Residential Design – Pointing North

Tugenhat House - Rendering - elevation view_2 copy

Hello readers,
Today’s post marks the end of summer and the resumption of regular blog posts. I am entitling this new design ‘Pointing North’ named after the water elements that form a North arrow in the design. I was inspired to create this house after reading The Glass Room by Simon Mawer. The Glass Room is a work of fiction created around Mies van der Rhoe’s Tugenhat house in Brno, Czech Republic. The house served as a window into the lives of the fictional Landauer family who commissioned it and were later forced to abandon their dream house when the Nazi regime moved into occupy the Czech Republic during the war. Reading about the little details of the house (from the number of stairs on the landing to the selection of materials) made me want to learn more about Mies’s landmark design and its construction. The most interesting thing about the Tugenhat house was that it was designed on a grid system like most of Mies’ work. The house featured open plan living which was quite modern in the 1920s as well as its signature walls of glass in the main salon looking out to views of the city. The large plate glass windows were supported by the load bearing chrome plated columns sprinkled over the floor plan. Mies’s genius was in arranging the spaces so that the load bearing columns were neither obtrusive or visually distracting.

My house was built on a hillside like the Tugenhat property with the entry on the top floor, but unlike the Tugenhat house, I kept the main living spaces on the uppermost floor and moved the sleeping quarters to the lower floor. My house has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths with a 3-car garage. The kitchen and foyer both have fireplaces and there is an infinity edge swimming pool that extends out over the hillside accessible to all the bedrooms. The design is based around alternating use of up and down triangles which act as structural members supporting the roof and pool. It appears fairly straightforward but was rather complicated to arrange structurally. I spent quite a bit of time adjusting walls and columns to get things to work. I created flexibility into the design by creating movable walls that can be pushed away like pocket doors to open an already open concept plan even more. The pocket walls dividing the kitchen and living room fold into their respective cavities to open the kitchen to the living spaces for entertainment purposes. The glass curtain wall separating the bedrooms from the conservatory/indoor garden can be hydraulically lowered into the basement to open the bedrooms to the garden to better enjoy the morning sunlight. Beyond the glass walls of the indoor garden is a monumental work of sculpture that serves as the focal point for the eastern elevation. These features and more make this house a modern machine for living.

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