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Stretto House

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  • Max Levy
  • Structural Engineer: Datum Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineer: Interfield Engineering
  • General Contractor: Thomas S. Byrne Construction
  • Landscape Architect: Kings Creek Landscaping

Project Status


Year Completed



7,500 sq. feet
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Project Description


Sited adjacent to three spring-fed ponds with existing concrete dams, the house projects the character of the site in a series of concrete block "spatial dams" with a metal framed "aqueous space" flowing through them. Flowing over the dams, like the overlapping stretto in music, water is an overlapping reflection of the space of the landscape outside as well as the virtual overlapping of the spaces inside.

A particular music with this "stretto," Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste was a parallel on which the house form was made. In four movements, the piece has distinct division between heavy (percussion) and light (strings). Where music has a materiality in instrumentation and sound this architecture attempts an analogue in light and space, that is

material x sound = material x light
time space

The building is formed in four sections, each consisting of two modes: heavy orthogonal masonry and light and curvilinear metal. The concrete block and metal recall Texas vernacular. The plan is purely orthogonal, while the section is curvilinear. The guest house is an inversion with the plan curvilinear and section orthogonal, similar to the inversions of the subject in the first movement of the Bartok score. In the main house aqueous space is developed by several means: floor planes pull the level of one space through to the next, roof planes pull space over walls and an arched wall pulls light down from a skylight. Materials and details continue the spatial concepts in poured concrete, glass cast in fluid shapes, slumped glass and liquid terrazzo. Arriving at the space via a driveway bridging over the stream, a visitor passes through overlapping spaces of the house, glimpsing the flanking gardens arriving at an empty room flooded by the existing pond. The room, doubling its space in reflection, opening both to the site and the house, becomes the asymmetrical center of two sequences of aqueous space: arriving finally at an empty flooded room.
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