New Hermetics emerged as a new prototype housing typology rooted in communal and sustainable living. Initially, the task was to develop new housing for the United States Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. The first phase of design involved rapid prototyping. Varied compositions, based in one or two primary geometric forms, resulted in unique masssings. All prototypes sought the generation of a communal living space.
While communal living informed the massing and interior layout, sustainable communal living informed the design’s relationship to the greater site. The naval base sits at the tip of the Corpus Christi peninsula, separated from the rest of the city by a bay and highway. The land is relatively flat, with clear views out toward the bay and Gulf of Mexico, and there is little greenery besides a sprawling golf course and the front yards of neighboring homes. Looking to the Parthenon’s relationship to the city of Athens as a separate, sanctified space elevated above the rest of the city, New Hermetics likewise is raised up on a series of garden terraces to distinguish it from the rest of the base and city. This served two goals: firstly, to provide agricultural area for self-sustenance farming, and secondly, to literally elevate the new housing typology above the surrounding traditional homes. By raising the site, it draws attention to itself as a beacon of new cooperative living.
A reservoir and rain-garden were placed in the center of the site to help cool the courtyard while also providing water for the irrigation and indoor plumbing. The raised entry court is accessed via a long, narrow staircase at the site’s northeastern border.
In general, bedrooms are regulated to the ends of each of the five units to ensure views over the base and bodies of water. While there are formally five units, there are no private kitchen, dining, or living spaces. All five “families” share these spaces, and there are a multitude of different sized spaces to accommodate varying groups. A nuclear family, for example, has the option of having dinner in one of the smaller dining spaces. Likewise, all 22 residents could also dine together in the large ground floor dining room. Two patios also extend the large ground floor spaces to the exterior, and there are five uniquely sized exterior courtyards and leisure terraces. All communal spaces are highlighted in red in both section and plan to communicate these spaces’ dominance in the design. Meanwhile, the “family studio,” – a small living space overlooking larger communal spaces – was introduced as a gathering spot for nuclear families to nourish their bonds.
Medieval monastic culture was not an isolated lifestyle as so often perceived. Rather, it was rich in shared living and work. Monks and nuns shared duties and often tended to small sustenance arms. All aspects of life were shared. In the modern world, New Hermetics seeks to break the stereotype of the isolated monk and bring individuals and families into contact with each other. It is not just about communal and shared living, but about the sustainable aspect of sharing resources and of cultivating those resources together. While the terrace farming and cistern accomplish part of this, studio workspaces and a library also stimulate the sharing of intellectual resources. The noncombattant residents, often engineers and researchers, not only share their physical resources, but also their ideas and discoveries, leading to even more breakthroughs.