Two primary objectives were posed by the clients: house their collection of late 20th century artworks and design objects in spaces that compliment, but do not detract from their presence; accomplish this on a primary single continuous floor plane that allows for a graceful aging in place. Additionally, the client expressed a strong mistrust of open plans while at the same time a love for modernist spatial qualities. Finally, site the project on a shallow, tightly constrained and steeply sloping site.
To integrate the space for living and display while maintaining the desire for spatial separation, the house is composed of rooms that are both discrete yet maintain a fluid quality through soft edges and thickened thresholds. The primary geometry of the house is derived from two arcs anchored on corners of north setback lines, which creates a linear layout of rooms along the eastern boundary and a continuous wall of paintings to the west. The shallow curve allows the house to maximize its relationship to the property setbacks while offering more space for the landing of the entry ramp at the exterior. Internally, each room accounts for its neighbor in the definition of its own boundary. Spatial continuity emerges by implication through the adjacency of the individual rooms as they radiate off the larger curve of the west wall.
Deploying the arc as a spatial register orients the array of rooms at different angles, grouping them into six relational coordinate zones. Each disrupted by the adjacent, yet together they define the boundary of individual rooms. Mediating the curvature of the perimeter and the rectangular shapes of the rooms, walls and openings are cut and translated based on the geometric references from adjacent elements rather than the internal logic of each room.
A continuous clerestory along the west façade provides cross ventilation through to the large expanses of operable glazing to the east. Below the clerestory the client’s collection of 20th century prints punctuates the thresholds to the individual rooms to the east, visually extending the internal boundaries of each room across the long gallery of the western wall.
In Red Blue Green, 1963 by Ellsworth Kelly (one of the artists represented in the owner’s collection), the glowing edge of different colors depict the tension of its figure-ground relation. In the house the arrangement of figured rooms possesses the quality of this spatial vibrancy between figure and ground. Yet unlike the registration of a line in the painting, the opacity of walls enables a spatial transition from one side to the other, which also creates a figure-ground inversion through movement and changing vantage points.This inverts the more common translation from architecture inspired by painting toward architecture that could potentially generate a painterly reexamination of spatial complexity.