Angular Multi-Generational Home in Washington

For many baby boomers, "retirement" is just a long way to spell "the end." This wasn't the case for Mike and Fiona Goodchild, a pair of retiring Scottish UCSB professors who wanted a home that would easily adapt to meet their changing needs while helping future generations meet theirs. After purchasing a tear-down house next to their adult daughter's home and family in 2010, the Goodchilds connected with a pair of architects who shared their sensibility. The resulting Burke-Gilman Bike Trail house, named for the Seattle recreational footpath which it overlooks, is the playful embodiment of sustainability. From the adaptable office space upstairs to the back entry that has been designed for conversion into a wheelchair path, the house is as changeable as it is comfortable.

"Family was the number one factor in moving to Seattle from Santa Barbara," Mike Goodchild explains, "although we welcomed the opportunity to live in the Pacific Northwest, especially in a such a highly walkable neighborhood." Located within strolling distance of a university, grocery stores, and other urban amenities, the house has purposefully been laid out so that the other half of the lot can later be sold. The large garden situated alongside the house has yielded dozens of pounds of tomatoes this year alone, and enables Fiona to grow and can a variety of fruits and vegetables, including peaches and plums. Although she specifically asked for an open kitchen, Fiona has been impressed by how much she enjoys the resulting space. "I didn't want to be canning in the corner," she says, "but the openness is more than I expected." The enlarged pantry, which is built into a stairwell, makes storage elegant and accessible. This integrated relationship between nature and the built environment is perhaps the defining characteristic of the neighborhood. "We get our eggs from the guy across the street who keeps chickens," Mike notes drolly, "which is unusual in such an urban area."

At the lower left, polycarbonate panels glow under the cantilevered, vertically-seamed sheet-metal facade.

Photo credit: Dale Christopher Lang PhD AIAP

Designed by Stettler Design in collaboration with Paul Michael Davis Design, the concept for the Burke-Gilman Bike Trail House was therefore a natural extension of its surroundings. The prism-like form of the house features both a two-story "public" front and a more intimately scaled, one-story "private" back. As Daniel Stettler says, "The house embraces its public presence, but you don't feel overwhelmed by it in the back yard."

Mike's second-floor office features locally-sourced cabinetry.

Photo credit: Dale Christopher Lang PhD AIAP

The kitchen window was designed to look into the Goodchilds' daughter's home.

Photo credit: Dale Christopher Lang PhD AIAP

The architects share a dislike for the limitations of a style they have unofficially dubbed "Northwest Regionalism," and as a result purposefully began exploring more experimental, yet sustainable, forms. The vertically seamed sheet-metal that dramatically comprises the facade was chosen both for ease of maintenance and its ability to "pillow" with the prevailing climate. With stamped ribs at 1' intervals, the facade retains a residential scale without adopting a pedestrian outlook. The tongue and groove cedar liner near the entryway softens the effect of the sheet metal, adding warmth and familiarity. When needed, exterior-mounted fiberglass mesh screens descend over the front windows, providing shade from the sun.

Public front, private back, with a view of the garage.

Photo credit: Dale Christopher Lang PhD AIAP

In addition to naturally lighting the interior even on cloudy days, the custom wood-frame windows employ a tilt-and-turn design that enables each one to close on eight separate cams. This creates an almost hermetic seal, vastly increasing the insulation and corresponding energy-efficiency of the house. Mike has been particularly impressed by this level of craftsmanship, as years of living in California prepared him for a lifetime of substandard insulation.

The pantry is integrated into the stairwell that leads to the basement.

Photo credit: Dale Christopher Lang PhD AIAP

The basement is also surprisingly airy and naturally lit, thanks to a lightwell of polycarbonate panels, which provides illumination during the day and an intriguing visual display at night. The choice to reuse 90% of the previous structure's foundations has both a sustainable and aesthetic purpose. The Goodchilds wanted to create a safe yet rough-hewn basement playspace for their grandchildren that would encourage free expression. Exposed panels reveal the original foundations, while the generous proportioning of the space makes it easy to add a bedroom or office in the future. The house also features a radiant water heating system. "We love the hot water in the shower next to our bedroom," says Fiona. In the bathrooms, a towel radiator is paired with low flush, wall-mounted toilets that are exceptionally easy to clean. Additionally, almost all of the materials and fixtures used in the Burke-Gilman Trail House, from the exterior facade to the custom windows, were sourced from local suppliers.

Although the house anticipates the needs of the future, it will also forever embody the character of the Goodchilds. "While we were designing the house, we situated the office so that Mike, who is a geography professor, is perched in this loft that overlooks the bike trail, the lake, and Mount Rainier," Paul Davis explains. "Basically, he's in this perfect geographical survey position."


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