Project Description2010 RADA
Custom / 3,000 Square Feet or Less / Grand
Before purchasing this compact suburban lot, Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, and his family observed it for a year and a half from a rental next door. Aside from its odd shape, the trapezoidal lot had a problem most people considered insurmountable: An intermittent stream crossed the property diagonally, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Blackwell’s deft design turned those liabilities into assets. Two 18-foot-wide boxes subdivide the house’s public and private spaces. The one-story box relates to the neighborhood scale and spans the seasonal creek, while an elevated box, turned 90 degrees, frees up space for terraces beneath it. The stream bed was deepened and tilted toward a spillway to speed up the water and gain more land.
Gutters and downspouts are hidden by a Brazilian redwood rainscreen, each board laid flat for translucency. Built-in delights—such as steel box windows for sleeping and sitting and a glass-enclosed stairway that hinges the volumes together—add up to a fun family house. “When the stormwater rises and becomes a torrent, we sit on the stairs and watch it,” Blackwell says.
Our judges praised the house’s material logic and the way it owns the landscape. “It’s a datum against which the land rises and falls,” one marveled.