Harbor Springs Bluff House’s raison d'etre is it sweeping view of Little Traverse Bay. Nothing impedes the intimacy one experiences with nature; the house is a theater with the bluff and the bay providing the performance. As you arrive down the axial driveway the trees on the site frame the center section of the house which is covered in ipe and steel grat-ing. If we think of the dynamic and shifting view across the bay as theater than this wood-en wall is its curtain. The wall is made out of a series of offset panels with alternating hori-zontal and vertical siding overlaid with steel grating. As the woman of the house is a weav-er/mathematician this woven façade references her passion. You will also see her influence through the Fibonacci sequence which became a primary vetting framework for the design.
To experientially maximize the view, the home’s primary circulation occurs along its back façade creating a 100 foot long meditation walk. Given that the home is located on a steep bluff one enters on the second floor allowing the home’s primarily circulation axis to have a sensation of levitation—as if one is floating above the ground plane moving just under the canopy of the forest. The house is divided into three sections whose diagrammatic purity is articulated by double glazed connectors. From left to right these represent: private, public, and service spaces. Between the private and public space is a large glass connector with a double roof which allows southern light to penetrate and highlight the entrance. This double roof system also creates a sense of compression and release which further defines the dif-ferent zones of the house.
The interiors of the home exemplify the purity and rigor of the design scheme. Interior ele-ments couple together in perfect align to create harmonious spatial transitions. In order to frame views and allow the inhabitants to feel embedded in nature the home is visually neu-tral. Materiality echoes the natural ethos of the home, which can be seen in how the slab of marble in the kitchen mimics the shadows of branches on the building, and how the burbled walnut doors in the dining room depict reflections of the lake on the windows. Interior lighting was carefully crafted to enhance materiality and articulate volumes.
One would think that a largely glass house in a northern climate would be cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but actually, just the opposite is true. In the winter, the house max-imizes passive solar gains. The winter sun, at its lower angle, penetrates the full 26’ depth of the home’s southern exposure, filling it with warmth. Conversely, in the summer, the house is protected from the heat by the surrounding canopy of mature deciduous trees, which flourish under the steeper angle of the sun. Energy efficient systems, passive ventilation strategies, high performance glass, locally sourced materials, and native plantings create a remarkably sustainable home.
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