Architecture By Volumes
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BUILD approaches the design of a recent residence guided by volumetric relationships.
[Photos by BUILD LLC, unless noted]
We recently completed a residential project on Lake Washington’s Mercer Island. The design involved four geometric volumes to differentiate the interior functions while articulating the exterior envelope. Today’s post covers these volumetric explorations and provides an overview of the project. We’ll be tackling some of the details of the project in future posts, so stay tuned.
Because this project is on the larger size of the residences we design, it was important from the beginning to break the functions of the house down into separate volumes. Doing so provides a more relatable scale and creates areas of interest at the envelope. It also allowed the design team to change the materials at some rather long expanses and bring more variety to the exterior material palette. Typically, we would advocate for three primary materials or colors at the exterior, but we felt that the size of this project permitted the use of a fourth.
The ground floor base of the structure contains the garage, entry, guest quarters, an entertainment space, and additional utility functions. Visually it acts like a pedestal on which the house sits and, subsequently, it’s painted dark, allowing the colors of the house above to become the visual focus. It also mitigates the grade and becomes more of a daylight basement at the back of the structure. From a siding perspective, it’s nothing fancy: just Hardie-Board panels painted charcoal gray on a rainscreen system. Most of the time, we want this level to blend in with the shadows, the only exception being at the front deck where the overlapping volumes highlight the angle of intersection between the upper and lower levels.
Sitting on top of the pedestal are three additional volumes. The large shed roof houses the common areas of the structure and includes the living room, kitchen, A/V room, and office loft. The design intention of this volume was to create one large interior space with tall ceilings and generous amounts of natural light. The living room opens directly to a south facing deck complete with a 12’ wide La Cantina accordion door and exterior stairs down to the backyard. The envelope is sided in vertical T&G cedar stained light gray with Bright Silver Oculus rainscreen panels aligning with the window geometry. Bringing a clean, solid cap to the shed assembly is a standing seam metal roof by Esary, topped off with southern facing solar panels.
[Photo by Savatgy]
Inside, the material palette pulls off a tricky balance, combining a solid oak floor, a walnut stair, and a cedar lid. In this case, the volume is large enough that these materials are separated from each other in a way that does not compete or conflict. The cedar lid is finished with a light gray stain and passes through to the exterior via slender aluminum window heads. The oak floor is also stained a light gray and sits on top of radiant heating. And in deliberate contrast to the grays of the oak and cedar, the dark walnut stair continues as an accented “racing stripe” cutting through the kitchen where it matches the cabinetry. The kitchen is further outfitted with stainless steel appliances from Metropolitan Appliance (a local business), Pentalquartz countertops and a Raumplus sliding door at the pantry.
Adjacent to the common area is one of two bedroom blocks. Bedrooms and bathrooms at this area share a similar width and march down a long hallway which runs the length of the structure. Because of this straightforward interior layout, the exterior envelope at this area is expressed as a clean, simple box. The skew of the house allows this box to provide a built-in awning at the front entry. Brilliant Blue Oculus rainscreen panels were used at the box surround to enhance the geometry while Bright Silver Oculus panels keep a uniform appearance with the Marlin clear anodized aluminum windows within the box.
[Photo by Savatgy]
Adjacent to the blue box is a second bedroom block which takes advantage of the southern exposure with a raised shed roof. The angle of the shed roof allows the bedrooms within to benefit from loft spaces above. To match the material language of the common area, this volume uses the silver rainscreen panels to match the aluminum windows and create dedicated window bays, while stained vertical cedar fills the field between.
Each of these volumes produce architectural moments inside and out that allowed the design team to have fun with the materials and bring some unique detailing to the house. There are even a few easter eggs (unexpected design moments to be stumbled upon) sprinkled throughout the house. One of our favorites is the alignment of the east and west windows of the common area via the cedar lid which runs continuously through. This visually warms up the lid which would otherwise be an overdose of white painted drywall.
Another is the herb-garden wedge created by the angle between the common area and the garage below.
[Photo by Savatgy]
Overall this four volume strategy allowed the team to scientifically tackle the design in manageable chunks relating to the functions of the house. Refining these volumes brought a more artistic and dynamic design language to both the exterior and interior of the residence. Additional photos can be found on the website and information about the aerial photography can be found here.
Cheers from Team BUILD