The design of this Houston residence aims (1) to highlight the site's visual connections to downtown and (2) to use low-cost, low-maintenence technologies to provide a high level of responsiveness to the region's specific climate and weather patterns.
(1) The 2000-sq-ft residence maximizes square footage at the front of the site--where the best views are--by following the site's basic N-S orientation.
The simple volume of a cube is clearly defined, and its interior organization is a simple raum plan, creating a continuous flow around the cube. To accomodate the views towards downtown the corners dissolve and are subtly articulated such that, while the physical definition of spaces remains orthagonal, the inhabitants visually and experientially transgress spaces off-axis.
The continuous connections of the raum plan are maintained, yet one also can see across spaces in an unexpected way due to transparencies in program and material treatment. The play of interior and exterior spaces allow for unique off-axis experiences by creating inward-outward continuity. Patios, gardens, and courtyards are "cut out" corners larger rooms, opening rooms to look across one another as well as to plentiful light and views beyond.
These voided areas also help to maintain privacy by providing a buffer between distinct zones, allowing more private spaces to be recessed away from the more public. Materiality further enhances diagonal transparencies; glass and sliding panels are designed to frame rather than impede views across spaces.
(2) These spatial and material configurations serve not only to heighten experience; perhaps more importantly, they provide flexible resistance to Houston's harsh climate of hot and humid summers with cold winters and the occasional hurricane. In this region the most effective way to conserve energy is to shield spaces from the sun during hot months, and the best way to preserve the condition of the house is to protect it with a durable envelope that can resist hurricane force winds. The entwined relationship between interior and exterior spaces directs natural ventilation patterns through the residence for passive cooling. This configuration also creates a relatively large surface area for an operable facade.
This facade consists of large panels that can slide open/closed or lift up to shade areas of the facade. Combined with interior shading devices that can keep heat trapped inside in the winter, the facade thus allows inhabitants a sophisticated means by which to modulate and control their environment. The house's spatial arrangement also offers an open plan with built-in flexibility of use, rather than entirely compartmentalized rooms. This means that rooms share resources and can grow with the family.