Northwest Harbor

PrizeHonorable Mention
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Entry Description

Straddling freshwater wetlands and a tidal estuary at just six feet above sea level, this house’s site demands extraordinary sensitivity to environmental concerns. Local zoning restricts the structure’s maximum coverage and encroachment on the wetlands areas, while FEMA requirements set the first floor structure above the base flood elevation. The house’s basic massing is therefore predetermined, limited to a one story, 1,900 square foot design in 4:7 proportion, raised eight feet above the ground. The spaces within this envelope are arranged, articulated, and fenestrated with an innovative structural system that infuses the house’s inner areas with light and circulating air. Whereas most waterfront construction uses pilings to establish an artificial ground plane upon which a conventional house is built, in this project these structural members are integral: 16 wide, exposed, glue-laminated piles stake out the enclosing walls for each of the three bedrooms and extend continuously from the ground through the roof. The residual spaces between these piles house “utility” functions: closet, desk, laundry, pantry, and shower compartment. In addition to these conventional utilities, three vertical voids are opened between the piles to serve the spaces around them. The benefit is threefold: each opening draws light though the interior spaces to the carport below, conducts rainwater from the roof deck to a rainwater management system, and ventilates by siphoning air through the middle of the structure. At the roof the projecting piles serve to divide the space between a deck directly coinciding with the living areas below and a modular planting system installed directly above each bedroom. This planting system further minimizes the structure’s footprint and environmental impact. At the ground level directly underneath the main living spaces, there is room for storing the cars, boats, and yard equipment usually found under houses raised on pilings.