In a historic neighborhood at the foot of 50-story skyscrapers, this addition to a 1910-era house investigates the condition of living in Atlanta’s dense Piedmont forest, within the city. Horizontal and vertical views are positioned to the surrounding tree canopy and skyscrapers beyond, and rely on the tree canopy for privacy in the dense residential setting. Floor levels are pin-wheeled around a new plate steel stair - designed without stringers and suspended within the interior volumes - to heighten the experience of residing among the trees.
The project replaces a series of low-quality additions to a 1910-era house (‘old house’) with a new glass-lined living space (‘new house’) including a garage, kitchen, family room, bedrooms and a new stair linking four floor levels. This new stair leads to a partially covered roof deck with outdoor fireplace and open views of the skyline beyond, while allowing for multiple new connections that stitch the old and new houses together within a single project.
This project started with a request by the owners for two things: “more light in the kitchen” and “a second stair in the back of the house.” During our conversations it became clear that they were interested in more than simply satisfying these needs; they wanted a house that would open them to a new way of living, and they wanted a process that would show them “what could be done.” They had spent their lives renovating numerous old houses and now wanted to explore architecture as a new way of engaging the world around them.
The owners also expressed a desire for their new living spaces to be perceptually lodged in the outof-doors and to have the presence of the city skyline around them both night and day. To this end, the new interior spaces are arranged as a series of shifted floor plates and ceilings, spiraling around a new central stair. The new stair is a very carefully designed, spatially charged element (its structure is integral to the welded treads and risers, with no stringers and self-spanning between adjacent and overhead structure) – its thinness from certain angles makes it virtually disappear to open up light and views.
Similarly, the uppermost rooms and roofs are often cantilevered or suspended over lower ones, creating light-filled inter-connected spaces that challenge a deliberate structural understanding of the house. The new spatial arrangement that this offers, in stark contrast to the defined rooms of the old house, creates a dialogue of space types.
The use of custom curtain-wall glazing to such a great extent, in such close proximity to adjacent houses, establishes a shockingly open boundary with the neighbors. The solid walls of these houses define, in some ways, the extent of the interior. The terraced site, together with the shifted interior floor plates visible through the window walls, proposes a residential experience which is physically and visually suspended within its context.