Joeb Moore + Partners Architects have created the 44PL house in Connecticut, as an experience that is profoundly open and flexible to the participant, not simply a place but rather a journey of discovery and a homecoming. The residence was designed as a series of concrete retaining walls and escarpments that traverse and cascade down a steeply sloped site approximately 700 feet deep and 300 feet wide.
In response to the steep topography, the architects created a building strategy that deployed a series of straight walls that act as “jetties” into the landscape and respond as a counter-force. As the walls interact with the landscape, they modulate the sloping terrain into a series of terraces and gardens that spill and slide past one another.
The house was built as a series of smooth extruded volumes that interact with each other. The first of these boxed volumes presents a gable-front facade to the street and helps conceal the scale of the overall house beyond. The second container-box rotates 90 degrees and runs parallel to the street and site walls. It functions as a kind of backdrop or screen to both the front and the back yard activities and views of the property.
The two cedar boxes were sliced by a set of three sectional cuts that produce different environmental and atmospheric effects, and allow the natural environment to cut through the house and produce spaces of “response and magic”. The main sectional void is a water canal and waterfall that flows between two concrete site walls and then drops 12 feet into the basement, allowing reflective light, water, and sound to occupy the center of the house. This was envisioned as the heart of the house, a dynamic and complex space that creates the connection between the basement and the second floor, and all activities of the family.
The second sectional void is the gable-front facade itself. The architects pulled it away from the building to give the impression of a light lantern. The space houses a covered exterior stairwell with access from the entry courtyard to the pool garden and lower-level play areas of various types. The third sectional void is a vertical slot that serves as the back stair that again runs from the basement to the second floor, and separates the garage and guest suite from the children’s bedroom wing. The stair treads float between the wall, creating the illusion that you are moving vertically inside the walls themselves.
The “house-containers” were skinned in a continuous 1″x1″ alternating, horizontal cedar lattice that was intentionally pulled tight to contrast with the concrete and white stucco planes below. This second skin, like a membrane, passes right over windows and joints, with only the slightest registration of planar shifts from the surface changes behind. The resultant optical effect is one of precision and ambiguity from both the interior and exterior.
Architect: Joeb Moore + Partners Architects
Location: Connecticut, USA
Structural Engineer: Ed Stanley and Associates
General Contractor: Prutting & Co. Custom Builders
Landscape Architect: Reed Diilon & Associates
Interior Designer: Sally Markham Interior Design
Project Year: 2008
Photographs: David Sundberg / Esto Photographics Inc.
*All images and information courtesy of Joeb Moore + Partners Architects.