Page H1 . 23 April 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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    Patterns of Home
    Pattern Four Capturing Light : A House that Follows the Sun

    ArchWeek Photo

    The Jacobs family house on a bluff in Rhode Island by architect Tut Bartzen.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

     

    The owners wanted a practical house, one that took full advantage of the light and the spectacular views and one that allowed ease of movement from indoors to out. In keeping with its New England setting, the basic form of the house is straightforward a two-story rectangle with cut-away chamfered corners facing south.

    The house is carefully positioned on the site. By setting the house with its leading corner facing south, two full sides of the building receive south sun, filling the interior with light from morning until night.

    A wide porch with a balcony above wraps the south corner, inviting an easy flow from the living room, entry, and bedrooms out toward the view.

    The porch roof provides natural seasonal light control for the lower floor, limiting the entry of light when the sun is high in the sky at midday in summer. When the sun is lower in the sky early morning and evening, winter, spring, and fall the angle allows light to penetrate the porch and enter the rooms beyond. As the day or the season gets cooler, the sunlight reaches deeper into the house.

    Upstairs, each of the three bedrooms has windows to the east; as the sun comes up it gradually fills the rooms with light, waking the occupants gently. Each bedroom also has windows on a second wall, balancing the light in the room and increasing the period of direct sunlight. By mid-afternoon, the bedrooms are protected from heat gain by the placement of the bathroom and fireplace to the west.

    ArchWeek Photo

    Siting the house diagonally to the south takes maximum advantage of available sunlight. Every room gets direct sun at some point during the day.
    Image: Taunton Press

    ArchWeek Photo

    The high living room ceilings allow space for transom windows above the glazed doors and windows that fill walls on three sides. The bright, open space changes mood as the sun moves from east to west.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    ArchWeek Photo

    Jabobs House, ground floor.
    Image: Taunton Press

    ArchWeek Photo

    Jabobs House, upper floor.
    Image: Taunton Press

    Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

    At breakfast, the eastern sunlight enters the kitchen and adjoining dining room. Diners start the day with the early warmth of morning sun balanced by light from the kitchen window to the south.

    By noon, the warm midday sun strikes the south face of the building, with its chamfered corners oriented to the view. A long wraparound porch shades the south side on the lower floor, giving midday protection to a kitchen window that fills the south-facing wall and to the French doors that open from the living room to the porch.

    By late afternoon, the sun has moved around to the west and enters through the corner windows of the living room.

    It is important for afternoon and evening activities to have a sense of the light but also to be protected from heat gain. Here the protection is created by dense landscaping outside the corner windows, which blocks the sun as it gets low in western sky.

    The west-facing corner of the stairwell landing has windows that bounce light onto the very center of the house, where it falls down the stairs and into the entry hall a balance to the more direct western light.
     

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    Patterns of Home

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    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 Amazon.com.

     
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