TINKER, TEST, REFINE
WASHINGTON DC 03.31.16, 1:30pM BY NIcole Sakr
The Rock Creek House is an adaptive reuse project of a 1920's brick structure that was originally composed of two floors, as well as a mechanical basement at the garden level, and an attic that offered storage space. This renovation and re-adaption leveraged the connection with the landscape and the robustness of the existing structure to modify the attic and basement to double the size of the house, while offering room for an expanding family of 5, with an added 2-3 staff members.
Opening up on the north face at street level, the property gives way to a dramatic drop on the southern side in relation to Rock Creek, and the extended natural preserve that is its legacy. The house builds up on the formality of the front - its requisite symmetries, order and tone - while giving way to a more open informality on the south, taking advantage of the relationship to sun and greenery.
While the north facade on the street remains relatively intact, the idea of the house was also to develop a more generous exposure to Rock Creek and the southern exposure, where they extend the house into the garden areas. By expanding the areas of glazing on the south, and establishing a more precise relationship between rooms and their respective apertures, a new architectural order is established - more informal, open and in dialogue with nature.
At the same time, this very simple strategy imposed maybe one of the most radical impacts on the structure of the building. By expanding the square footage of glass on the southern face, effectively the load bearing function of the brick wall was proportionally altered to become a curtain wall, with steel structure providing both compressive and lateral stability for this new face. Economical in its spatial organization, the project leverages the existing composition of the house to maximize its architectural and programmatic impact without the need for demolition or an entire new construction.
The perimeter wall structural system is organized around a multi-story bias. In correspondence to this internal wood, framing bridges across the north-south axis, connecting the partywall system, and in tandem the millwork is framed between structural piers such that the vertical striation of the plywood reinforces the directionality of the house. From a solid facade on the north to a transparent and glazed facade to the south, the tectonics of the house reinforces this transformation.
The most salient spatial intervention was the introduction of a new stair at the center of the house as well as two multi-height spaces. The first is a double height at the entry, connecting the entry level to the garden level, with a new living room that extends to the interior spaces to the southern exposure. The second space connects the entry on the northern side to the former attic, now a research and play loft for the kids capped by a skylight. With these two interventions the once stratified realms of storage, bedrooms, work areas, and living areas become interconnected and seamlessly intertwined.
The house is conceived as a work space for an expanded family. From the first to the fourth floor, scales of study, collaboration, and work are arranged in relation to a family with a complex array of schedules, requirements, and technical needs. Three of these spaces stacked at the southeast corner. At the ground level, the main office serves as a home office, drawing in many business guests, small conferences and an area of acoustic isolation.