The project consists of a small single family guest house set within a mature oak hammock, located on a barrier island on Sarasota bay. The narrow island is approximately 600’ wide at the project site, and spans between the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. Distinct native ecologies of this subtropical environment are clearly evident. From east to west they include: shallow bay waters, mangroves, oak hammock, sand ridge, dune, beach, and Gulf.
Positioned at the east side of the oak hammock, as a transition to the mangrove ecology, the wooden structure is inspired by two elements. First, the Owner’s one sentence program which read, “…respect the land, and the rest will follow”.
The house is located in a highly regulated FEMA velocity zone which requires elevated floor levels supported on pile foundations. To preserve the health of the oak hammock a specialized mini-steel pile foundation system was designed to avoid root disturbance and minimize sub grade impact to the live oaks. As a result, all existing trees were preserved.
The second design goal reflects the character and influence of the live oaks. Limbs shaped by the prevailing coastal winds from the west, provided inspiration for the shaping of the structure. To achieve this goal, glulam beams were utilized to enfold the structure around the space. Reflecting the arching quality of the live oak limbs, curved, laminated pine beams anchored at their base to the elevated concrete slab, curve over the entire space, blurring the distinction between wall and ceiling.
The Owner’s request for a “house in the trees” consists of a small program, including: one bedroom, one bath, living area, kitchenette, and a loft/sleeping area. The spaces are organized to provide privacy between the neighboring property to the north, while offering broad views of the oak hammock to the south and west, and Intercoastal Waterway to the east. The ground floor includes a kayak storage space, and a covered Ipe deck. The first elevated floor consists of a double height living space, kitchen/HVAC/stair core element, and small bedroom. The loft interior, defined primarily by the glulam beams, and tongue and groove cypress siding, inadvertently alludes to the aquatic bay environment, and wooden boat hull construction.
The design is intended to evoke an organic architecture, one that is influenced by, and reflective of its site.