U.S. Building of the Week

Yamato Philbeck Residence

in situ studio
2. March 2020
Photo © Keith Isaacs

Sited on the edge of a ravine in Raleigh, North Carolina, this single-family house has its own ravine of sorts: a curvaceous entry and stair that cuts through the middle of the plan. In situ studio answered a few questions about the Yamato Philbeck Residence.

Project: Yamato Philbeck Residence, 2019
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Client: Taka Yamato and Derek Philbeck
Architect: in situ studio
  • Design Principal: Matthew Griffith, AIA
  • Project Architect: Zach Hoffman, AIA
Structural Engineer: Lysaght & Associates
Important Manufacturers / Products: Lincoln Windows, James Hardie Siding, Velux Skylights, Mørso Wood Stove
Site Area: 0.40 acres
Building Area: 2,631 sf (heated)
Photo © Keith Isaacs
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?

The clients discovered our work through publications prior to having a site. We found a site for them, which initiated the design work.

Photo © Keith Isaacs
Please provide an overview of the project.

The Yamato Philbeck Residence is located at the edge of a deep ravine, between the forest and a suburban street. Four site walls create a perch for the main volume of the house – a spare box with articulated roof forms. The curvaceous entry and stair spaces are accessed at the southeast corner of the plan and direct movement towards the open north wall of the main living space, an elevated deck, and views of the forest and ravine. The boxy exterior of the house shrouds a voluptuous and porous interior.

Photo © Keith Isaacs
What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?

Our clients wanted a modest, affordable house that would highlight the unique nature of the property they had purchased. They love to cook, spend time outdoors, and entertain, so arrival, entry, main living spaces, and connection to the outdoors were very important. The entry space squeezes between two bedroom volumes and opens to a tall, skylit stair space and an open kitchen, dining, and living space that overlooks the rim of the ravine. Curved walls and ceiling in the entry amplify the feeling of compression and release. The master suite is separated from the living spaces by the stair and is accessed by a thin bridge through the stair space. The master bathroom has no windows, instead gathering natural light from a tall skylight volume. The basement houses a two-car garage, storage, mechanical, laundry, and a large den that opens to a lower patio at the forest end of the driveway terrace. The simple formal expression of a box on concrete walls belies the scale and contour of spaces inside the house, and views into the forest ravine from the living room and elevated deck are a surprise realized only upon entry.

Photo © Keith Isaacs
How did the project change between the initial design stage and the completion of the building?

The initial ideas for the project were apparent when we first found the site, and our clients were immediately engaged by these ideas. The design process, therefore, was an effort of refinement and clarifying the big idea of engaging the deep ravine at the rear of the property.

Photo © Keith Isaacs
What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?

Four cast-in-place concrete site walls create a perch for the main volume of the house on the dramatically sloped site and retain terraces that accommodate the entry walk, driveway, lower patio, and site stair from the deck to the rear yard. The structure of the house is made entirely of wood, aside from a handful of delicate steel columns supporting the elevated rear deck. Exterior materials are humble: unadorned concrete foundations, cementitious siding, stucco, aluminum-clad residential windows, and brake metal. The interior is made of wood floors, painted sheetrock, and simple tile. The house utilizes a handful of passive sustainable “technologies” – natural lighting, natural ventilation, an SPFI envelope, and a white roof. With this simple palette, the house hopes to offer a reminder that good space can be made from the most basic materials.

Email interview conducted by John Hill.

Photo © Keith Isaacs
Photo © Keith Isaacs
Photo © Keith Isaacs
Photo © Keith Isaacs
Drawing: in situ studio
Drawing: in situ studio
Drawing: in situ studio

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