Suburban House (Puyallup, Washington State, USA)

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The project started as an ambition of a young architect trying to fulfill his dream to design and build his own house with a very limited budget.  The project became possible with the idea of splitting his property where his family lived and building a new house in the back accessed from the side road.  The real estate value increased considerably making the idea feasible financially.

The design was finished and the drawings were submitted for permit.  The architect began soliciting contractors to bid, including one living in the neighborhood, who ultimately opposed to the project after studying the drawings.  This neighbor contractor rallied other neighbors to oppose the project and tried to resurrect the non-existance home owner association.  They claimed that the design violate the covenant and were afraid that their houses will be devaluated.  The architect decided to find another location to build the house.

Since the permit process had begun, the architect had to use the same design and being the contractor himself to save even more money while finding a site that would fit the design concept.  A new site was found for the project.  Fortunately, despite of changing sites, the design concept is still valid.

Puget Sound area is dominated by the view of majestic Mount Rainier located on the southeast direction.  It is a snow capped volcanic mountain that has become the symbol of this area.  Mount Rainier is the true context that the design will pay respect to, not the cookie cutter suburban house development.  The house is designed to rise up above the neighboring houses and amongst the evergreen trees acting as a reference to the direction of the mountain when the mountain itself disappears from the view.

This abstraction is then strengthened by the use of silver colored corrugated metal roof and siding to create monolithic form and to blend with the sky in a cloudy grey day just as the mountain. The windows, roof hatch and sky-walls are located randomly but strategically to take the advantage of the view and natural light and to give a glimpse of the interior from the outside mimicking the caves and crevices on the mountain.

The reference to Mount Rainier is also carried inside the house.  Each room is treated like the cave inside the mountain with the same color for wall, floor and ceiling.  The attic is painted all white to reflect the ice caves on top of the mountain.  In the middle of the house is where the fire-red stairs cut through each floor referring to magma inside  a volcano.

The house also features the use of energy efficient heating and natural cooling.  Heating is radiant heated slab.  Natural cooling is achieved by the stack-effect through the stairs and roof hatch while cross ventilation is accomplished through the operable windows.

Note:  All photos by John Clark, published in DWELL October 2008



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