Page H1 . 05 March 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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    Patterns of Home
    Pattern Three Sheltering Roof : Cascading Roof

    ArchWeek Photo

    The roof of this house by Rob Thallon and David Edrington, follows its plan, cascading down the site, expressing the move from higher ceilinged common spaces to lower private ones.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston


    Whatever else it is, a house is fundamentally a place of shelter. Primitive homes were simply roofs on the ground, and the old expression "a roof over one's head" speaks to the very essence of home.

    The form of the roof, the way it contains and offers shelter to all the parts of the house, establishes the archetypal sense of the building as home. If a house does not use its roof to help form its exterior and does not let its roof give shape to any interior spaces, whatever other qualities it might possess, it never quite becomes a home.

    "Sheltering Roof" suggests that, from its inception, we imagine a home as an inhabited roof, a roof whose form we experience both inside and out.

    Houses that suppress the shape of the roof, or simply tack one on above a flat ceiling, do not provide their residents with a basic sense of shelter. Such houses may successfully keep the weather out, but they fail to convey one of the distinct comforts of home the feel of being enveloped by a simple, sloped-roof form.

    ArchWeek Photo

    Larger houses can be compositions, combining and transforming simple roof forms.
    Image: Taunton Press

    ArchWeek Photo

    The roof steps down toward the east, culminating in the roof over the master bedroom, which opens out to a sheltered porch.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    ArchWeek Photo

    Use the naturally high and low portions of the roof to create a variety of interior ceiling heights.
    Image: Taunton Press

    ArchWeek Photo

    The floor plan responds to the site, which slopes down from west to east.
    Image: Taunton Press

    Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

    The site of the Apter house in Oregon, designed by Rob Thallon and David Edrington, reveals a great deal of the roof as we approach, providing another illustration of how this pattern works. In this case, the roof plan is made to follow the informal meanderings of the floor plan, laid out in response to the tree line of a forest to the north.

    The basic roof unit is a simple gable. But coupled with dormers and shaped to step down and around the site, this simple form creates a rich and lively shape.

    The cascading form suggests the flow of the floor plan within, from the larger higher-ceilinged common spaces at the center of the house to the smaller and lower private ones at the edge. In this sense, the roof follows and expresses the intimacy flow of the house, placing the highest ceilings and roofs above the most public and populated rooms, and culminating in the low roof above the one-story master bedroom at the east end of the house with its private porch and study.

    The roof over the master bedroom forms a tiny habitable attic off the second-floor children's bedroom, and "hips out" to give shelter to the porch, a gesture that can be seen and felt from the interior.

    Patterns of Home



    Part of the ArchitectureWeek Patterns series. Text and images excerpted with permission from Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow, copyright © 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc. The book is available from The Taunton Press and at

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