Description: Site, Program The design of this house has little in common with typical houses of the surrounding Berkshire Hills. It is located near the top of a hill, and, small as it is, takes advantage of the location to command the landscape. The building envelope makes extensive use of glass and industrial materials. The living area, at the end of a forty-five-foot cantilever, opens onto spectacular views. The house is the seasonal home of the architect's wife, a violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Concept - Warren Schwartz "People talk about 'dream houses,' and I've been asked if this was my dream house. I've never believed in dream houses, particularly as an architect. But I believe this house came about as a result of a dream. About 6 years ago, I visited the Grand Canyon (USA) with my family. We woke up early to see the sunrise from a precipice jutting out into the canyon. About 50 other people were gathered there, and I noticed that they were all speaking different languages. It was a truly international event - sunrise over the Grand Canyon. All eyes were on the sky for about half an hour. The sky was clear but the sun appeared slowly over the canyon's edge like an enormous golden ball. Two years later, I remember having a dream. I tried to draw it one night while attending a concert at Boston's Symphony Hall. In the dream, there were several enormous spheres - brightly lit and colored, rotating and flashing, and silently rolling across the sky. And there were many people standing together and looking up at the spectacular display. Two months later this image became another sketch; this time the sky was framed by a ceiling configured like the distant mountains. In January 2006, I began to sketch a house that projected out from the hillside where my then-present house stood. My wife and I had been talking about replacing our house because it was weathering poorly; and in the following weeks I developed images of a new house which was perhaps subconsciously derived from the dream. The last sketch in the series is a comparison of both houses, each very different from the other. The earlier house was vertical; the new house would be horizontal. The earlier house was mostly wall with framed views; the new house would be mostly glass with panoramic views. The earlier house was made of wood; the new house would be made of steel, concrete, and glass. The 50% cantilever would be a structural challenge, but I wanted to see if the house could appear to take flight. The angle suggests motion in the form. Written description of the project The residence’s steeply sloped site was fundamental to the conception of the house. The basic plan is a rectangle 5.5m x 27.4m, containing three 11.5m2 bedrooms, and a living space – seating area, dining and kitchen – of approximately 45m2. The grade drops approximately 3.8m from the front door to the point of inflection at the base of the cantilever. This elevation change is accommodated by three equal sets of steps, arranged like a fish-ladder, with landings allowing access to guest bedrooms, a toilet room and a steel-plate stair which runs vertically from the basement beneath the house to the roof deck. The interiors are finished with skim-coat plaster over gypsum wallboard, sealed concrete floors, and translucent glass panels and doors along the corridor.
The house is framed as a steel truss, with 11cm thick concrete and steel-deck roof and floor structure, and double-extra-strength pipe diagonal bracing. The exterior is clad in corrugated anodized aluminum and standard glazed commercial aluminum window framing. The concrete soffit underneath the house and the paved roof deck are tilted 3o. This facilitates drainage at the middle of the roof.
Below the house, the poured-in-place foundation exposes a 2.4m tall concrete wall with an opening allowing access to the vertical central stair and a mechanical and storage room. The stair’s intermediate landing opens into the house. And at the top, the stair passes through a 2.4m x 3.7m sliding roof door that allows access to the deck.