No. 319 . 24 January 2007 
ArchitectureWeek
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Stal Tre Hus

by Lisa Ashmore

An American caricature of a ski chalet has an A-frame roof, enough timber to build a dozen houses, and a trophy elk head over a stone fireplace. Defying this stereotype is the "Stal Tre Hus" by architect Joel Sherman, principal of JLS Design. With a name meaning "steel tree house" in Norwegian, this house features a flat roof, a steel structure, and neither elk head nor traditional fireplace.

In response to a steep, narrow site near Lake Tahoe, Nevada (elevation 6,300 feet, or 1920 meters) and the hefty structural load from the annual snowfall of 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters), Sherman has crafted a sturdy, amply glazed house that rests on pillars straddling the relatively undisturbed ground below.

With its abundance of double-glazed glass corners, the house seems to float in a canopy of fir trees. Contributing to its open feel are vertical plaster-finished towers on which the two main floors rest. The pillars not only support the house but also pierce the interior, topping out at roof level.

Some trees nearly brush the house, thanks to a structure that perches above the terrain instead of having bulldozed it during construction. Too often, the old-growth trees that inspire building in this area are sacrificed in order to get a "dream home" built on a flattened site.   >>>

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