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Hilltop Residence, Seattle, WA
Paul R. Broadhurst + Associates, Seattle, WA
How do architecture and landscape connect with one another?
The project's architecture is a sleek, rational mid-century modern residence. It celebrates a connection with the car. It espouses the idea of modernity as lifestyle.
With an open, airy quality, it rests on the ground lightly. Here modernity presents an opportunity for landscape to be an opposing quality an earthy, grounded counterbalance.
From this dynamic relationship, the clients' perspective on lifestyle is expanded.
Location, Size and Site
The Hilltop Residence, a 15 minute drive from downtown Seattle, Washington, sits in a one acre parcel, in a noted early example of a modern planned community. Published in several journals, including Progressive Architecture and Architectural Record, the Hilltop Community was initially planned between 1947 and 1950. Sited to create privacy at the entry and to maximize a connection to the mountain view from its main living spaces, the house is a superb example of this 'siting and design' approach.
The Pacific Northwest features a mild oceanic climate. Winters are wet and mild (av. temp. 38 ) with summers mild to warm and relatively dry (av. temp. 65 ). Rainfall averages 39 inches per year. Soils are mostly alluvial from glacial action. Relatively infertile, the glacial till consists of rock fragments from small pebbles to large boulders. The flora native to the Puget Sound region includes Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Red Alder, Douglas Fir, Madrone and their associated shrubs and understory plants.
The founding members of the Hilltop Community were all interested in modern planning and architecture. Designed by architect John Detlie (1908-2005) in 1950, the Hilltop Residence is archetypical of mid-century modern residential architecture — radical and rational, unornamented, lightweight in construction with open-plan flowing volumes.
Facilitating privacy at the entry and maximizing mountain views from the living spaces, the slope of the shed roof is lowest at the carport and expands to create the tallest ceiling heights at the view windows. Thus, with sensitive siting, the house appears modest in size but in actuality is considerably larger because the ground studio is tucked beneath this level. (See Section Detail)
Design Program and Intent
Q: WHAT WAS THE CHALLENGE?
A: To engage the landscape and architecture in a thoughtful, more intentional dialogue. Hardscape and landscape lacked coherency. An under-scaled terrace did not read as an extension of adjacent interior space. A single narrow path to the entrance connected the car user with the house but ignored the person on foot. Plantings appeared ad hoc and 'Gardenesque' in style.
Q: WHAT WAS THE APPROACH?
A: The landscape was treated as an opposing quality to the architecture. Nature as an earthy, grounded counterbalance to the sleek lightness of the built form. Two moods were emphasized: the shady introspection of the entry, and the sunlit expansiveness of the social view area.
Q: HOW WAS THIS ACCOMPLISED?
A: By focusing on the margin between the built and the un-built, man-made and 'natural'. By juxtaposing the two, a dynamic relationship was encouraged. Taking design cues from how the architecture responds to the mature Douglas Fir (they are engaged), then led to an exploration of the ground plane — the 'forest floor' at its feet. Here the design attempts to be a study on this relationship.
Q: HOW DID THIS MEET THE CHALLENGE?
A: 'Modernity' (in all of its forms) is in danger of losing its connection with 'nature'. The Hilltop Residence, with a seamless link between car, structure, and to the living spaces within, embraces modernity as lifestyle. Here the designed landscape seeks to redress any deficiency by connecting the visitor and homeowner to the interplay between man-made and 'natural', thus expanding their perspective on lifestyle.
"The real deal with little inventive surprises and moves. We love the scale and relationship of modern forms. It could win for best planting design if we gave an award for that. It makes you want to be there."
— 2009 Professional Awards Jury