The Fire House Lookout

United States

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This is a study of a house in its true context, instead of its idealized context—real nature instead of romantic nature. 
 
It is a conceptual project that started out as a real one.  A great client in California found our Seattle firm online, and hired us to design him a new house to replace one that had burned down in one of the increasingly frequent wildfires here in the West.   
 
When our client tragically passed away, we were left with a project we loved which would never get built. We decided not to quit the project.  Released from the need to sell our ideas to a real client, we decided to treat the house as a laboratory to study ideas about building in places where wildfire is a part of the intersection of nature and the built environment, as well as honor the memory of our client’s dreams. 
 
The house is a long bar floating over a steep mountain foothill.  A solid, concrete end of the bar containing private and service spaces is buried in the hillside.  At the other end, a cantilevered glass living space dissolves above a hazy valley below.  We brought light into the buried portion of the house with scoops into the roof and hillside.  A detached cube further up the hillside has a garage and a space for visiting kids or guests. 
 
And in answer to the contextual challenge we decided to tackle—the natural and man-made threat of destruction by wildfire—we surrounded our structures with a protective, second skin.  Dark gray ceramic tile, which is naturally fire resistant, is layered over perlite insulation and cement board.  This assembly acts as a sort of fireman’s coat around the primary structure.  It also presents an opportunity for a liminal space between the second and primary skins which can serve as a covered deck that could open the house to the outdoors on temperate days, and shade the living spaces from direct sun.  A series of sliding cement board panels can be closed in the event of evacuation during a wildfire, leaving the contents of the house protected. 
 
Our renders show the house in its real context; its true nature.  In one, a wildfire is visible in the distance.  In others, smog and smoke surround the house and obscure the commanding view.  We introduced a palette of blue-green, black and white to stand out from the contextual pinks and tans. 
 
 
Graphics by Paul Michael Davis Architects 
Paul Michael Davis 
Terence Wong 
 

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    This is a study of a house in its true context, instead of its idealized context—real nature instead of romantic nature.  It is a conceptual project that started out as a real one.  A great client in California found our Seattle firm online, and hired us to design him a new house to replace one that had burned down in one of the increasingly frequent wildfires here in the...

    Project details
    • Status Unrealised proposals
    • Type Single-family residence
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