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Water Box

McClellan Architects

Project Name

Water Box

Project Status


Year Completed



1,929 sq. feet

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Project Description

Site Considerations As a houseboat, Water Box imposes rigorous design constraints. The “site” is equivalent to the footprint of the home; a strict cubic envelope is imposed. Beginning with this abstract box, we manipulate and disrupt specific planes and volumes to humanize what would otherwise be a sterile and reductive envelope punctuated by doors and windows. To create the invitation to enter at a human scale, a ground-floor plane is deflected inwards towards the door. Circulation is indicated by rotating an upper quarter off-axis around the stairwell. Movement and view to the outdoors are freed by removing faces of the exterior envelope. The roof is fully exploited as an outdoor living area with a terrace for seating and small artificial turf “yard.” A glass railing suggests a demarcation of the roof living area while diminishing the boundary between the roof deck and the surrounding landscape. Our Approach We practice architecture in order to evoke pleasure and emotion through the utility and ritual of daily life. Our design is about the lives of particular people as expressed in a specific place: in that way the work is authentically human-centered. That is the fulcrum around which each residential design develops, aiming to create a continually rediscovered delight in the home. The pleasure and emotion experienced by a client is not bounded strictly by walls; it extends throughout every detail inside the home and beyond the property line to encompass scene and season. For that reason ours is an integrated practice comprising Architecture, Landscape and Interiors; only by directing all of these elements can we derive the best expression of a life on the site. Using the overlay of a client’s daily rituals on the site we identify the best moments and extend them dynamically throughout the plan - an infinite sequence of moments. Analysis of these ‘stochastic’ patterns yields a rationale for massing functional areas of the structure, integrating the particulars of light, views, and climate. A natural and inevitable quality results, a diachronic character that is an extension of human settlements and vernacular forms. We avoid rigorous symmetry or pattern. Shifted massing, horizontally offset planes, and staggered spatial shoulders encourage easy movement and an itinerant gaze — an emphatically non-reductionist approach to the lived experience of the home.
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