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
Mosman House is an extension project by Anderson Architecture, in collaboration with MacKenzie Design Studio, located in Mosman, a suburb on the Lower North Shore of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The project involved opening up the existing rear half of the house to better engage with the backyard. As the rear of the house faces north, the extension was designed to capitalize on passive solar techniques to reduce heating and cooling costs. These techniques include north facing windows which allow sunlight to pass into the house and onto the thermally massive green-concrete slab which stores heat, thereby reducing heating costs during winter.
The use of sustainable, recycled and locally sourced timber and hardwoods featured throughout the project for finishes, shingles and flooring, most notably on the staircase to the first floor. The extensive use of LED and low-watt light fittings, complimented with solar hydronic floor and water heating, which both minimize the amount of electricity needed to power the house.
The use of low VOC paint on the project’s steelwork during construction minimized the amount of harmful vapors released into the environment while the 2.1kW photovoltaic solar panels and 32 000L of rainwater storage help make the house more self-sufficient toward electricity and water consumption.
Photos: Courtesy of Anderson Architecture
Coronet Grove Residence is two story contemporary home that has been designed by Maddison Architects, built on one of the most elevated seaside locations in Beaumaris, a suburb in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The orientation and associated views played a major part in the design response, having 270-degree views of port Philip Bay. These conditions presented a major dichotomy however as the view is to the south. The imperative to therefore place living spaces on the south to capture the view is counter to all ESD (Environmentally Sustainable Design) principles.
A strategy was developed to split the building into two elements, a south facing cantilevered zinc clad living element and a two-story north facing masonry bedroom element. These two elements are pulled apart with a circulation zone and the roof is prised up over between these areas allowing north sun to penetrate into the living zones. The building elements are further pulled apart internally with first floor bridges spanning between them.
We had an awareness of the history of the suburb within which the house is located. Beaumaris was established in the 1950’s and 60’s and has a heritage of experimental architecture from that period. Beaumaris was in the 50’s, the Mornington Peninsular of today. Architects such as Mcglashan and Everest, Chancellor and Patrick, Mockridge Stahle and Mitchell , David Godsell and later Neil Clerehan and Baird Cuthbert Mitchell created incisive original architecture. Our design response therefore acknowledges this historical context.
A skeletal PFC steel frame is expressed internally and externally to accentuate openings. This steel frame provides a fineness and legibility. The use of expressed steel work has its heritage in the 50’s when steel framing became available as an affordable extruded section. A ‘cloak’ of building fabric is hung from the PFC frame in the Coronet Grove Residence. The north facing Bedroom element has its alabaster sawn block work framed and supported by the PFC Steel. Windows in this building part are accentuated with 250mm deep incisive window frames. These provide a strong horizontal window composition.
Black zinc cladding wraps around the elevated southern living element. This cantilevered ‘tube’ hovers on an enormous Universal Steel Channel. The form of this element responds to the lookout nature of its use. The inclined cladding and inclined ends imply movement and provide a counterpoint to the static nature of the block work northern bedroom element. Intermediary spaces are generally clad in spotted-gum ship lap lining boards.
The concept of discreet North and South building elements is further emphasized internally with the PFC expression and concrete block work continuing in the circulation spaces. An emphasis was placed on embracing a cohesive response between the architecture and interior, where a materials run seamlessly from outside to inside. Other prerogatives regarding durability were also considered given the seaside location. This provided a further pragmatic overlay to all material and finished selections. All finishes had to pass strict minimal maintenance criteria.
Principals of sustainability include. The northern portion of the roof is lifted to allow a controlled sun penetration into the living areas. A thermal chimney is employed. The house can be purged through remote controlled highlight windows at night. External operable aluminium louvers provide sun control on all northeast and west windows and therefore minimize the heat load and damage to finishes internally. A geo-thermal bore is used to heat the swimming pool and internal spaces. A 20,000-litre subterranean water tank is used to collect all roof water runoff. A C bus lighting control system is used throughout to minimize power use. Low e glass is used throughout. Low energy led and florescent lighting sources are used throughout. Native planting is used throughout.
This project was cost managed by the builder owner with alternative materials, fittings and fixtures being requested for all selections. Accordingly, the project has been carefully cost scrutinized without loss of the original design intent.
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
Barton Hills Residence is a sensational contemporary property designed by A Parallel Architecture, nestled into a hilltop in Barton Hills, South Austin, Texas. This 2,700 square foot new-construction home boasts panoramic views of downtown and the surrounding valley. A half-sunken concrete garage creates a plinth for the wood and glass home to perch above, maintaining a scale and character consistent with the mid-century-modern neighborhood.
An open-plan living space enjoys the distant views as well as private courtyard views to the rear, reinforcing the indoor/outdoor character that the clients’ lifestyle demands.
A second story master suite opens onto a large roof deck that further embraces the vista and creates a flexible outdoor living space. Passive green-building strategies and energy-efficient specifications ensure a low-impact, low-maintenance structure.
Photos: Topher Ayrhart
The Syncline house was designed as a place of solitude for a professional couple by architecture studio Arch11, located near Boulder, Colorado. Situated at the fold between the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Great Plains, the house mediates horizons and peaks, city and alpine meadows. Conceived as a frame for viewing the landscape, Arch11 meticulously modeled the residence within the site to ensure that planes of glass capture ridgetop views while respecting the city’s height restrictions.
A Pre-Paleozoic fold creates a distinction between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain Foothills. Geologically referred to as a syncline, a crease caused by uplift of an ancient sea bed, the fold distinguishes the inhabited plains from mountain park space. The upward plane of the fold presents a landscape described and observed moving sectionally through the house.
The wedge shaped site was bound by numerous restrictive land use limitations: a wetland buffer, height restrictions, a solar access restriction, and multiple setback and easement boundary requirements. A three-dimensional computer model was developed describing the limits of the buildable envelope.
The project was conceived as a threshold between the city and the mountain park. The client, an entrepreneurial and professional rock climbing couple, requested the house to be “a place where town life can be left behind.” The house is a threshold between both the cultural and geologic creases: one between the domestic and the feral, the other between horizontal and vertical. Through a domestic grove of flowering trees, a solid wood wall, broken only by a perpendicular stone wall, opens to the house interior. Once inside, the stone wall becomes a thickened poche of mechanical and service elements leading through to the west wall of the house, a glazed wall framing the mountain parks.
The western wall phenomenally erodes, revealing the landscape with varying degrees of openness. At the entry, framed apertures provide controlled vignettes of the landscape from foreground meadow to high ground cliffs. As the entry opens to the living spaces the apertures transform in scale to reveal the expansive landscape in its entirety. At the southwest corner thirty feet of glass retracts into the walls, dissolving the boundary between the domestic and the wild; the living spaces are then bounded only by the uplifted cliffs beyond. Reciprocally, the native meadow to the west folds onto the garage roof providing easy outdoor access for visiting guests in the house’s guest suite.
A simple stair cantilevers from the stone wall. Climbing the stairs, the foreground, mid range, and ridge views are sequentially revealed. Experientially scissoring into the landscape and back into the house the stairs connect the mountain park with the house. The west wall of glazing extends the western room boundaries to the wall of rock and meadows beyond. The east wall remains closed, allowing only privileged, controlled views and light from the clerestory above.
Working within some of the strictest energy performance codes in the country, the house is designed to be self sustained utilizing a ground loop heat exchange system that taps into the very bedrock seen at the distant ridge. A ten kilovolt photo-voltaic electrical system powers pumps, compressors and the domestic electrical needs.
To support an envelope comprised of 50% glazing, a structural steel frame is used in place of traditional stick framing throughout the home. The western facade was challenged by height and wind exposure. The thickened wall is a steel brace frame that incorporates vertical vierendeel trusses to resist the 120 mile per hour winds coming down out of the mountains. Additionally, it accommodates the primary vertical mechanical chases.
Built with innovative renewable energy systems and materials crafted to last centuries, the house is a model of cutting-edge sustainable design and attains a LEED gold certification. Roof gardens allow the land to literally envelop the house, and expansive, retracting glass walls provide full views of the Flatirons to the west while connecting interiors with outdoor rooms. Executed with uncompromising detail, surfaces meet with quiet precision, creating a serene background for the landscape and mountains beyond.
Photos: Courtesy of Arch11
Cascading Creek House is a contemporary single family residence that has been designed by Bercy Chen Studio, located in Austin, Texas. The property was conceived less as a house and more as an extension and outgrowth of the limestone and aquifers of Central Texas. Just recently completed, this 11,796 square foot home incorporates plenty of sustainable features including photovoltaics, rainwater collection and hydronic heating and cooling. The beautiful contemporary design details carried out throughout the home was the meticulous work of Alan Cano Interiors.
The primary formal gesture of the project inserts two long native limestone walls to the sloping site, serving as spines for the public wing and private wing of the house. The walls and the wings they delineate shelter a domesticated landscape that serves as an extended living space oriented towards the creek below and protected from the torrents of water draining from the street above during sudden downpours characteristic of the area.
The sitting of the boundary walls and building elements was informed by the presence and preservation of three mature native oaks. The roof structure is configured so as to create a natural basin for the collection of rainwater, not unlike the vernal pools found in the outcroppings of the Texas Hill Country. These basins harness additional natural flows through the use of photovoltaic and solar hot-water panels.
The water, electricity and heat which are harvested on the roof tie into an extensive climate conditioning system which utilizes water source heat pumps and radiant loops to supply both the heating and cooling for the residence. The climate system is connected to geothermal ground loops as well as pools and water features thereby establishing a system of heat exchange, which minimizes reliance on electricity or gas.
Photos: Bercy Chen Studio
Marra Road House project was designed by Dowling Studios as a weekend home for a family who live in San Francisco, located in Sonoma County, California. The house is located on an 8 acre site, nestled in a unique surrounding of redwood groves, a seasonal creek, grassy meadows and rolling vineyards. The indoor/outdoor living experience was the driving force of the design.
The home is comprised of two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions. The volumes echo architect Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, though it avoids the 1949 structure’s iconic exhibitionism.
The simply detailed, taut, flat-roofed home’s two wings form a T-shape. One wing runs north to south, parallel to a pool, and contains the open-plan living spaces.
The great room has three walls of floor-to-ceiling Fleetwood sliding doors that open to wide concrete patios shaded by deep roof overhangs. The doors allow easy indoor-outdoor living and provide remarkably efficient “air-conditioned” spaces on even the hottest days, while a two-sided interior-exterior fireplace makes the north patio a winter favorite.
A large central great room forms the center of the house and is surrounded on three sides with full height sliding doors. The great room is wrapped by a covered patio and opens on to a pool, outdoor living room with fireplace, and an outdoor dining area with vineyard and forest views.
The other wing contains a master suite, a children’s room with bunk beds, and a studio that doubles as a guest room. A limited palette of wood, concrete, and metal; solar and radiant heating systems; and efficient construction methods all work together to exceed California’s stringent energy codes by 15 percent.
Sustainable design was a high priority, with the use of a solar powered radiant concrete floor and domestic hot water system, a PV solar system for electricity, and solar pool heating. Sustainable products such as reconstituted wood for cabinetry, low VOC paints, and 100% wool carpet were integrated into the design as well. This project was completed in 2012.
Photos: Courtesy of Dowling Studios
Chicago Residence is a modern home built for a family that showcases a sophisticated selection of materials and architecture, designed by Dirk Denison Architects, located in Chicago, Illinois. The residence maintains the urban townhouse relationship with its neighbors. Dynamic spatial relationships are created through overlapping materials and the layering of interior and exterior. Visual connections are created from indoor spaces and passages to garden terraces, outdoor landscaping and the adjacent park. Fine articulation and craft of a simple yet rich palette comprise restrained minimal spaces that emphasize the family’s activities, artwork and extensive fish collection in large, integrated aquariums.
From the entrance up through three floors to the roof deck terraces the main stair is the vertical core of the home. At the top of the stair a large light monitor allows natural light deep into the building, while a railing of stainless steel and translucent glazing reflect and diffuse the light, adding to the dynamics of the space. A central pendant light fixture composed of many silken cords each holding a lamp, stretch throughout the stairway, lighting one’s path upward through the home. The solid ash of the floor carries through to the treads of the stair, further connecting each level.
The home utilizes sustainable and environmentally friendly materials and technologies such as green roof systems, automated shade controls, geothermal heating and cooling, a highly insulated building envelope, and low VOC-emission substrates. Windows are fabricated with insulated, low-e coated glazing, with an additional UV film installed on its interior pane. In addition, the outer pane of glass consists of two laminated glass layers, adding to the insulating quality of the glazing while minimizing exterior sound absorption. The shifting volumes and primary southern exposure maximize daylighting throughout the home, minimizing the family’s dependence on artificial lighting. The building’s products and materials inform a responsible and enduring design.
Photos: The Michelle Litvin Studio
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