Located between the Atlantic Ocean and a freshwater pond, this residence is for an adventurous couple and their four sons. They wanted a house for their large family and numerous guests with a lawn, swimming pool, pool house, garage, and sports courts on a site with a limited building envelope due to coastal and wetland zoning. The large program, relatively small footprint, and daunting regulations dictated a building envelope densely packed with program that stood as a barrier between the ocean and the pond. Thus the design process was one of subtraction rather than addition: carving away at the solid mass of the house to reconnect site features and views and to distill the experience of the place.
Spaces run the full width of the house with floor to ceiling sliding doors on both sides. The spaces create apertures through which views, light, and air completely penetrate the house, dissolving its mass. Passersby see directly through the house to the sky and landscape beyond. With the sliding doors open and recessed into the adjacent walls, interior spaces are transformed from formal rooms to open pavilions, merging seamlessly with the site.
To accommodate the extensive program spaces are nested within one another. Operable partitions pull out from the walls of the living room, carving out a media room within the living room when privacy is desired. Conversely, with the partitions open, the media room merges with the living room for large gatherings. The thickness of the wall separating the dining room and kitchen is also cut away, utilizing its depth to accommodate a wine rack that also functions as a light fixture.
The process of carving is applied at the material and detail level as well. The 5/8” corten steel plate that clads the base of the house is waterjet cut into a delicate pattern that defies its mass. Inside, corian is employed for the ease with which it can be milled. Corian countertops are cut to form towel bars, bunk bed frames are carved to create ladders, cabinet doors are recessed to form handles, and wainscoting is subtly etched with meaningful words chosen by the clients.
Materials were chosen not only for their workability, but also for their durability in the coastal environment. Corten steel siding is zero maintenance despite being relentlessly sandblasted by the wind. Cedar siding and screens are finished using a Victorian technique in which the iron sulfate in a blend of white vinegar and iron filings reacts with the tannins in wood, creating an ebony finish that penetrates through the material and will not require refinishing. The lack of harsh stains or finishes reduces the ecological footprint of the house. Geothermal heating and cooling as well as vegetated roofs further reduce the environmental impact. Using the design approach of sculpting away rather than building up, the house is pared down until the experience of the extraordinary site is dominant.
Sagaponack House, Sagaponack, NY, by Bates Masi + Architects
Photography © Michael Moran
Crescent Beach, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada, by Campos Leckie Studio
This house is standing on a steep slope in S. Abbondio, it’s designed for two people and their guests. The property adjoins on three sides to existing and new constructions, while to the downhill side it’s attached at the access road and above it provides free views to the Lake Maggiore and to the mountains. The cleareasy-cut volumetry and also the naturalistic materializing of the concrete in the same colour like the natural rocks, integrates the new building with caution in the heterogeneous area. Concrete gets the natural stone of the modern era.
New Concrete House, S.Abbondio, Switzerland, Switzerland, by Wespi de Meuron
Photography © Hannes Henz
A Toronto family of five requested a cottage that is ‘modern and open’ but retains a quintessential ‘cottage feel’. The building was to be commodious and accommodate extended family but should avoid ostentation in scale and modernity. The Clear Lake Cottage proposes a simple tent-like envelope to house both program and outdoor spaces under a single vernacular form. A singular roof presents a child-like impression of house; rectilinear and ordered in symmetry while playfully skewed in volume. Nestled within a forest, the building is sculpted and stepped to take advantage of the land; modeling the natural grade. Open and closed faces respond to shoreline views or quiet wooded depths. Like a tent the porosity of the building’s envelope strengthens the experience of ‘cottage’.
Three volumes: a communal space, a bedroom bar, and a master suite are registered in response to the site to achieve views, separation, and privacy. The roof peak creates a sleeping loft, and enhances the communal space. The plan aligns a series of large sliding windows for summer cross ventilation. The tent-like ‘big top’ of the Douglas Fir interior has three exterior spaces carved into it to create sheltered outdoor areas. The relationship to site, the transition spaces, and operable transparent skin connects to this privileged landscape.
Clear Lake Cottage, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada by MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects
This vacation home is set on the crest of a grassy knoll on a 160-acre site in Mendocino County. The goal was to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the property by siting the retreat in a careful, simple, and unobtrusive manner. The 10-module home forms an L-shaped plan, framing views of a canopy of mature oak trees to the south and east.
The road leading to the house climbs the hill and ends at the carport at the home’s west end. A set of concrete stairs lead up a gentle grade from the carport to the entry deck, which runs along the north side of the home. The main volume is oriented east to west and arranged in an open plan. The living room, kitchen, and dining room collectively open southward onto a covered patio with an outdoor fireplace and pool area. From the main volume, the master bedroom extends to the north, following the edge of the hilltop and ending in a private deck that takes in the morning light from the east.
Long Valley Ranch utilizes a number of sustainable strategies and materials. Passive solar heating and cooling are achieved through use of concrete flooring, covered decks, and natural through breezes. A 17-kW solar array offsets the electricity usage of the house, and a tankless hot water heater provides on-demand water heating. Sustainable materials are used throughout, including recycled denim insulation and low-VOC paint.
Burton Residence, Mendocino County, California, USA, by Marmol Radziner
Photography © Joe Fletcher
The project is the addition of a dining room, reading room and two bedroom suites to an existing 1948 adobe-brick house. It employs the material and formal language developed for a previous addition (the ‘Box Office’) completed in 2011: spare, platonic boxes of a perceptual mass defined precisely at their junctions to openings with a material thinness.
Four volumes control view and orchestrate movement through their various internal and external alignments. The reading of the solid/void relationship oscillates between additive and subtractive processes–on the one hand understood as a series of connected volumes while on the other seen as an initially pure box from which two L-forms are removed. The result is a rhythmic reciprocity between interior space and garden.
TP-H Residence, Palo Alto, California, by Jermyn Manthripragada Architecture, Photography by Lucas Fladzinski
Fashion icon Tom Ford, the ardent perfectionist credited with turning around a flagging Gucci and reinvigorating Yves Saint Laurent, is, unsurprisingly, just as exacting about his residences, but has largely kept them out of the limelight. That changed last year when he revealed his Santa Fe ranch in a guest-edited issue of French Vogue. Ford grew up in Austin, Texas, but would travel to New Mexico frequently to visit his grandmother. Evenutally, Ford’s father moved to Santa Fe, and the designer purchased a large tract of land south of town on which he constructed this dreamland of a ranch. Designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, the equestrian facility lies amid a 24,000-acre private tract, where classic Westerns like Silverado, Wyatt Earp, and 3:10 to Yuma were once shot. Ford spends roughly a quarter of the year on the ranch.
Zacatitos 004, Baja California Sur, Mexico, by Campos Leckie Studio
“For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.” Claude Monet.
The project for this house emerged from a very simple premise, to build on a very steep piece of land with a gradient of almost 100%, boasting wonderful views and on a tight budget. It was this highly complicated plot of land, surrounded by pine trees, that defined a good part of this project. The land, and its perspectives, constantly changing as the hours pass, the colour of the trees, the movement of sun and shadows…
On the one hand, the reduced dimensions of the plot and its complex orography, and on the other the desire to leave the minimum imprint on the land led us to seek out a floorplan which, matching the trees that surround it, emerges from a trunk well anchored to the land and opens up in braches on each floor, in such a way that each branch becomes the terrace of the upper level at the same time as it becomes the porch of the lower one. All this helps create a very formal building, with huge cantilevers facing out to emptiness, the woods and the sea which lie before it. A structure which opens up to these views and the sun, and which thanks to the terraces and the porches confuse the interior with the exterior.
A building which is equally formal in both its volume and the materials which compose it. Concrete, iron, timber and stone combining in a way that emphasizes the character of each one. In the end, the whole building represents a dialogue between emptiness and fullness, between materials, between outside and inside; seeking out a balance between these highly contrasting parts.
Mediterrrani 32, Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona, Spain, by Isern Associats
Photography © Adrià Goula
Located on five acres of dense Ohia forest, this cast-in-place concrete house frames indoor and outdoor living spaces along with views of the forest, the sky, and the coastline. It continues our exploration of a reductive architecture that enhances the experience of living in this compelling environment.
The main feature of the house is a concrete beam, 140 foot long, 48 inch tall x 12 inch wide running the length of the building with only three short concrete walls supporting it along its massive span. The concrete beam allows for sizable spans of uninterrupted glass and covered outdoor space, creating a permeable edge between the man-made and nature, amplify the sensation of living in the Ohia forest.
Lavaflow 7 – Mayer/Penland House, Big Island, Hawaii, by Craig Steely Architecture