Deep Dive: Pulling Out All the Stops

Midway through its design, the house was rather different from what it's like now: there was a version where, with encouragement from my architect, I went way over the top. While no bigger than what I'm building now, it was far more intricate.

This version of the house was made entirely from poured concrete, save for the middle- and upper-level roofs, with the most noteworthy feature being a rooftop garden covering the entire living level (highlighted in green, above). Designed to support almost two feet of soil where I'd plant flower and vegetable gardens, shrubs, and even some small trees, it also had its own deck (not shown), while the living space had several skylights that protruded up through the gardens like glass sculptures (highlighted in aqua).

The tall chimney enclosure (highlighted in yellow) contained an integrated grill for the deck, all cast as part of the entire monolithic concrete structure. Access would have been via a set of stairs off one corner (not shown); plus, the space between the second level and its roof was earmarked for a storage area for gardening tools (red arrow).

Ultimately this concept was doomed due to the cost, which should have come as no surprise since an enormous amount of custom-fabricated steel-reinforced concrete was required. With an initial estimate of around a quarter of a million for the concrete work alone, it was obviously out of the question, but it was still fun to dream about.


Know where the term "pull out all the stops" comes from? It refers to older church or cathedral organs. "Stops" are controls that change the flow of air through the organ's pipes; the changes in air flow alter the tone or quality of the sound produced. The controls are push-pull knobs located in rows over the keyboard; there are dozens of stops, which can be pulled singly or in groups, meaning there are nearly countless possible combinations. To "pull out all the stops" means "taking things to the limit," although in the case of organs, the resulting sound isn't always the "ultimate."

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