Page D3.2 . 20 August 2003                     
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    Bluff House

    continued

    The gate in the perimeter wall is the first threshold through which one passes to enter the property. The entry sequence is important because it educates visitors in their understanding of the house. After passing through the outer gate, one descends a few steps to a walkway adjacent to the outdoor courtyard.

    Hugging the service wing, the walkway allows the visitor to experience the courtyard prior to entering it from the pavilion. The entry to the house redirects the visitor to the pavilion, essentially an enclosed extension of the outdoor rooms on either side of it. Stairs flow from the living room, following the hillside contours uniting house and landscape.

    Living Room/Pavilion

    In the spirit of traditional Japanese wooden houses, large sliding doors on the ground floor create transparency that allows water views from the garden through the structure. This concrete-framed pavilion contains the living room and is the soul of the house. The pavilion's second floor is reached by a floating bridge leading to the master bedroom.

    The living room's high, layered ceiling is intended to dissolve any sense of vertical containment and suggest infinity. Above the floating wood-veneered and stainless steel soffits is an indirectly lit "infinite" ceiling. The wood and stainless steel planes pass through the space without touching.

    Concrete piers in the corners support the large concrete beams, making it possible to have the long walls free of vertical supports. In the fireplace is a vertical light element made of fused glass, fabricated by Doug Hansen. Pavers surround a rock that is left to emerge from the floor.

    The living room is intended to feel like an outdoor space. When the pavilion doors are open, the courtyard and living room become extensions of one another, blurring the line between inside and outside space and reinforcing the connections to nature. The same concrete pavers are used inside and outside, further knitting the various spaces.

    Marriage of Materials

    The pavilion's materials are elemental: structural concrete piers and tube steel, extensive glass walls, stained cedar siding, and metal roofing and trim. As the pavilion rises from the ground, the materials physically lighten, also reflecting the change in program from the open living room to the personal "nest" of the bedroom.

    The choice of materials reflects the owners' interest in both nature and technology. Thus, stainless steel weaves through the otherwise natural materials found in the house.

    The small beach house below rests on log pilings that are relics of the site's past structures. Most of its area is exterior decking hovering over the water. A thin railing profile gives observers as unobstructed a view as possible. Steel cables stretched between posts provide the required protection — 4-inch (102-millimeter) space between rails — without obscuring the view. The open-stud framing exposes the structure and electrical components as details.

    The trees, highly valued by the clients, were preserved to the greatest extent possible, and the deck enables the owners to reach out to them. An overhead glass garage door opens the living space to Puget Sound.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Oscar Riera Ojeda is an editor and designer who practices in the United States, South America, and Europe. He has edited and designed several architectural monographs.

    This article is excerpted from Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects: Architecture, Art, and Craft, copyright © 2003, available from Monacelli Press and at Amazon.com.

     

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    ArchWeek Image

    Overlooking Elliott Bay and Puget Sound is the "Bluff House" by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, with a separate beach house below.
    Photo: Michael Jensen

    ArchWeek Image

    The concrete-framed pavilion contains the living room and is the soul of the house.
    Photo: Michael Jensen

    ArchWeek Image

    Kitchen cabinetry is ash veneer, with a backsplash of fused clear glass backed with mirrors.
    Photo: Michael Jensen

    ArchWeek Image

    A catwalk connects the pavilion to the service side of the house on the second floor.
    Photo: Michael Jensen

    ArchWeek Image

    Site plan, Bluff House, by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.
    Image: Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Lower floor plan, Bluff House, by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.
    Image: Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Upper floor plan, Bluff House, by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.
    Image: Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects: Architecture, Art, and Craft.
    Image: The Monacelli Press

     

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