House in the Berkshires

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House in the Berkshires

The program for this 5,300 sf house includes: open living/dining/kitchen space; library; 3 bedrooms; 2 home offices; and other supporting spaces. Important in the planning was the owner’s love of books. This programmatic need is expressed in a cylindrical library, around which pivot the public and private spaces.

Important to the assembling of the houses components is the expression of craft inherent in each material: the varied nature of wood construction is expressed with juxtaposed species (Douglas fir, red cedar, and white oak) as well as varied joinery. Steel construction is expressed with exposed columns, beams, and bolted connections. Metal craft was employed in the fabrication of railings, fire screens, and shelving. Masons fashioned stone quarried on site into walls, floors, and chimneys. Stone walls extend from the house out into the site, crumbling into the landscape in reference to the local vernacular of New England stacked stone site walls.

Design Challenge

The goal of the design was to express nature thru the assembly of the component part, and is evident in the chosen palette of materials. In particular, wood and stone were extracted from the site or otherwise specified to reflect harmony with the natural surroundings. As the site was prepared for construction, stone was removed and stockpiled for use in the construction of the walls that rose from the ground, supporting house’s structure of wood, steel, and glass. The configuration of structural elements and their connections is honestly expressed, allowing the reading of the structure’s logic. Symbolically, a not-quite-straight oak tree trunk column was placed beside the front door, signaling the entry and contrasting with flanking straight steel columns & beams, and stacked stone walls.

Physical Context

Containing visible rock outcroppings and mature trees, the sloping site faces predominately southeast with views across cornfield and river to mountains beyond. The building was oriented primarily to enjoy morning light. The intent of the design is to merge the structure with the landscape. Responding to the topography, the house emerges from the brow of the hill and is arranged in response to physical features and view opportunities. The resulting form is rendered in indigenous natural materials of wood and stone, combined with man-made components of steel and glass. Strategies employed for energy efficiency include passive solar design, the use of a geo-thermal HVAC system, and the local sourcing of natural materials. Storm water is captured for use in irrigation.

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