Enfolded House

Located in Houston, Texas, this single-family house project investigated spatial opportunities for public and private domestic space through the manipulation of the building envelope. The architectural strategy of the double layer allowed for the creation of a central gathering space with circulation around the periphery. The figure of the inner layer generates a continuous flux of private spaces – bedrooms and washrooms – which come off the peripheral circulation. This malleable inner envelope, thus juxtaposed to the rigid exterior, also allows for unexpected moments of visual permeability.

The house is clad in translucent channel glass to let light in and make the corridor feel more generous. In response to the site condition – a 60-foot wide by 125-foot deep residential lot – areas of clear glass were set aside to offer strategic views to the outside. The central double-height space, which includes kitchen, living, and dining areas, is provided with natural light from a skylight above.

The project questions the meaning of domestic privacy. Historically, glass houses like those of Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson were situated outside of the city in much more secluded sites than the traditional suburban lot. The translucent channel glass of outer envelope certainly puts the profiles of the inhabitants on display to the neighborhood. This is particularly true at night, the time of day when privacy is arguably most important. Curtains or a walled enclosure are practical to prevent such exposure. Yet, despite its voyeuristic nature, the project embodies an externalized expression or view of American domesticity – a subject which I found compelling throughout the exploration.

Professors: Dawn Finley, Grant Alford