Two volumes of light – one warm and one cool – one projected to the expansive horizon and one toward the canopy of the desert sky. The 2200sf Dialogue House is a gestalt instrument for touching the full range and specificity of this light, this “place” – day and night, season to season and year to year. At the base of Echo Mountain the main living volume is elevated above work, guest, and the car, furthest from the street on a lateral pinwheel brace of charcoal masonry walls that extend cardinally capturing the site.
The exterior surfaces of the pinwheel walls as well as the main volume absorb and reflect light akin to the “desert varnish” that coats the volcanic geology of the Phoenix Mountains turning silver, red, purple-brown-black during the day only to collapse into silhouettes at night. Thus, “life after work” is simultaneously supported by the apparent thickness and thinness of light. The interior of the street volume is plastered cool white, half terrace – half cool water as a retreat from the city within the city where one can only can see sky. Wind and water activated light is refracted onto the interior surfaces by day and most dramatically at night which provides an animated foreground to the skyline and distant horizon beyond.
Dialogue House, Phoenix, Arizona, USA, by Wendell Burnette Architects
Living spaces feature wide panoramas toward ocean below, while concrete and vegetated walls remind of the rocky and forested setting. On its exterior, the structure visually blends with the wooded context by through its moss-covered roof. Additionally, the topography has been manipulated to control groundwater flow through the site, while being momentarily captured in the courtyard’s pond. The residence’s composition takes influence from the dynamic and irregular qualities of the rocky site. A scattered arrangement of concrete walls act as the main organizational elements, while at times clad in black fiber-cement panels. The resulting spaces provide a range of separate moments of connection to features surrounding the house, including a small tidal basin off the kitchen nook, a ledge of moss covered rock in the bedrooms, and a view back from the court to a swath of deciduous trees. The climax of openness to the site is experienced from the living room, which features floor to ceiling glass curtain walls toward the pacific.
Tula House, Quadra Island, Canada, by Patkau Architects
Photography by James Dow, Patkau Architects
Due to its proximity to the rugged and sloping creekside bank to the west, the house was subject to strict environmental and geotechnical conditions, including a required setback from the top of the bank that pushed the building’s foundation eastwards. The resultant footprint was awkwardly narrow, so to gain back valuable space, a portion of the main and upper floor is cantilevered back out past the foundation, allowing the native creekside vegetation to grow up, under and around as an uninterrupted, wild, forest floor. This reclamation of space is clearly pronounced in the dining room, where it projects fifteen feet out past the concrete foundation wall. By eliminating window frames and extending the glazing panels on all three sides of the room, past the floor and ceiling planes, the space dissolves into the adjacent forest canopy and provides framed views though to the ocean beyond. Tucked into the hill, the front of the house is deceptively modest in scale, set off by the large mature cedar that anchors the front yard. The topography of the site reveals itself as one descends the exterior stairs adjacent to the forest and follows the exposed concrete wall to the main entry. Continuing through to the interior, the wall rises up seventeen feet to help frame the bright circulation volume, with stairs leading to the upper floor and down to the main living spaces.
Russet Residence, West Vancouver, Canada, by Splyce Design
Photography by Ivan Hunter
The primary organizational elements for this residence are two “L” shaped brick walls connected by a glass enclosed bridge. Mahogany clad walls combine with the smaller “L” to provide a service volume while glass walls combine with the larger “L” to create the primary living spaces and to provide southern and western views toward the lake. The experience of arrival and the wall are intertwined as the wall establishes a threshold between the pine forest and views toward the lake. Entrance to the house is through the wall and into a space that divides the program of the house into public and private realms.
The entry, living and sleeping spaces are arranged linearly to maximize lake views and to take advantage of the southern exposure. The second floor roof and exterior walls are wrapped in copper with fully glazed east and west walls inset from the ends of the copper volume. The glazed wall at the east end provides an abundant and high source of light into the double height entry hall while the glazing on the west end provides light to two bedrooms and views of the lake. The sloping roof and canted front wall are designed to deflect fierce north wind and shed water from intense storms. The geometric volumes are connected to the landscape both by the views from the interior and accessibility to the outdoors.
Throughout the project detailing is minimal and precise. The spaces are ordered and there is a juxtaposition of solidity and transparency. The rigor of the design, the linear organization of spaces and the continuous presence of the wall provide a sharp and intended contrast to the irregular beauty of the landscape beyond. It is this contrast between an ordered human dimension and an unstructured natural condition that elevates our understanding and appreciation of both.
The Buisson Residence, Virginia, by Robert M. Gurney
Photography by Paul Warchol and Maxwell MacKenzie
The home was commissioned in 1956 for Kenneth Reiner, who made a small fortune on ladies hair clips and aviation patents. He worked very closely with Lautner to create this house, and Lautner built elements into the home specifically according to Reiner’s specifications; in the event that the equipment didn’t exist to meet those specifications, Reiner would often design and make the necessary piece for Lautner. Some Reiner – designed elements in the home include “lights that pivot into the ceiling, and electrically-controlled skylights.”
The result of all the efforts of the two men was an incredible home, with “faucet-less sinks that automatically filled with water; a dining table with a hydraulic pedestal that was lowered for cocktails and elevated for meals; a system for heating and cooling that could not be seen or heard; and controls for lights and appliances that were discreetly set into walls and doors jambs,” plus a cantilevered driveway, as the LA Times noted in their obituary for Reiner, who passed away in 2011.
The site, located on an exposed cliff edge overlooking a rocky peninsula, is perched above a dramatic seascape with spectacular views. The site is 1 of 6 exclusive use areas permitted on this reserve. The place is characterized by its rolling landforms and the dense indigenous vegetation of extraordinary variety. “Great care has been taken to promote the natural attributes of the site with the use of materials to complement the natural colour pallet and textures of the site to provide the least impact both during construction and after completion. The approach has therefore been a pavilion that blends with and does not overpower nature with a cohesive architectural character where it comes to scale, proportion and the articulation of the building form. It is airy, yet firmly anchored into the landscape by means of heavy stone clad walls,” says partner Stefan Antoni.
The location of the site invited large glazed areas and extensive use of outdoor spaces, with each aspect of the house having a private terrace or deck. The open plan linear composition of the interior spaces allows views from every room. To take advantage of the sea and surrounding golf course views and to provide protection from the extreme Cape Coastal climate, the living spaces were designed with South West/North East orientations, resulting in an open flowing space with both uninterrupted sea facing terraces and protected courtyards. This allows the house to ‘live’ on both sides with the main living spaces forming the link between inside and outside. The orientation gives the owners the option of sheltered courtyards on the leeward side in poor weather conditions or the use of extensive terraces on the windward side on sunny and wind free days. The through-views also ensure that one always experiences the sea and adjacent rolling landscapes taking opportunity of the site.
Cove 6, Knyzna, South Africa, by Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects
Photography by SAOTA
Renowned Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza has fully renovated the Boa Nova Tea House in Matosinhos, Portugal, one of his earliest commissions (1963). The refurbished building will open as a restaurant, and outside mealtimes it will be possible to visit with guided tours by the Association Casa da Arquitectura. “One of Siza’s first built projects, it is significant that the restaurant is not far from the town of Matosinhos where the architect grew up, and set in a landscape that he was intimately familiar with. It was still possible in Portugal of the 1960s to make architecture by working in close contact with the site, and this work, much like the Leça Swimming Pools of 1966, is about ‘building the landscape’ of this marginal zone on the Atlantic – through a careful analysis of the weather and tides, existing plant life and rock formations, and the relationship to the avenue and city behind.” says Álvaro Siza.
Boa Nova Tea House, Matosinhos, Portugal, by Alvaro Siza Vieira
Photography by Joao Morgado
The building site, further down a long private drive, levels out toward the west into an edge condition dominated by an expansive vista – layers and layers of distant mountain ranges – that in the evening seem to epitomize the drama of the Arizona Sunset. Due to the elevation of the site beneath the community’s gaze and the entry gate at the road it became important to us – to recede the house as a deep shadow – into the depth and complexity of the desert floor below.
The plinth was cast in place with one material throughout such that a wall, a floor, a ramp, a step, or a bench could be experienced as part of one contiguous stone. The Verde River eventually connects to the Salt River, which collectively tumbles some of the worlds hardest aggregate through the lowest point of the valley, where along with sand and cement, it is harvested for locally produced concrete. A “highway concrete mix” with oversized 1 ½” aggregate was specifically selected for this project and mixed with a small percentage of the earth pigment – raw umber. We wanted to work the surfaces of the plinth in order to reveal the composite qualities of the material, sand, conglomerate gravel, pebbles, broken stone, in a cement matrix, and consequently a window into the geologic time of this place.
The overall height of the landform follows the design guidelines and therefore the ground at precisely 24’ above natural grade in a segmented monocline that spirals almost imperceptibly up and around and out where the solid mass of the courtyard form opens up to the distant west. In conjunction with this geometry, the outsides of the earth and concrete landform are faceted inward 3 degrees from vertical. The hat required for the earth walls protects the monolithic courtyard form as a contiguous part of a faceted shadow that begins at the outermost edge of the monocline and continues inward toward the inner court where it stops just short of itself inscribing an irregular frame for the sky.
Desert Courtyard House, Scottsdale, Arizona, by Wendell Burnette Architects
Photography by Bill Timmerman
Knokke lies on the easterly extremity of the Belgian coast, close to the Netherlands border. A key challenge for the interior architecture of this apartment on the dunes was to harmonise the potential for expansiveness offered by the raw floor plan with the programmatic requirements of the brief. The layout falls into two main territories: roughly one quarter of the floor area is given over to generous private quarters, incorporating bedroom, dressing area, shower and terrace; with the remainder of the plan left spatially fluid, preserving internal vistas of twenty metres while accommodating the functions of kitchen, dining, living and library.
North Sea Apartment, Knokke, Belgium, by John Pawson, Project Architect
Ben Collins, Mark Treharne, Photography by Pieter-Jan De Pue