Page H1 . 03 September 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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Patterns of Home
Pattern Eight Refuge and Outlook : Overlook in the Northwest

ArchWeek Photo

For a house by Tom Bosworth, separate buildings are a related family of traditional forms, their backs up against a group of trees. Each building looks out toward the view from a slightly different porch.
Photo: David Duncan Livingston


Refuge and outlook can be applied at many scales within the home, from siting to the arrangement of the major divisions of the building down to the layout of smaller spaces. This house incorporates an entire hierarchy of uses of the pattern.

The homeowners resettled on Vashon Island near Seattle after many years of living in a white-painted, 1880 Victorian house with 11-foot (3.4-meter) ceilings in Connecticut. They chose Tom Bosworth as their architect because of his ability to translate the vocabulary of traditional architecture (with which they were already comfortable) to the landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

They wanted a house that incorporated traditional forms on the outside but was countrified and more relaxed on the inside an elegant, yet informal, house.

Response to Site

The site is a meadow, sloping gently down to the south and west toward a view of the water. The house plan was developed as three separate structures commons, bedrooms, and studio.

These three pieces are linked together on the site by geometry, circulation, and a little bit of structure, but they retain their individuality and shape interesting spaces in between (Creating Rooms, Outside and In). The central commons is the largest of the three buildings, and the other two are organized along its cross axis.

This site plan is a good example of Inhabiting the Site because it creates opportunities to extend the inhabitants' observations and activities out into the landscape.

ArchWeek Photo

The three "houses" are each set roughly perpendicular to the slope, all oriented toward the views below.
Image: The Taunton Press

ArchWeek Photo

The porch is so substantial and sheltering that it encourages the owners to fully enjoy the wind and rain, sun, and action of the overview beyond.
Photo: David Duncan Livingston

ArchWeek Photo

Opening one side of an enclosed outdoor space slightly creates an orientation toward that opening and more strongly invites the outdoors in.
Image: The Taunton Press

Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

Looking back up at the building complex from below, it's possible to see the Refuge and Outlook pattern expressed in the site plan itself. The individual buildings are grouped together but face off into slightly different directions, corresponding to the slope of the land.

Each building looks down nearly perpendicular to the slope, while huddling back toward one another against the slope and the protecting trees to the north. From this secure, higher position back against the grove, their orientations are individual and relaxed, but also watchful, looking out to the open land below.

Each of the three buildings is a simple rectangle, aligned toward the view and culminating in a deep porch. While the buildings and porches are different in function, size, and plan, they share common features, following the pattern Parts in Proportion.

This variety within an overall unity ensures that the complex has a fresh and lively composition. Because the buildings are rotated in the site plan, each porch gets a subtly different view; the main house points directly at Mount Rainier. This slight turning away from each other gives each a sense of privacy and expansiveness.

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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