House Seven is a 7,000 sq.ft. [700 sq.m.] multigenerational family residence located in southern Berkshire County, Massachusetts, near the Connecticut border. The local landscape is characterized by the Berkshire and Taconic mountain foothills and the agricultural countryside, with a mix of woodland and meadowlands. The house site is situated in an open field area at one corner of a larger field with wooded edge on all sides with some some rolling foothill features on the horizon.
The house’s design strategy and spatial character is a productive tension of open plan spaces and semi-autonomous rooms that create both dynamic socially connected interior spaces as well as intimate, autonomous areas for privacy and respite. The central core of spaces including living room, kitchen, dining and screen porch are adjacent and contiguous to one another, yet also defined by volumetric differences that begin to describe these spaces as unique and different to one another. This is further underscored by each rooms specific orientation with a view to the surrounding meadow which is unique to the identity of each room’s orientation. As a clustered set of spaces this area in whole is bisected by the entrance and it’s adjacency to the screen porch which opens significantly to the interior entry area between the kitchen and the dining room. The overarching result is to present the main living areas of the house as a rich set of adjacencies sharing some qualities with an open living arrangement while maintaining a sense of identity of each individual space with spatial spillage from one room to the next.
This basic idea continues outward to the other zones of the house with various bedroom areas and further socially oriented rooms maintaining a loose relationship to the idea of spatial continuity with adequate privacy. In detail for example, this allows for the primary bedroom area to be open and contiguous to the main living space via open hallway that turns the corner and conceals sliding doors for opening and closing these spaces from one another. The plan’s overall more informal geometric order allows for each of these spaces to reorient the occupant, creating a local formal order that negotiates and engages the larger house as a set of dynamic sequences of unfolding privacy and social engagement. Finally, in acknowledgement of the tension between the room to room autonomy and a more unified order for the house, the roofline develops as simple unified pitched roof over the entire main level area of the house with a significant overhang to the southeast and southwestern side, providing both a unifying edge for the cluster of rooms and activities in the main living areas as well as adequate shade on the significant solar exposed sides of the house which in turn allows for maximum glass expanse to the surrounding meadow and field beyond.
Designed to high performance, healthy house principles, incorporating passive house design strategies, House SEVEN synthesizes an array of building system and environmental system qualities representing the most durable building practices for general human health, human comfort, environmental performance and robust low maintenance building design.
By combining a prefabricated (panelized) mass timber construction system based on dowel laminated timber (non glued laminated timber) with wood based continuous insulation, high performance (triple pane) windows incorporating exterior shading, non toxic materials and finishes, House SEVEN achieves a hygroscopic wall assembly contributing significantly to indoor air quality and human comfort.
These measures contribute and work in tandem with a next generation geothermal heating and cooling system with dedicated whole house air exchange and integrated radiant floor heating and cooling for silent indoor environment modulation. With the integration of induction cooktop and geothermal based domestic hot water production mechanical system design allows for net-zero-ready classification on day one.
Photography: EASTON COMBS (working models)