Similarly, the Harris house grows along a line in plan that begins at the garage and entry, moves toward the front door, past the junction of the central hallway, and on into the living room, eventually leading to a dramatic central window and planter that opens out to the view beyond. As with the arbor vitae, this axis is not necessarily a straight line, but it shifts subtly, responding to other influences.
The house also has a vertical axis of growth, starting with a base of low walls and planters, followed by walls and windows, capped with sunshades and trellises. Our eye takes great pleasure in seeing the growth of an organism expressed in its final form — and we similarly appreciate the clarity of a house whose parts are arranged along a logical line, from entry to goal and from foundation up to roof.
The plant sprig is not rigidly symmetrical, but it is roughly balanced around its axis in both area and mass. Harris's house shows the same balance around its axes, not strictly, but comfortably distributed around a center.
In plan, balance around an axis can lead to an orderly and logical separation between different functions, such as between public and private spaces in a house. In elevation, balance around a vertical axis, with the highest portion in the center surrounded by lower supporting elements, leads to a feeling of graceful, natural stability.
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 Amazon.com.