The commission to design a new family home for clients posed a number of challenges and possibilities. The site was unusually large for the area having never been subdivided like its neighbours, but came with a run down worker’s cottage, that had to remain due to Council Heritage Controls despite plastic weatherboard cladding and an assortment of aluminium windows.
The brief was for an adaptable family home that had to create intrigue and a little drama for clients who entertain regularly. The final design utilized the falling topography of the site to make a substantial, and overtly modern addition recede behind the rebuilt cottage that addressed the street. The contrasts between the structures were aesthetic, and material, with the new addition being constructed from concrete, glazed black brickwork, and steel.
Circulation through the house meanders with the site, courtyards separating the cottage from the new addition, and around an existing Jacaranda tree allow varied sight lines and play up the luxury of space afforded by the large site size, and frames wider views into the surrounding district.
The drama and hardness of the concrete, brick, steel, and glass found in the main living and entertaining spaces softens considerably upstairs where the private spaces play up the warmth of limed oak and more playful colours particularly in the children’s rooms. Privacy, and energy efficiency are provided by the external adjustable louvres on the building exterior, which also provide an aesthetic link back to the horizontal weatherboards of the original cottage.
Shadowboxx responds to a desire to facilitate an intimate understanding of this special place and explores the tradition of gathering around a fire. Tucked between a thicket of trees and a rising bank, the house sits in a natural clearing created by the strong winds that force back the trees from the rocky bank. The building purposely confuses the traditional boundaries between a built structure and its surroundings. Its masses are modeled by winds off the water, exterior cladding is allowed to weather and rust, and shifting doors, shutters, walls and roofs constantly modulate the threshold between inside and outside.
Inside the home, a gallery runs the length of the house with rooms spilling off of it. Two 15’ by 10’ steel clad doors slide open to reveal the main living space, named the cloud room for its ever-changing atmospherics. A glass-walled bunkroom, it contains six custom-designed rolling platforms that serve both as sofas and beds and enable the room to morph and accommodate different functions. Exterior awning shutters facing the water can be closed for protection from the elements or for security when the owner is away.
A guest room sits at one end of the house, and the bathhouse at the other. The bathhouse is topped by a 16×20’ roof that opens the room like a cigar box at the push of a button. Materials with a strong tactility are used throughout the house, including rammed earth floors, reclaimed oak floorplanks, unpainted gypsum board and steel walls, corrugated steel siding and roofing, and reclaimed scaffolding planks for the ceiling.
Shadowboxx, San Juan Islands, Washington, USA, by Olson Kundig Architects, Photography © Olson Kundig Architects, Jason Schmidt, Tim Bies
The sites, around 5000 m2 each and mostly surrounded by golf fields and green areas, have the constant presence of the Andes, high temperatures during summer time and winds from the south. The project seeks to incorporate the landscape in the household daily life, following the client’s request who wanted to spend a long time throughout the year in the exterior spaces. The site has a park towards the north, a street on the west side and another one on the south side, where the main access is located. The house is placed towards the corner of the two streets with the intention of freeing the garden, creating continuity with the park and clearing the views towards the east mountain range.
All the interior spaces are organized around an 8 x 8 m central patio that gathers part of the terrain and incorporates it inside the house. Delimited by the ceiling slab, this patio opens its north face to project the view towards the garden. A water mirror runs across a third of its surface reinforcing this perspective through a porch. The public areas constantly participate of the patio, from the main access to the family room, articulating the service areas towards the west. On the east side, a double-height wall lightly closes the private area without losing its participation of the patio and accompanies the ascension to the master bedroom. From there, it is possible to go out into a vast porch that dominates the landscape, where the barbecue area and the swimming pool are placed at a certain distance using the site in all of its extension. Some peripheral walls are prolonged to direct the views and close the house against the winds and nearby streets. In addition, the slabs extend as eaves to protect tall windows from the sun and to cover the terraces. These architectonic elements radicalize the opening of the interior spaces, deepening their presence from the outside.
Kübler House, Santiago, Chile, by 57STUDIO
A carefully considered response to a very steep site with understated ‘mute’, gently sloping, roughly rendered walls and a curved concrete roof. Celebrating modern Australian family life, a generosity of space without ostentation that is practical and serviceable.
Yarra House, by Leeton Pointon Architects, in association with Susi Leeton Architects, Photography © Peter Bennets
Defined by a tall peripheral wall and several trees scattered throughout the property, the form follows the stacking of three basic concrete boxes of differing dimensions, the bottom open on the east/west axis and the top two facing north/south. made for a photographer to live and work, the ground level is a large open studio space, characterized by an all-white neutral interior that allows for control over color. Two large aluminum metal doors like awnings swing open to bring the exterior gardens into the space to provide natural light, or can be completely closed off so that the artist may manipulate artificial lights as desired. A free-standing green Formica box contains the bathroom and dressing room and separates the main studio area from the concealed stairs along the wall, lit from the sky, that take the residents up to the kitchen and dining room. This next volume is a single open space with a smaller inset concrete core containing the restroom, kitchen and storage space. The entire northern facade is a uniform fine wooden screen left in its natural dark stain that filters the intensity of the natural light coming in, while still allowing views to the outside with retractable sections; at night this lattice skin projects pixelated silhouettes of the interior as it glows from interior light. a wall of sliding glass panels further insulates the structure and provides cross ventilation. Following the vertical circulation to the next level reveals a living area within a smaller-scale version of the previous mass, containing a vibrant red mashrabiya skin that opens to a rooftop terrace, extending views over the tree canopies.
Our 2010 series on architectural models included the X-House (Casa X), Wallpaper* magazine has published some images of the completed project.
The X House project aims to solve by the definition of a system, language, or even through a unique form, a number of inquiries that rise up when we read the specific given site: how to protect and give protagonism to an impressive pine, that is located on the top of the site, and that makes access and approximation to the house extremely complex from the street; how to avoid deciding between the views to the sea and those to the mountains, and allow both visions in opposite directions; how to neutralize through form the presence of the contiguous constructions, to build up a fake isolation that denies the neighbours; how to double the main views, permitting quality frontal views from the front and the rear of the house; how to resolve so many a priories with a simple movement that answers to all of the previous aims without prioritizing nor explicitly formulating a response to any of them. The form, a unique form, is the result of a long process of search of individual answers to each of those challenges; thus, the form is not an a priori, but an effort to give a unitary response that satisfies each of the questions rose up in the design process.
The X House is also a constructive exploration: a technique regularly used for the infrastructural construction such as bridges and tunnels, is here developed to meet the architectural scale, aiming to incorporate efficiency, and reduction of costs to the construction. The use of a mixed technique based on the application of a high-density concrete allows projecting the material at a high pressure to a single-sided formwork, and to acquire high structural resistance in extremely short periods of time. Thus, it is possible to project continuous 6m high walls without the need to use a two-sided formwork (which would be the regular construction procedure). The house is therefore a living expression of the specific technique, and accumulates in its skin the diverse and continuous knowledge acquired within the process of construction.
The five courtyards articulate the flat continuous space of the house. The continuous concrete ceiling perforated by many square skylights erases the border between outside and inside.
Broken Pitched Roof House, Nakatsu, Oita, Japan, by NKS Architects
A new angular home in the south of Portugal has become a man made centerpiece between a family of 400 olive trees. The stark white structure, which appears to be a new build, is actually the remodeling and reconstruction of an existing home that has been covered with a geometric shell-like architectural canopy for temperature control against the beaming sun. Vitor Vilhena, founding architect of Vitor Vilhena Arquitectura, explains that the “architectural concept seeks to create two parcels with separate identities, including one volume with irregular geometry and other volume of regular geometry that communicate through a glass hallway. The surrounding outdoors relate to the terrain, landscape and vegetation.”
Located near the sea in Algrave, Vilhena decided to speak a contemporary language through the form of the home, with references to the vernacular of algarve architecture, then carry that language into the interiors. The interiors of the home are mostly white, with cool grey concrete ceilings. The interior rooms happily fit into the slanted ceilings, as bookshelves and cabinetry take unusual form to tie into the sculptural architecture!
For this residence, light, transparency and continued spacial flow was vital. Privacy was also a concern since the residence is located in a tight urban location. The residence is located in the Bucktown neighborhood in Chicago. The residence is for a young urban couple who aspire to a modern and minimalistic aesthetic design. They were looking for a solution that provided a light filled urban retreat that could display their collection of modern furnishings and large art prints. The solution was to create open, fluid interior spaces, both horizontally and vertically and then to wrap it all in white masonry. This white veil is scored with window bands that allow abundant natural light, yet because of strategic locating, provide privacy and eliminate the need for window treatments towards the street. The white interior is strengthened by the sharp contrast of the ebony stained wood flooring throughout the main levels, while the lower level further emphasizes the white finishes with the use of a reflective pure white epoxy coated floor. The white and black backdrops serve well in making the furnishings and artwork stand out as well as the subtle orange theme throughout the residence. The light filled white interiors are further strengthened by the use of reflective glass railings and stair panels. The main central steel stairs is clad in glass, both clear and opaque to again maintain privacy but allow natural light. The flowing and light filled interiors are carried to the two surrounding exterior landscapes, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior by carving out urban gardens which are rare in the city.
We like the virtue of architecture which makes possible constructing a house on air, walking on water… An abrupt plot of land overlooking the sea, where what is best is to do nothing. It invites to stay. A piece that respects the land’s natural contour is set in it. Above, a shadow, the house itself, looking calmly at the Mediterranean. Under the sun, the swimming-pool brings us closer to the sea, it becomes a quiet cove. In the inflection point, the stairway proposes a evocative path, a garden in the basement…
Due to the steepness of the plot and the desire to contain the house in just one level, a three-dimensional structure of reinforced concrete slabs and screens adapting to the plot’s topography was chosen, thus minimizing the earthwork. This monolithic, stone-anchored structure generates a horizontal platform from the accessing level, where the house itself is located. The swimming-pool is placed on a lower level, on an already flat area of the site. The concrete structure is insulated from the outside and then covered by a flexible and smooth white lime stucco. The rest of materials, walls, pavements, the gravel on the roof… all maintain the same colour, respecting the traditional architecture of the area, emphasizing it and simultaneously underlining the unity of the house.
House on the Cliff, Calpe, Alicante, Spain, by Fran Silvestre Arquitectos