Barton Phelps & Associateswww.bpala.com
Osage County, Missouri
This large house initiates a rural retreat and ecological preserve on seven hundred acres of working farmland for use by an extended family, youth groups, and educational programs. The site is a wooded limestone bluff overlooking the Osage River in the rolling Ozarks — the name derived from the explorersÕ term, "aux arcs", referring to the great bows of the regionÕs rivers. The house looks out over two of these arcs and its design reflects ideas about relationships between social interaction and the experience of nature.
Managing Landscape Change: The site plan overlays new facilities for minimal disruption of natural terrain and farm operations while woodlands and meadows undergo restoration. A new entry drive begins high on the property giving expansive views of the farm but no hint of the new house or the river beyond. The road drops into woods and turns sharply to enter a car court where the view through a portal in the stone front is the dominant feature. Entering the central courtyard, one gets a first full view of the river below. A network of roads and trails leads visitors from the house to explore natural features — overlooks, old-growth glens, and limestone springs — that dot the property.
Design for Gathering (and escaping): The plan of the 22,000 s.f. house establishes a graduated structure of spaces. Clusters of rooms frame the central court, itself defining a niche in the larger landscape. Lined by arcades on three sides, the court functions urbanistically as the most public interior space. Glass enclosures expose interior volumes to view from all sides. In winter, an overhead glass door closes the portal to shelter circulation around the court. Two-story bedroom suites are split by tapered walkways that give private routes into the woods. Sitting rooms and screened porches cantilever out over the forest floor, merging inside with out.
Other-directed spaces: In good weather, communal activities in the east wing are reached via the court. Shed-roofed volumes project off the bluff, each interacting differently with the outdoors. The gallery / living room extends farthest, along an axial clearing, to frame a view of the river's southerly arc. The dining room pushes into the woods, slanted mullions tilting with the tree trunks beyond. In the billiard room, glazed corners give non-axial views out and back into the house.
Duality: Building form and materials emphasize variety in spatial type and heighten awareness of difference — communal and private, open and closed, opaque and transparent, above and below, heavy and light — and allow users to prefer places for group activity or solitude. The stone front and lower story anchor the building to the rock on which it is built. On three sides the battered stone base lifts the light, wood-sided envelopes of the main floor above the sloping site. On the east, it drops off the bluff to enclose a mezzanine exercise room and lower level swimming pool. Entered at the low end of its folded ceiling, the pool space rises to look out amid a grove of stone piers that support the voluminous forms projecting above.
Elevated Performance: Heating and cooling are produced by an extensive "groundsource" well system that transfers constant ground water temperature to heat pumps distributed in attic spaces. Space heating efficiently combines radiant slab and forced-air systems. Fire sprinkler and hydrant systems are fed from the pool and farm pond. North - south orientation and deep embedment of the lower levels in natural rock reduce energy requirements. Glazing systems are thermally broken metal frames with inch-thick insulating glass. Arcades, wood louvers, and roller shades reduce summer heat gain.
Photography: Timothy Hursley
Bel Air, California
This ground-up restructuring of a 1950's moderne / ranch house hybrid serves the updated lifestyle of a second generation of the family that built the original. Without departing from the scale of the surrounding neighborhood or walling the property off, it transforms the site and strengthens connections between house and landscape.
The plan accepts the geometry of the existing foundation and uses it to support a new, loosely connected composition of simple forms that responds to client requests for openness, natural lighting, and a more welcoming entrance. In order to form a calm, enclosed setting, a deep courtyard is created by replacing the attached carport with a new detached garage embedded in a landscaped bank along the street. The narrow existing rear yard is enlarged and brought into scale with the house by means of a retaining wall that follows the arc of the restored moderne porch. A planted fence "borrows" the distant golf course landscape and brings it into the living room.
Designed for a family with children, the house preserves the comfortable efficiency of the ranch model but overlays it with the simple elegance of a garden pavilion. The new family room opens the former service wing to family use. Seen from the court as a red sandstone pavilion, it works with the tall stucco wall of the shed-roofed bedroom wing to frame the glassy entry hall and deep view through it across the canyon.
The living room roof is reworked as a gabled clerestory shaft above the fireplace and a glowing core of reflected light animates the formerly dark center of the house. From outside, the big, triangular chimney extension anchors and rectifies the new roof geometry while marking the functional heart of the house.
The tall corridor leading to the bedrooms admits morning light transmitting it in small doses through slit windows located above bedroom closets and down the newly opened stairwell to the suite of rooms in the former basement.
Photography: Tom Bonner
Beverly Hills, California
The site is a secluded canyon overlooking the city. Deep alluvial fill pushed the narrow three-story block into the steep hillside. The blind elevation is countered by an open plan with cantilevered projections and extensive fenestration. Importance is given to particular views - the nighttime lights of the city from the living room and master bedroom and sweeping views up and down the canyon from the dining room, study, and painting studio.
Different images of "house" emerge. The two-story garage/studio wing stretches the front into a tall, protective wall. Through the portal, a raised terrace, shaped by an assemblage of detached volumes, becomes center stage. Seen from the rear lawn, top floor bedrooms open under broad eaves like a ranch house in the flats.
Differing materials layer the house horizontally and mark vertical connections between the layers. Concrete steps rise through a glass-canopied shaft and turn to enter the bright gallery that is both entry hall and dining room. A wood staircase scissors up through a glazed stairwell that lets the downward sweep of the hillside into the house. To emphasize natural color and texture, the walls, floors and ceilings are treated as separate planes with clear reveals and flush detailing.
This house opts for a middle route between sculptural fragmentation and the unified envelope of the traditional American house. Freed from constraints of consistency, each elevation is tailored to its part of the site. We think of the house as a lens, reinforcing distinctive aspects of an overlooked landscape to enhance awareness of natural beauty and architectural presence.
Photography: Tom Bonner and David Glomb