Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
River Road House in Charleston, South Carolina by Whitney Powers Architect
April 12th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
The clients wanted a very modern and very sustainable 5000-square-foot home/compound built on a long, narrow site that is positioned between an expansive coastal landscape and a deep, second growth maritime forest. The compound includes a four-bedroom “main” house with combination living/kitchen and dining/library areas, a master bedroom/home office suite, and a two-bedroom guest wing. Opportunities to expand life into the outdoors include a screen porch, second floor terraces, and a deck level pool.
The site gave us the opportunity to use forms and spaces to sculpt the compound into the landscape by breaking the spatial requirements into three distinct sections. The main house rests at the center, flanked on one side by a guest wing and on the other by the master bedroom/home office suite. The three sections form a U-shaped courtyard around a central swimming pool. And the three sections can be heated or cooled independently so that the entire compound doesn’t have to use energy if not in use.
The site also allowed us to create two very different ways of experiencing the house. From the entrance road, which winds through the dappled shade of the maritime forest, the house presents a more solid, private face with fenestration that “hints at” what is behind the façade. No two windows are the same. The house’s seclusion in the landscape also inspired us to create a “labyrinthine” covered stone entry court tucked underneath the main house to the left of the garage. From there, a staircase rises to the main deck and entrance. The façade facing the approaching driveway features copper cladding that will mellow to a green patina in time, reducing the large home’s visual impact on the site.
Beyond the more “mysterious” entrance, the opposite elevation is dramatically open to the landscape and waterway through an abundance of glazing, terraces and multi-level decking. Deep roof overhangs protect the interior from the harsh summer sun while the windows provide natural illumination and ventilation. The roof above the main house tilts upward to create space for clerestory windows that also provide natural ventilation and daylight.
The entire compound’s modern vocabulary welcomed flat rooflines, which allowed us to install a vegetated roof on the guest wing. The green roof will filter rainwater, provide excellent insulation and, when the plant materials mature, will create a colorful complement to the home’s natural setting. Other “green” technologies utilized in this project include: geothermal HVAC, foam-in-place insulation, windows constructed of reclaimed cypress, rain-screen wall construction, cistern for storm-water collection and landscape watering, efficient lighting, water-saving plumbing, materials with highly recycled content (salvaged cypress and cement panels for the shell), and paints with no volatile compounds that contribute to indoor air pollution.
In keeping with the client’s affinity for recycling, we used board paneling recycled from an old barn and a limestone sink carved from part of an old house destroyed by a tornado. The clients’ early American furnishings set up an interesting contrast with the sleek, contemporary exterior and add an element of “cozy.”
A juxtaposition of light and dark, refined and raw, severe and delicate, transparent and opaque, the compound is strikingly different from the “typical” residence built along the Low Country’s creeks and waterways.
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