This project is conceived as a series of concrete retaining walls and escarpments that traverse and cascade down a steeply sloped site. The building strategy is to deploy a series of straight walls that act as “jetties” into the landscape and respond as a counter-force to the topography. Hovering above and anchored to these concrete site walls is the “House” proper, a “primitive” conceived and constructed as a series of smooth extruded volumes of differing lengths. Symbolically and strategically, the first of these “boxes” presents a gable-front facade to the street and helps conceal the scale of the overall house beyond. The second container-box rotates 90 degrees and runs parallel to the street and site walls. The perpendicular orientation between the two “boxes” produces a powerful contrast and juxtaposition between representation and abstraction within the project.
The two cedar “House” boxes are sliced by a set of three sectional cuts, or negative spaces, that contrast these horizontal program containers and movements. The main sectional void is a water canal; a waterfall that flows between two concrete site walls and then drops 12 feet to the basement space providing reflective light, water, and sound to occupy the “center” of the house. The second sectional void is the “gable-front” façade itself. It is pulled away from the building proper to produce a light lantern. The third sectional void is a vertical slot that serves as the back stair that runs from the basement to the second floor and separates the garage and guest suite from the children’s bedroom wing. These three different sectional voids promote an entirely different spatial experience and aesthetic register from the more conventional and typical living spaces in the main wood boxes of the house.
The “house-containers” themselves are skinned in a continuous 1” x 1” alternating, horizontal cedar lattice that is intentionally pulled tight and taut over the “house-container” surfaces and contrasts with the concrete + white stucco wall planes below. Like a membrane, this second skin passes right over windows and joints with only the slightest registration of planar shifts from the surface changes behind. The resultant optical effect is one of precision and ambiguity from both the interior and exterior. These strategies of aesthetic difficulty and disjunction; tight, abstract and literal material assemblies; and formal-cultural contrasts and mimicry are the key formal and spatial operations in this project and they are each indebted to specific situational aesthetic techniques developed in Minimalist and Post-minimalist art.
Photography by © David Sundberg/Esto