The site informed the design of this house project. Being on the land felt good, an open comfortable and bright place, with a fresh breeze coming off the lake, the views reaching out to the great lake horizon. The design maintains this feeling of openness and comfort.
Set in upstate New York overlooking Lake Ontario, the land is varied in its topography, sloping down to the water's edge in places, or dropping off a steep bluff of exposed glacial till. The vegetation ranges from tall grassy meadows to scrubby forested wetlands in low areas.
The southern shore of Lake Ontario receives more snow than typical locations in the same latitude due to the 'lake effect'. A-frame houses are a common vernacular strategy for structures built in areas with heavy snow fall -- a steep roof sheds the snow, minimizing accumulation, allowing for lighter structural framing. However, the triangular cross section impedes utilization of the floor area, and slanted walls intrude on the user. We developed a curved cross section, a three-centered glu-lam timber arch that sheds snow, yet offers efficient space utilization.
The three centered arch is extruded into an 'attic' containing the private bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a work space that can double as a guest room. This curved attic is lifted off the ground to create a single open living area, with kitchen and dining areas situated towards the lake, and a sitting room set back against a low wall. A continuous perimeter glazing wall, with minimal structural elements pulled inboard, heightens the effect of the upper attic mass floating above the landscape. The underside of the attic is slightly curved to bring more light and sky into the living space below.
The house will be conditioned with geothermal heating and cooling, the fluid loop will be run in a disused well that brought up salty water. Piping for plumbing and electrical feeds to the upper story will be concealed within flanges of steel columns to minimize vertical elements. Closed cell spray foam insulation provides a high R-value with the thinnest possible cross section for the glu-lam timber arches.
Being on the ground floor makes it feel like being outdoors, in a field of tall grass with views in all directions. Whether cooking, eating, drinking, reading, or relaxing, one is conscious of the land, surrounding the site and its ever changing colors and light. The lake is different every day -- sometimes it's a turbulent Mediterranean turquoise, a pristine calm azure, or a deep grey that melts into a darker grey sky. Here, one is connected to nature, its cycles and rhythms that affect our chaotic human activities. Here one can soak up the sense of wonder and awe that nurture creativity and feed the soul.