We take the ground for granted. It is that solid surface perpetually beneath our feet. What happens when that line dissolves? Our client approached us with a unique challenge. He wanted to maintain and enhance his extensive back garden while adding an indoor pool complex to his West Side estate. Pools are notorious for swallowing large portions of backyards. It became quickly apparent that this entire project had to be considered holistically. Architecture, nature, landscape, and interior had to unite as one.
The problem was set and the solution revolved around the notion of placing the pool underground while allowing the roof of the pool to form the terrace of the garden. Unfortunately the idea of a pool underground leads one to think of a dark bunker. To resolve this we wanted to bring natural light from above. This was resolved by creating a large centralized opening with skylight above. At grade terraces flow around the skylight to the garden. There are implicit references to the Roman baths in Bath where again you have a centralized opening above the water flanked by raised walkway.
In our case as you approach from a distance, all you see is a terrace with a skylight on it. It is not immediately apparent that there is any relationship other than being a structure in the garden. It is only once you get close to the skylight and look through it that you realize that what you had presumed was ground isn’t .Terra firma is questioned. You realize that below the garden lies another world hidden and what you were walking on is not what you thought it was. Alternatively, at night the hidden becomes overt. Darkness envelops the garden while the purity of the glass centre radiates a warm light that seeps from the world below.
Experientially we imagine doing the backstroke and looking up through the ground. The blue sky is framed by the skylight above. The tops of tall cedar trees that ring the perimeter of the property can be seen to almost support the pane of azure above. The semicircle of the hot tub is wrapped in a veil of stones. Falling from the ceiling around the entire perimeter is a fountain. Water washes down the stones as if they have been worn smooth from some unknown stream above.
Our clients approached us with the challenge of designing them something cool, unique, Modern without breaking the bank. We took the challenge to heart. This was their opportunity to use design as a tool to both fulfill their dreams but also to maximize the utility of their budget. Because the house is small we used the verticality of an 11′ ceiling on the Main Floor to give the space more of a warehouse condo feel. The clients collect mid century modern furniture and were looking to display it in a Modern eclectic environment.
Technically and economically, we figured a few things – forming concrete is expensive, while framing is easier. Slab on grade minimizes the amount of excavation. Trusses are cheaper than hand framing a roof. Durable materials will hold up over the lifetime of the building and will require less care and maintenance over time. Simple organized floor plans are easy to build and easy to plumb and wire. In this case, we zoned the floor plans into main living spaces and service spaces. The two were divided by a large 1′ wide wall that runs the entire length of the house. This wall acts literally as a spine. Not only does it provide the main internal structure of the house but it also provides the location for all electrical and plumbing to run through.We have used the large wall as the tie of all functions. The large wall pierces the front and rear facades of the building and tectonically folds over to become the canopies of both the front and rear entries. Because all service functions of the house are isolated together, there is no requirement for plumbing runs throughout the house. Radiant hot water heating minimizes the requirement for any ductwork and incumbent back framing.
This house is a combination of all these ideas together to create simple, elegant and unique architecture that not only designs aesthetically and technically but economically too! It proves that the acceptance of the norm may be the one thing we need to address the most in our built environment. Solutions exist that are both fantastic and feasible if only we are willing to let our mind wander while embracing a holistic understanding of the house.
Hinting at themes of Mediterranean Architecture, this “villa to be” is set on a steep slope and plays on the notion of the meandering passage of discovery through the landscape. From the initial descent down the driveway, tower forms act as punctuations to the path and hint at the discovery that lies ahead. Upon arrival at the entry tower, one is led into a cloistered garden that imparts the internal focus of the house. The garden is formed on three sides by different buildings and the fourth side is centred by a fountain built into the earth.
Objects like the fountain are strategically placed in the environment as found oblects. Each one of these objects serves to inform the particular portion of the path through the landscape. They reveal themselves as pieces that are part of a greater narrative beyond. They have their own history and evoke their own stories in the tradition of the folly garden. The cloistered garden, in itself, becomes an allegorical representation of the potential of the mind and the human imagination.
The various buildings around the garden are the main buildings of the villa, including garage, sleeping building and main living area. A series of French doors open to the garden within and allow a disintegration of inside and outside in the warm summer months. Trees within the garden form the canopy that protects against the strong summer sun and reinforce the room like quality of the cloistered garden. As you travel around the garden you are met with a very large 5′ door that indicates the significant threshold between two worlds. The sleeping unit which is slightly skewed reveals itself on the other side of the door as a framing device.
Unlike the cerebral compressed internal world of the cloister garden, the outer deck reveals cliff, ocean and vista. The final climax occurs as the skewed path leads you out over the cliff and holds you out into the strait with the encompassing 180 degree panorama. As a counterpoint to the other garden that looks inward, this juxtaposition celebrates the outward sublimity of nature and engenders the associated awe of this fantastic site.
Although the house is still in the infancy of its construction, the “bones” begin to reveal these spaces and the ideas expressed within. We all think that this house has some pretty spectacular potential. Stay tuned as we update the progress as it occurs.
Not all minds think (or see) alike. As architects specializing in residences we continually face the difficulty that our clients are homeowners who see better in a three dimensional world. Often we find that clients have difficulty in interpreting two dimensional drawings. Consequently we have made the effort to provide three dimensional rendering for jobs when requested. These do not have to be complete full sets of drawings but rather a view that highlights fully the intentions of the architecture and gives a rendered view that pushes and pulls the flat elevations into an easily recognizable form. Usually a “eureka” moment ensues. Here is a project that we have been working on that shows the integration between both dimensions.
Peter Rose Architecture + Interiors has been a recipient of the 2013 “Best in Houzz” award for design in Vancouver. We would like to thank all our followers and people who have added us to their ideabooks, in the Houzz community, for helping generate the recognition of this award. As only 3% of the Houzz professionals are granted this honour we accept it with great pride. We have also appreciated the many comments and questions that we have received from around the world. To view our work, please visit our site on Houzz at:
Thanks to all the people at Houzz who have made this a reality and we look forward to 2014.
Peter Rose Architecture + Interiors