Page D3.3. 14 February 2007                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    Stal Tre Hus


    Outside are 800 square feet (74 square meters) of redwood decking with railings of steel and glass. Patios at the garage entry and at the back at ground level are stone. And although the house's height makes window coverings largely unnecessary to preserve privacy, Sherman says he "washed the glass walls with some [electric] light from the outside" to avoid a "fishbowl" effect at night.

    Viewed from the rear, the towers and pop-out sections make the house look like a large, amiable beast caught in midstride. The living room peers out between the towers. "The idea of that corner glass was to be kind of looking up and down slope," Sherman said, "because we knew eventually there'd be neighbors built to each side."

    Flat Roof Rules

    And there are a lot of neighbors. The monster-size development, Tahoe Donner, was begun in the 1970s for an estimated 6,000 houses. Not many of them look like Stal Tre Hus. Typically their roofs have a sharp pitch to shed snow and abet the suggestion of "a cabin in the woods."

    "I hate the cartoon of that," Sherman says. "We did so much vanilla-ization over the last 20 years. The norm around here is the ubiquitous T-111 box with some wood trim and metal roof."

    The combination of a metal roof and steep pitch will shed snow, Sherman explains, "but many times it unloads in a very dangerous fashion. Ten-foot (3-meter) chunks come launching off a roof, typically soon to be followed by the remainder of the snow that had accumulated."

    In an area dominated by vacation homes, it's unreasonable to think roof shoveling will occur regularly, hence the roof's ability to handle snow loads of 300 pounds per square foot (14,400 pascal). Also, a very slight pitch makes the rain and snowmelt drain, leaving a dense snow layer that Sherman calls "Sierra cement." This snow pack serves as additional roof insulation.

    Recently, Sherman's mentor, Kappe, completed the first LEED Platinum-certified house in the country. It is a prefabricated, modular house with a steel frame. Kappe says glass has always been an important element for his design.

    "After doing Stal Tre Hus, I felt as though it was very much a Kappe house," Sherman says. He recalls thinking earlier in his career: "I've got to evolve - I've got to get further, I've got to find my own place... I think in some ways I was trying to get away from [Kappe's influence].

    Some years later, Sherman says the tendency to complement and incorporate a building's setting, rather than inflicting design upon it, is one of many Kappe skills worth emulating. The result for Stal Tre Hus? A house that rests well on a site that thoughtful design left worth celebrating.

    Lisa Ashmore is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia and senior editor at Agnes Scott College.


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    ArchWeek Image

    Unconventional ski chalet near Lake Tahoe, Nevada, by architect Joel Sherman, principal of JLS Design.
    Photo: Joel L. Sherman

    ArchWeek Image

    The pillars meant less disruption to the ground below during construction.
    Photo: Edward Lupyak

    ArchWeek Image

    Lower floor plan.
    Image: JLS Design Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Upper floor plan.
    Image: JLS Design Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Photo: Joel L. Sherman

    ArchWeek Image

    Stair detail.
    Photo: Edward Lupyak


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