Room with a View

February 14th, 2010 by Tim Delhey Eian

So far, most of the blog posts talked about the construction of the Passive House in the Woods. Todays post focuses on the architectural side of things. There are many reasons why people design homes a certain way, and place them on a specific spot on a building site. As a designer, I believe in the architectural principle of “genius loci”, a theory states that any place (locus) comes with circumstance and opportunity. We can recognize and build on these features, and respond to them with our work.

There are many obvious reasons why this building site is so wonderful. The woods, the slope (for those who like expressive topography), and of course the view. The images above show a progression of views out of the first floor and second floor corner windows, and off of the roof top terrace. We believe that this is one of the key features of the site, and carefully located the building with optimal vantage points in mind. To further complement the site, landscape architect Laurie McRostie helped us maximize the natural features of the property when locating the house, garage and hardscape. As a team, we studied topography, water runoff patterns, vegetation, trees, and solar exposure in an effort to work with the site, rather than to simply superimpose man-made structure onto it. The simple rectangular boxes that make up the building and the garage juxtapose nature’s soft lines and delicate textures. At the same time, the entry sequence, as well as the rear decks make a connection between the two and bridge the gap.

Making Connections

Our client is very knowledgeable with trees. His expertise further aided with placement. He personally removed trees and had them delivered to Wood from the Hood in Minneapolis, where they’ve been rough-cut and dried. Eventually, the salvaged lumber will find its way back into the building, as quarter-sawn oak stair risers and treads, windows sills, trim, and wall cladding. The timber’s beauty and texture will be a direct link, making connections between interior and exterior.

Facade MockupThe facade of the Passive House in the Woods will be made up of a Sto Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS). This product is more commonly used in commercial construction, and in most people’s minds does not necessarily make a connection with nature. At first glance, that seems to be true. However, in our research and prior application we found that stucco finishes reflect light in a most wonderful way. They provide a huge gamut of light and dark tones when exposed to sunlight, making for a fairly animated surface. At the same time, shadows are cast in a soft, yet detailed way, adding texture.

In addition to its visual and performance qualities, we found EIFS to be a cost effective way to achieve high R-values for Passive House buildings in extremely cold climates. In many ways, the Passive House in the Woods projects seeks to bridge the gap between nature and technology, and of course to connect with people in the process. After all, that is most often why we build and who we build for.