Page H1 . 20 August 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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Patterns of Home
Pattern Eight Refuge and Outlook : Protected Views

ArchWeek Photo

This house in northern California was conceived as a secure enclosure from which the owners could have protected views out to the landscape below.
Photo: JSW Architects


One of the fundamental pleasures that shelter offers is the sense of a solid, stable, and protected place from which you can look out over a "great beyond." This can be vividly experienced on a hike in the hills, when you finally arrive at a stone lodge that provides shelter and a view out over the landscape below.

Good homes invite their inhabitants to enact this drama daily in a variety of spaces. Some examples from our everyday experience in good homes include sitting inside the house near the fire with the rain beating down on the roof and looking out the window to see the water coming down; hiding upstairs on the balcony, peering through the railing, and listening to the adults' party below; and relaxing on a covered front porch, watching life go by on the street below.

In all cases, the core of the experience is being able to comfortably observe the outer world from a position of relative security. Usually, the refuge is at a higher position and is enclosed and dark; the outlook is normally below, unenclosed, and lighter. At its simplest, we are inside, looking out. Based on our deep and ancient experience as hunters, we need the experience of being able to look out and down on the outside world from a protected position of advantage and safety.

To work with this pattern, include spaces that are thick and massive feeling, enclosed, and with a solid back. Try to make the users less visible from the outer world by keeping the light level lower, by providing screening shades and plants, or by giving the users a deep space into which they can withdraw.

ArchWeek Photo

From time immemorial, people have needed high, secure, enclosed places from which to safely look out at the world below and beyond.
Image: The Taunton Press

ArchWeek Photo

This house offers many opportunities for refuge and overlook, such as from the hallway, the bottom of the stairway, the upstairs balcony, or even from a secret opening above the bookshelf.
Photo: JSW Architects

Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

In general, position areas of refuge and outlook somewhat above the level of the view beyond, so that they provide an overlook. The spaces should temper the climate, offering either summer coolness (like a covered porch) or winter warmth (like a sunlit bay window) to encourage longer and more frequent use.

The house should incorporate a range of spaces that simultaneously permit holding back for protection and reaching out for observation; that offer deep, secure retreats combined with the possibility of observing more exposed, brightly lit prospects.

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

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