Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
Retreat in Michigan by Salmela Architect
December 15th, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Salmela Architect
The client’s goal for this retreat was to create a beautiful series of structures and spaces to sustain the environment and family over the long term where relatives and friends will visit, stay and return again and again and the land will be cared for. The 16 acre site is three miles from the Sleeping Bear dunes on Lake Michigan. 10 acres comprise of a field of crops and 6 acres of a tall beech forest touching 290′ of shoreline of this small inland lake. The solution has entailed restoring the field from crop land to native grasses. Walking pathways were created that align and converge with the entry drive into the forest which leads to the dwellings.
Four black outbuildings define the auto court with a walkway passing through the outbuildings to the primary east access of the house. A parallel west walkway leads past a chimney terrace down to the lake. Visible beyond this path is a black pavilion and a white sod roofed sauna at the edge of the beech forest.
The house is synchronous with the land, stepping down the hill on three levels following the slope. The low height of the entry pergola starts to define the interior feel of the house when you first enter. This low scale and corresponding perception of space changes as you approach a two story space along the west side of the house and progressively descend to the lower kitchen-dining and study levels. The structure is exposed throughout the house and the interior natural light has a mellow quality as it enters from multiple openings and locations and is softened by the various materials and colors of the structure.
The sauna which is sited beyond the house on the west access affords a generous northerly view of the lake set against a deep blue lakeside wall. The lake is easily accessible for an after sauna swim. The sauna window to the south looks up into the interior of yet another structure beyond named the Pavilion. The Pavilion, an exercise in structural geometry is the center for family bocce ball tournaments.
Each structure, akin to farmsteads, has a significant building logic and its own identity. The black simple framed outbuildings at the entry court show their utilitarian purpose and direct the flow of people away from the vehicular functions. In contrast, the house has massive white masonry end walls which create book ends and lend a sense of importance to the living space. The apparent continuity of the structural elements read from the exterior to the interior in a regular rhythm. They make visible an honest solution and sense of protection to the living spaces.
The masonry from the house extends to the fireplace chimney terrace as well the double wall sauna with its sod roof. The bocce ball pavilion beyond the sauna reflects the owners’ interest in sculpture. All these elements, seemingly of unique juxtaposed opposites, form a convergence of spaces, connections and activities, such as field walks, swimming in the lake, sauna, warm fire at the terrace chimney or a game of bocce ball – All regularly enjoyed by the clients and family members.
The significance of uniting the field, the forest and the lake with pathways, gathering spaces and unique structures makes for an ever-changing retreat which can be sustained over a long time for the environment and the family.
The owners, two medical school professors, charged the architect with making this retreat as environmentally sympathetic as possible so that it is sustained for the use of the family and care for the environment for the long term. The architect incorporated several strategies to make this possible. The following were included:
All of these efforts have not only restored the land to its natural state but also meant large savings in operational energy on an ongoingbasis. The house currently operates on only 22 KBtu/sq ft including heating, cooling and all other electrical energy needs.
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