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Perched on a narrow site overlooking the Potomac River, this home was designed to replace a plain, ordinary rancher that was destroyed by fire. Though tragic, the client saw this as an opportunity to re-imagine their humble weekend retreat. As a painter and art historian respectively, they sought a replacement that was modest yet inspiring, consisting of a small painting studio, study, master suite, living room, dining room and kitchen. Paramount to their programmatic needs was a shared aspiration for the house to connect and preserve the beauty of the site; permitting nature to permeate the domestic realm.
Like many our projects, we began with an intense exploration of the site. Specifically with this project, we spent a considerable amount of time walking, drawing and documenting the Ridge in the spring and fall. Through a number of study models and countless sketches, we explored the connectivity of the building to the landscape (in particular the river). This emphasis on amplifying the particulars of the site led to decisions which impacted every aspect of the design including its function, form, and overall sustainability, often resolving these issues simultaneously.
For instance, the plan concept – a modern reinterpretation of the vernacular dog trot house found commonly in Appalachia – aligns the more private program along the ridge creating a linear bar running east-west optimizing the long exposures of the building. The public components are then shifted towards the spectacular view to the river and the Berkeley Springs & Potomac Railroad below.
This singular move sponsors a formal overlap which subtly recalls the typical Edinburgh Limestone formations of the region – of which Seneca Rocks is an iconic example. The overlap itself allows for a passive solar solution, providing clerestory windows which draw light from the south into the living room. The material strategy uses standing seam metal roofing and locally sourced hemlock in opposed striations to subtly recall these rock outcroppings while reinforcing the overlap of the volumes.
Design Goals & Guiding Principles
· Design spaces for multiple functions and flexibility
· Create both indoor and outdoor rooms
· Design to maximize natural light
· Connect with the land & nature
· Minimize site impact
· Maximize breezes and views
Location: Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, USA
Type: Houses – Residential
Site Area: 6 acres (24 000m2)
Building Area: 1300 sqf (120m2)
Dates: Began Summer 2011, Completed May 2013
Architects: GriD Architects – gridarchitects.com
Photos: Paul Burk Photography