The Madison Park House is the latest custom-spec house to be designed and built by architecture firm First Lamp, located in Seattle, Washington. Situated on an existing steep slope lot in the Madison Park neighborhood of Seattle the house grows out of the hillside and allows the main living space to float out amongst the trees. This 3,200 square foot, five bedroom house will be an energy star certified residence and is targeted to be 4-star built green.
Daunting and stubborn while also inspiring, the site was our true client . A handful of landslides had occurred here in past years, so this tucked-away location had been ignored or avoided until recently. After a series of site visits with our “ground team” (engineers, excavator, and foundation subcontractors), we came to understand two things: 1) That development here would actually increase the stability of the site and 2) It would therefore be an asset to the surrounding landscape and community.
During the design process we often used a tree as a metaphor for our design goals:
1.Sensitively Integrate Structure with Landscape and topography
2.Stabilize the hillside with a deep root system
3.Reduce storm water impact to the site and its surroundings.
In many ways, the design response to these goals is very literal. 54 Pin piles, 5 helical anchors, and 110 yards of concrete support the structure and retain the hillside. These are consolidated to the smallest feasible footprint, allowing the topography to surround and envelop the trunk of the house. The main living space is cantilevered from this base much the same way the branches of a tree reach for the sun. The siding is almost 100% cedar, charred to more closely reflect the deep ambient color under a grove of mature trees. The house is topped with almost 2000 square feet of living roof which acts as a filter, a sponge, and an aesthetic amenity for the residents.
Photos: Courtesy of First Lamp
Glen Lake Tower is a sustainable retreat completed in 2011 by Balance Associates Architects, located high on a wooded hilltop above a lake in Michigan. The 1,400 square foot house is the result of an inspiring collaboration between architects, clients with a passion for architecture as well as their site, and a skilled local contractor.
Directed to create “a sustainable retreat that reflects the timeless beauty and simple comforts of the area,” the architects responded by raising the primary living space above the dense surrounding woods in order to gain light, air and views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan beyond. Two fin-like, metal-clad walls rise from the crown of the hill to support a 1400 sf three-story plywood box suspended a full story above grade.
As intricately detailed steel stairs climb the tower, they move from exterior to interior and from more enclosed to more open spaces, culminating in a breathtaking, glass-wrapped kitchen/living/dining space at the fourth level. Here, thirty feet above the ground, the clients enjoy views of the landscape they love, from either the birch-lined interior or expansive cantilevered decks.
Photos: Steve Keating
Jellyfish House is a four story property showcasing a cantilevered rooftop pool that has been designed by Wiel Arets Architects, located in Marbella, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The home’s neighboring buildings block its view onto the nearby sea, so appropriately it was chosen to cantilever the house’s pool from its roof, so that the beach and sea can always be seen while sunbathing or swimming. The 6,996 square foot (650 square meters) house is organized around two paths of circulation: a ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ set of stairs, which intertwine and traverse the house’s four levels of living.
The ‘fast’ stair leads from the exterior directly to the roof; it is enclosed in glass, which physically separates it from the house’s interior, yet it is simultaneously open to the exterior elements, so that sand is not brought into the house when returning from the beach. The ‘slow’ stair whose long treads and short risers lend it its name spans the entire length of the house, from ground floor main entry to roof; it is indoors yet also open to the exterior elements, further amplifying the house’s capacity for ‘interiority’.
The house’s rooftop pool is cantilevered 9 m southwest toward the Sierra Blanca mountain range in the distance–and weighs nearly 60,000 kg. Equipped with an infinity edge, its water merges with the sea in the distance. This pool has a glass-bottom floor and a panoramic window at its interior facing edge, both of which are 6 cm thick; the latter allows those in the kitchen to voyeuristically view those swimming, while a third window affords those in the kitchen a glimpse of the living room, whose terrace extends under the cantilevered pool.
The searing Spanish sun constantly filters through the pool’s glass wall and floor, creating ripples of iridescent turquoise reflections throughout the entire house. As such, the pool can be seen and experienced from nearly all areas of the house. Integrated within the pool is an underwater bench, which traces its length and also integrates a pool cover, so that it is out of sight when the pool is in use.
Five bedrooms are located throughout the house, with two guest bedrooms situated on the basement level that face outward and onto an extensive private terrace for the exclusive use of guests. As the ‘slow’ stair leads from the main entry to the guest bedrooms below, this area of the house is able to function as a separate entity. The kitchen is strung along the southern facade of the house’s first floor, with all secondary appliances built-into an adjacent and perpendicular hallway.
The house’s structure is composed of poured in place white-concrete, supported by one column at the right-rear edge of its pool, and several smaller columns near the rear-dining terrace. All non concrete walls were constructed with glazing, which allows sunlight to permeate the house. Multiple bedroom closets, whose obverse faces the ground floor hallway, are finished in translucent glazing to compound this sunlight diffusing strategy.
Oversized and accordion like folding panels of translucent glazing adjoin each dining or entertaining space, which, when opened, essentially expands the house’s numerous areas of living by nearly doubling their size.
The first floor is also the location of the sauna and steam bath. A small service elevator also allows, for instance, food and drink to be brought from the kitchen, or any other floor, up to the rooftop pool and terrace. This roof terrace features an oversized and custom designed concrete table with an adjoining bench, which is contiguous to an angular chair for reclining while sunbathing.
All of the house’s audio video equipment such as its countless Bose speakers are recessed into its ceilings and walls, which allows them to disappear within their context little noticed. Lighting illuminates all corridors and staircases, as well as underwater within the pool, ensuring the rippling effects of its reflections that shimmer through its glass floor and wall can also be experienced throughout the house at night.
Taking full advantage of the ever present Spanish sun, the Jellyfish House is an avant-garde expression of luxurious living; as most of its façades can be opened, and as its staircases are mainly outdoor, the house’s ever shifting boundaries between inside and outside are curiously blurred.
Photos: Jan Bitter
Fold Place is a newly built modern infill property that was envisioned by architecture firm Linebox Studio, situated in Ottawa’s vibrant Glebe neighborhood stretches across the southern downtown edge of Canada’s National Capital. The dwelling is comprised of 2,400 square feet of living space, sited on an irregular and narrow lot of 20 feet by 60 feet.
The clients, professionals committed to the community’s casual urban lifestyle, asked Andrew Reeves for open, flowing spaces in which simplicity would make modest dimensions seem bigger. Reeves, who has recently made significant contributions toward returning Ottawa to its post war modernist heyday, responded with a tight composition of volumes that maximizes the potential of the narrow 20’by 60’ irregular shaped site while still generating a singular street profile.
The street-side component of the two storey core volume steps in to facilitate an eastern side entrance. A cantilevered bay wraps around the corner at the second level, its crisp lines, layering of planes and contrasting materials producing a piece of geometric art. On the opposite elevation, a single storey garage, clad in richly stained pine in contrast to the neutral light-grey stucco of the main volume, is extruded on the angle of the lot. The same pine is used on soffits, in the bay and as a means to break up the major volume, the same kind of unapologetic use of natural materials that marked Alvar Aalto’s Nordic modernism.
Inside, an animated “folding” of space creates horizontal and vertical fluidity and interconnectedness. The largely white walled and simply detailed interior rotates around two totemic elements centered on the west and east elevations of the house. One is a sculpted staircase whose ebony strained treads without risers seem almost to float. The other is a light chimney, a countering void marked by a soaring opaque window spilling light onto an interior garden at its foot. These elements also serve to separate the kitchen/dining area from the living room but without impeding a sense of openness.
A generous and eclectic use of windows and glazed doors draws in from all sides the delightful ozone saturated light that theorist Christian Norberg-Schulz has identified as such an important element in a northern landscape. If large picture windows that provide stunning tableaus of the Aberdeen’s impressive cupola and the backyard facing wall glazed doors are boldly voyeuristic, many narrow vertical slot and horizontal clerestory windows contribute slices of views while protecting privacy.
In sum, Fold Place is an urban dwelling for an informal lifestyle that is committed to engaging its community with openness and sass.
Photos: Courtesy of Linebox Studio
S House is a contemporary concrete and glass single family home that has been designed by Domenack Arquitectos, situated in Lima, Peru. The design brief necessitated three important factors to be incorporated into the design of the 5,382 square foot (500 square meters) home. First it needed to satisfy the functional needs of the family. Second, it had to adapt to a difficult sloping topography without resorting to complicated and expensive structures. Lastly, the home needed to capture the views towards a golf course, even though the plot is not adjacent to it.
The design of the house is planned over an existing natural platform located 3m above street level. This decision allowed locating only the parking and service areas at street level, while the rest of the program is located above the natural platform. The house is developed in 3 levels, following the rocky ascending topography of the plot. The functional and spatial distribution derives from the customs and needs of the clients. The main garden, pool and social areas are located in the first level, while the private areas are located in the second and third levels.
The project´s elevated position allows taking advantage of the views of the golf course, located to the south of the plot, from the social and master bedroom areas. The rest of the house enjoys different views and scenarios of the surrounding natural environment, through patios, gardens and platforms generated by following the ascending topography. The design of the house promotes adequate ventilation, lighting and thermal control in order to reduce energy consumption.
The house´s composition is framed in a double height exposed concrete structure that directs the views to the golf course and contains the inner volumes of the house. Space within this frame flows freely, visually integrating different areas of the project and its natural surroundings. The premise of adapting the house to the plot´s natural topography, based on ecological and economic criteria, determined the rest of the house´s posterior facades.
Photos: Juan Solano
House R is a family home for a couple with three kids which has been designed by Colboc Franzen & Associés, situated in Sèvres, a Parisian suburb in France. The family had acquired a plot of land, which was, at the time, occupied by an orchard and its gardener’s shed. The small construction along with the healthy trees were preserved in memory of the past. The program was discussed and analyzed. The 3,223 square foot (299.5 square meters) house consists of three separate sets: the amenities (lobby, office, laundry room, basement, garage), the common areas (living room, dining room, kitchen and the parental suite), and finally the children’s bedrooms, arranged around a multipurpose space.
The methods and time of occupation are distinct and expectations are different: practicality for the first feature, collective life and reception area for the second and cosiness for the third. Furthermore, this fragmentation comes into resonance with the context: it is not just a house anymore but three volumes that come across the scale of heterogeneous nearby constructions. Due to the small size of the site volumes are superimposed.
The first volume is built backing on to the neighboring construction and runs parallel to the street. It’s half buried in the slope and therefore levels the ground. Made out of masonry, quenched with a single layer of bitumen and recovered with Corten steel sheets, this first floor contains all the amenities. Walls, ceiling and floor are white and contrast with the exterior. Those elements converge on the staircase and accelerate the perspective so the visitor is quickly projected into the house. The hall leads to the office and the laundry. The cloakroom and the restrooms are hidden in the thickness of the walls. Thanks to the first volume which levels the ground, the second floor is in direct relation with the garden. As far as the cantilever is concerned, it constitutes a canopy for the main entrance of the house. This floor is dedicated to the collective life. It’s a really opened and fluid space.
The second floor is divided by two “pieces of furniture”. The first piece incorporates the stairs, the kitchen, the restrooms and the chimney whereas the second one is composed of the dressing and the bathroom. Those two blocks delineate the living room, the dining room and the parental suite. It’s a very minimalist place.
All the terraces offer various points of view and different aspects depending on the season.
The third and last floor is, once again, leaning on the neighboring building. The volume is wrapped with pine lath so the house can be in the line of the predominant color shades of the district. Since the volume is on the top of the construction and dedicated to the children, the wooden cladding was also a wink to tree houses. On the third floor three bedrooms and their bathrooms are organized around a multipurpose space. This double-oriented space is protected by a screen wall on the street side, and leads to a large terrace (rooftop of the second floor) on the south side. Bedrooms are also double-oriented to optimize views and natural lightening and provide natural and efficient ventilation.
Sustainability was a main objective of the project: exterior isolation, recyclable materials with low environmental impact, high-performance glazing.
Photographs: Cécile Septet
Pine Forest Cabin cantilevers over a hillside offering unobstructed mountain views in Winthrop, Washington, designed by Balance Associates Architects. In order to meet the client’s budget goals, an efficient plan and cost effective selection of building materials reduced construction costs and led to the simple 850 square foot box design. The use of sheet materials both inside and out maximized material efficiency while emphasizing the simplicity of the cabin’s form.
Two concrete walls cradle the box and allow it to cantilever over the hillside, reducing effective site disturbance. Elevating the cabin allowed for unobstructed views down slope and to the mountains beyond, transforming a modest living space from ordinary room to a viewing platform that extends from inside to out.
This project demonstrates Balance Associates Architects’ belief that architecturally interesting solutions can be achieved for budgets of all sizes without sacrificing quality or aesthetics.
Photos: Steve Keating Photography
Russet Residence is a modern project with dramatic cantilevers designed by Splyce Design in West Vancouver, British Columbia on a steep site with mature cedar and douglas fir to the west and an ocean view to the south. The 4,600 square foot, five bedroom, five bathroom house responds to these conditions by nestling itself into the hill while also projecting out over it to maximize views and connectivity to the landscape.
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.
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. A discreet overhang is all that distinguishes the garage, which is covered with Swisspearl, a cementitious panel with integrated color that requires no painting. (The same material is repeated on the barbecue pit out back.) The rest of the facade is covered in western red cedar — a nod to the towering evergreen that dominates the front yard.
The dining room cantilevers 15 feet from the foundation. The glass walls extend below the floor plane and above the ceiling plane, minimizing divisions between the interior and exterior.
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.
A stairway on the east side of the house provides access between the living room deck and the yard and pool below. The adjoining wall screens bathers as they dart between the two.
The floors throughout most of the house are polished concrete. As the slurry set, it was agitated with power trowels to give the surface a mottled patina.
“We wanted the walls to dissolve into the forest,” states the architect. He joined the dining room windows with black silicone in lieu of frames to minimize the structure. Stepping into the space, you can see the woods straight ahead or turn to the left to view the bay.
“We wanted everything to be simple and timeless and to not distract from the outdoors,” states the architect. The custom cabinets are finished in white oak and Formica’s ColorCore laminate, which the designer considers a more durable alternative to lacquer. The perimeter counters and backsplash are black honed granite; the island is topped with Caesarstone.
Parish warmed the room with white oak floors and cabinetry. B&B Italia’s low-profile Charles coffee table is echoed in the Panavision proportions of the gas fireplace, which emits a ribbon of flames.
The front door opens into a split-level entry dominated by a dramatic staircase. The white oak treads project from the concrete wall at right but are not supported on the other end, defying gravity and adding drama to the ascent.
In a house with so many remarkable design elements, one that provokes a fair share of comments is this guest bathroom off the pool. A single stone bench extends from the shower to the cylindrical sink, with a Duravit toilet discreetly mounted between the two — atop what is, essentially, the vanity. The architect insists he came up with the plan simply to save space, but admits it’s become a conversation piece at parties.
In the master bedroom, a custom bed backs up against a white oak wall that divides the space from the dressing area behind it. Walls of glass overlook the adjacent forest, assuring privacy and an ever-changing panorama of flora and fauna. A portion of the master bathroom is visible at the back.
A mirrored wall behind the vanity reflects the neighboring woods, making the narrow master bath appear much larger. “You can sit in the tub and feel like you’re sitting in the trees,” states the architect.
Photos: Ivan Hunter
Feldman Residence is a single family contemporary home situated next to a roaring river in the mountains of Woody Creek, Colorado, designed by David Johnston Architects. Situated on a steep, wooded bank (the lot slants up to 30 degrees) a mere 10 feet from the Roaring Fork River on Lower River Road in Old Snowmass, the three-level design is virtually suspended above the water among the branches, like a modern interpretation of a treehouse. Throughout the 4,500 square foot home, one can hear the river, which is particularly true of the second level, where the kitchen, living room and dining room are located. Features like floor-to-ceiling window walls, tilted windows and a cantilevered third story loft bring the river into the elevated space.
The 1960’s-era home was discovered by the Feldman’s in 2003, one of the few home sites lower than the highway, so noise was not an issue. They had their sights set on building a new home since the original one was very compact and not to their liking. But there was a catch, in 2006, the county began requiring that new homes be pushed back 50-100 feet from the river—unless they’re built on an existing foundation. So when they hired the architects, the challenge was to design a new home to fit the original foundation. The tight building envelope posed a dilemma, but it also resulted in a category-defying design.
The architects used cantilevered masses throughout the second story to expand the size of the house without violating codes. The result was a kitchen that extends eight feet from the original footprint and a dramatic entryway bridge suspended in the trees.
According to the architects: The design was largely dictated by the constraints we were faced with. Angled cantilevers were put where they are because it was literally the only place we could go beyond the foundation. That’s also why we have a bridge to the entry rather than a retaining wall. The resulting design was unique because it was created from the site rather than on it.
The steep lot also inspired other angles throughout the design, like the custom slanted windows and off-camber rooflines. The wood, glass and stone exterior allowed the space to be modern without clashing with its natural surroundings. That’s carried through the interior with slate floors, Brazilian Palladio granite countertops (a unique cut consisting of large multi-colored stones that mirror the river bottom), and, of course, some fish-themed art.
Interior designer Robyn Scott was commissioned to come up with some of the more detailed touches, such as a railing for the stairway and loft that is the same as the one on the bridge entryway, blurring the lines between indoors and out.
The third floor is used as a media and family room and features yet another double-cantilevered loft that looms over the river without any sense of its surrounding banks and gives the feel of the observation deck of a boat.
The lowest level features the master bedroom and Feldman’s beloved tequila bar and an ample slate terrace furnished with a fire pit and plush outdoor furniture for comfortable river viewing.
Photos: Courtesy of David Johnston Architects
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