit back-to-back with much larger homes that front the streets that surround them. …

Teaching Big Boxes & Drive-Throughs to Behave Properly In Town

Great cities are built mostly of big boxes… it’s not the size of the box that matters, but rather how it behaves on the street. One of the obstacles New Urbanists face is the accusation that “You’re really good at creating cute little boutique places with ice cream parlors and coffee shops, but you can’t design buildings for real American uses like WalMart, Home Depot, car dealers and drive-through restaurants and banks.” …

Building Types - Edge Yard Dwellings

Building a great neighborhood, hamlet, village, or town requires a toolbox full of useful building types… a toolbox that has sadly been almost empty in the American planning of recent decades. A number of factors have conspired to rob our newly-built places of the vitality and sustainability that were once taken for granted, leaving us with little more than McMansions, Sweet Spot houses, strip centers, shopping malls, and the big boxes of retail and office parks. …

Making Lovable Architecture on Schooner Bay

Schooner Bay from across the mouth of the harbour

Most Caribbean architecture designed today gets it wrong… and usually for a reason that’s right under our collective noses, but that nobody seems to notice. No, the buildings don’t live and breathe like Caribbean buildings; they’re designed to be closed up and air conditioned as if they were built in Orlando or Atlanta because we’re designing to American performance standards based on the efficiency of the machinery, not the efficiency of the lifestyle. …

SmartDwellings on Mahogany Bay

all images in this post by Thomas Hager

The first SmartDwellings are now complete on Mahogany Bay, situated just south of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize. SmartDwellings were first conceived by the New Urban Guild five years ago as remarkably smaller, smarter, and more sustainable homes that would be counterpoints to the McMansions that preceded the Great Recession. And getting SmartDwellings built was one of the

The Secret Project

early September construction project photos (all by Eric Moser)

I can't give out all the details yet, but there's a project under construction now that will debut next month that finally does what we've hoped for since this day in January 2009, when the New Urban Guild came together to set out the principles of Project:SmartDwelling! Getting SmartDwellings built was one of the main reasons we founded studioSky, so I hope you understand why I'm giddy right now.

Feeding Schooner Bay

There's a chicken-and-egg problem with chickens and eggs: Retail consultants usually tell you which retail fuctions your neighborhood will support. And unless their numbers are hopeful, neighborhood founders are discouraged from building anything other than houses… so you don't have a real neighborhood; just a subdivision. But you can look at it the other way as well. …

Why a Booth is Better


Booths are some of the most delightful and hardworking square footage you can design into a home. The New Urban Guild’s Project:SmartDwelling initiative is all about building dramatically smaller and smarter. Nothing accomplishes this better than a booth. Here’s why:

If you want to seat 6 people comfortably in a conventional dining room, you need about 180 square feet. …

© Studio Sky 2014