I would hope that architects could accept the fact that they are architects and useful as architects and could stop flirting with the notion of being both artist and architect.
~ Olafur Eliasson


What makes an object or an experience a work of art? Is it because it is beautiful? Is it because of the expertise with which it is made? Is it because it is created with intentions? Is it because an “artist” created it? Is it because we label it art? Is it because it is in a gallery or museum? It is because it makes us more aware of the world around us? When is the everyday a work of art? Is architecture ever a work of art?

The answers to these questions determine if, why, and when art is important – art’s purpose. Considering these questions can and should affect our thinking about making architecture. Thus, experiencing artworks and considering the work of artists inspires treatments and executions hopefully contributing to the DTS Project House as a piece of architectural art. These treatments and executions are not intended as individual works of art, but instead they are intended as artful solutions to specific design requirements.

Most of the considered artworks have in common an integration with and reliance on their architectural and spatial setting. They are chiefly about human perception and the experience of phenomena. The works integrate artistic intentions with spatial intentions and integrate art with architecture, urbanism, graphics, landscape, and engineering.



The DTS Project House main living level is open with few solid divisions between areas and defined functions. The central stair is the functional and visual separator of areas. The work of Robert Irwin and specifically his works with scrims, is the motivation for thinking about the possibilities for spatially transforming the open main living space. The central stair in combination with roll down shades and light has the ability to act as a functional and visual divider, transform the stair into its own discrete spatial experience, and provide for a dynamically changing main living level.

Robert Irwin’s first scrim installation was at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970 and he has continued to create and exhibit scrim pieces to the present day. mills studio directly experienced Irwin’s installations at the Whitney Museum of Art 2013; Dia Beacon, 2015; Spruth Magers Gallery, 2018; and Chinati Foundation at Marfa Texas, 2016. Since scrim pieces are about your experience of phenomena by directly seeing and directly being, consideration of these particular four installations inspired specific thoughts on how to use scrim like materials to dynamically transform the spatial experience of the DTS Project House.        

Eight motorized shades with shear fabric are mounted in the ceiling at the perimeter of the central stair on the main living level. These eight shades can be individually lowered and raised in 256 different combinations and each shade can lower to any height. The home automation system controls the shades individually or in programed configurations devised to create different spatial experiences. Differing configurations are integrated into automated local and global scenes and the configurations are coordinated with the automated lighting.

The eight individual shades in differing combinations provide both functional and visual configurations that change the use and perception of the main living space. The shades can direct how the house functions by blocking or allowing access to the up and or down portions of the main stair from the main level. The shades can both functionally and visually separate the open main living level into separate areas of living / media and kitchen / dining. The amount of visual separation can be controlled by the number of layers in the down position, the height of the shades in the down position, and the lighting of the two sides of each shade. Different height configurations address how the visual connections and spatial experiences differ when standing, when seated at the dining table or on sofas, and when laying on the sofas. Different lighting configurations alter the level of transparency and color of the shades. The shades are more opaque when lighted from the front, become transparent when lit from behind, and can become immaterial, approaching pure light when lit equally from front and rear.    

The staircase itself can become a distinct, enclosed space with different spatial experiences when in the staircase depending on the amount of enclosure and the transparency created with lighting. Differing shade configurations create and accentuate diagonal, elevational, horizontal and vertical views.

Scrim Implementation 




The DTS House’s glass boxes require shading for energy performance, daylight control, and privacy. These requirements provide the opportunity to again use scrim like shades in an artful way to both solve the functional technical requirements and contribute to a dynamic architecture. Robert Irwin’s installations using scrim again motivate thinking about how translucent shading can affect spatial experiences and the specific works of architects Paul Rudolph, Jones Studio, and Atherton Keener inform mills studio’s thinking about a dynamic exterior shading.

Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House of 1952, uses manually hinged plywood panels and Jones Studio’s House of Five Dreams of 2004, uses hinged fabric covered panels making it possible for the building’s inhabitants to “tune” the house to the changing environmental and functional conditions. The Walker Guest House’s movable plywood panels change the visual look of both the interior and exterior, change the physical and visual access between inside and outside, and control the amount of direct light entering the building. Cords and counterweights used to manually operate the panels contribute to the aesthetic of the house and intimately connect the inhabitants to the building through their direct manual manipulation of their environment. Atherton Keener’s Meadowbrook House of 2008 employs static panels of stretched sail cloth to mediate between interior and exterior and accentuate differing lighting conditions. Depending on the amount of light on the interior and exterior, the inside and outside becomes hidden or visible and interior and exterior objects become silhouettes. The house dynamically changes as the world changes.

The DTS Project House uses a combination of horizontal shades on the south elevation and vertical shades on the east and west elevations to control the building’s exposure to the sun, provide privacy to both interior and exterior spaces, and make the building a performance piece. Thirty five shades are controlled individually and in groups by the home automation system with input from the weather station so that many multiple configurations respond to environmental factors, time of day, lighting conditions, and the desires of inhabitants wanting to change their surroundings. The multiple configurations alter the interior experience in individual rooms or levels of the house and in turn alter the visual experience of the exterior in seemingly random configurations.

Exterior Shade Implementation


Motorcourt Inspiration


The DTS Project House’s enclosed street level hardscape space is equally motor court and “urban plaza” for social gathering. The glass floor that serves as the roof of the pool must assure no vehicle traffic for its own protection. The work of Artist Larry Bell, and specifically his colored “glass cubes” set in public plazas, pointed mills studio to an approach to meeting the requirement to keep vehicle traffic off of the glass floor and visually activate the “urban plaza” with a minimalist sculpture.

Bill and Coo at MOCA’s Nest, 2019, is among Larry Bell’s best public sculptures in the way the colored glass “cubes” dialogue with Arata Isozaki’s geometric architecture and accentuate the sun’s movement as the red “cubes” project ephemeral colored shade and shadows in a hard edged urban setting. The DTS Project House reverses Bell’s placing of a translucent and reflective glass construction in a hard edged context by placing a hard edged fabrication in a context of transparent, translucent, and reflective glass.

mills studio set a minimalist metal bench at the edge of the transition from the motor court’s hard surface to glass providing a barrier preventing vehicle tires from accidentally reaching the glass surface, providing seating for the gathering space, and helping make the plaza a visually active space. The bench consists of two bent metal plates with an outer fabrication with a highly glossed red finish and an inner fabrication of a non-reflective red finish. The outer high gloss red finish reflects the overhead sun and the inner duller metal appears in shadow when seen through the glass ceiling from the pool space below. The gap between the outer and inner layer is filled with RGBW lighting so that the minimalist sculpture acts as a light fixture for both plaza and pool. The red metal sculpture will reflect in both the horizontal glass floor above the pool and the reflective surface of the garage door. The functional sculpture will be experienced from below, from above and in pure elevation as one goes up and down the central staircase. What begins as a functional necessity is addressed in an artful way.

Motorcourt Implementation


Elevator Inspiration


A glass enclosed elevator shaft is a central design element of the DTS Project House. The glass on two sides of the cab allows views out as you go up and down, but the more frequent experience of the elevator is looking into the glass enclosed shaft. The transparent enclosure allows views into the shaft and depending on your location relative to the cab, you either see into the cab itself, or see through the multiple sided glass enclosure, or see the interior surfaces of the shaft or bottom or top of the cab. The elevator cab and shaft have a strong visual presence and offer artistic opportunities.  

Barbara Kruger’s 2008 installation Untitled (Shafted) in the elevator shaft of Renzo Piano’s Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a distinctive example of using an architectural condition toward an artistic end. The multiple story installation uses text and graphics to make both a social and visual statement. Waiting for an elevator is transformed into an aesthetic experience and points to how a rather utilitarian function can be treated in an artful way.

The DTS Project House uses the shaft and solid surfaces of the cab as a canvas for light, projection and graphics.

Elevator Implementation

Reflection Inspiration

Reflection Implementation 

A painting can help us think something that goes beyond this senseless existence. That’s something art can do.
~ Gerhard Richter, Doubt and Belief


Reality is not what we see but what we discover.
~Octavio Paz