Grown out of the Site


The client wanted a house that grew out of the site, “with a roof like a pancake” and walls of glass. The site was a big field with gentle hills, stonewalls, and a mature forest at the perimeter. He pictured the crown of the central hill lifted on columns with glass under the edges on all sides. There were good reasons for windows on all sides—views to a stream on the north, entry on the east, uninterrupted sun on the south, and no privacy concerns, with no other houses in sight. Whipple-Callender Architects thought about a house alone in the field, recalling stark Maine farmhouses in a winter landscape, and they decided that the house needs to grow out of the topography and make its own sheltered place. The shape evolved into a curve as the design moved it to the edge of the field, where it overlooks the river. It deflects the wind from the north and still allows windows from every room. It opens on the south to a sun-filled courtyard, and in that courtyard will be gardens and sunrooms: a long greenhouse and a sitting room with a glass roof that might ameliorate the effect of the short dark days of winter.

While the homeowner likes to tinker with machines and grow orchids, his wife collects art. The design needed to be a home for retirement, with space for all the owners’ hobbies and collections. The starting point was a wide curving gallery through the middle of the house where art can be shown in a dynamic way, with changing view angles as you walk. On the southern façade, a curving stonewall ties the building to the landscape and the farming roots of its location. High clerestory windows allow southern sun to penetrate rooms on the north side of the gallery. Natural materials will be used throughout, including stone floors, cedar clapboard siding, and a standing-seam copper roof. The curved foundations are designed to use insulated concrete forms. Radiant heat and ample insulation will keep it warm.

The central gallery begins as the entry, opens up in the main living space, and culminates in a master bedroom suite that is strategically hidden from view. Living and dining are open to the kitchen, where care was taken to conceal the appliances, a cleanup area, and the pantry for an uncluttered look. Off to the sides of the gallery are the greenhouse, sunroom, study, and guest room. The owner will work out of the house, so locating the study near the entry will provide privacy when business is being conducted. The study is paired with the guest room and bath to form a suite when the adult children and their families visit. The master suite placement at the far end of the house gives it privacy well as sweeping views of the river through two walls of windows.
The design is complex and simple, sensible yet fanciful. A clear layout accommodates diverse demands from owner and site; a sensible form responds to an eccentric initial concept.

Location: Southern Maine
Architect: Whipple-Callender Architects
Construction start: 2014
Construction complete: 2015