Saturday, August 28, 2010

How to Design a Windowless House

Currently, I have several residential projects on the board.

One of them is for a site in the Hill Country of Texas, just northwest of San Antonio. The clients are a man and wife. The husband is an airline pilot and the wife is a flight attendant. So, there are several occasions that they come home after flying around the world and need to sleep during the day. Because of this and because they do not trust the insulation values of the modern day glass, they do not want any windows except along the southwest side of the house. BTW, that is direction from which most of the heat gain comes.

I have been able to design a floor plan that they love. It was not too hard to do because they already had it pretty much envisioned before they hired me to draw it up. The challenge has been to create an attractive exterior design without windows.

Since they are into flight and are building this house over a cliff that allows for a beautiful panoramic view of their 10 acres and beyond, I have designed a series of facades that actually "lift" the roof off of the base. My clients want their exterior to be of local stone, stucco, light colored metal roof, and cactus landscaping. So, I introduced a ribbon of glass (not vision windows, more like applied opaque glass tiles) along the eaves of the house. It produces somewhat of an American Indian motif along the side elevations where the glass travels diagonally along the slope of the roof. If you were to walk anywhere on their property, it is very likely that you will find American Indian artifacts such as arrow heads and pottery pieces. So having this motif is a fun design feature on the house. The brown horizontal band also breaks up the massing while connects the front to the back balconies and deck.

The front right wall is still too bulky and I am playing with adding a window or two on it to break it up a bit. I have their permission to add this one window onto the front.

Although we use the computer to draw up the construction drawings, I hand sketch design drawings so I can get a better feel of the scale, materials, and textures. Later, we might render this with a computer to make it more life-like. Here are the four elevations before putting this new window on the front right wall.

This is the front elevation.

This is one of the side elevatons.

This is the rear elevation. The windows look out at an awesome view.

Here is the elevation of the other side. The black railing leads to a trail that leads to a fire pit beyond on the property.

I will keep you posted on the progress of this project. Your comments below would be very welcomed. Let me know what you think about the design.

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