Leverett Forest

Project PDF

Owners and architect worked together closely to create a structure with clean contemporary lines, Asian-influenced design elements, and a modernist look. In concrete and steel, with a shallow butterfly roof, the structure uses modern building materials inside and out, and deliberately breaks from traditional residential materials and design.

The owners were determined at the outset to preserve the natural setting — in their words, “considering the violence it is about to undergo and has already undergone”. They ruled out lawns and landscaping, decks and patios — the outside is appreciated from the interior. They wanted the house filled with light and sun, especially in winter, when they hoped it might enter “with as much force as possible”.

In a woodland setting, this balancing act required special care: on the one hand minimizing the destruction wrought by site preparation; on the other, clearing enough vegetation to flood the interior with light. The house sits cleanly and conspicuously on a ledge on the hillside. The garage is slid into the hillside under a hyperbolic paraboloidal roof that peels up from the ground.

Project Details

In this climate a sheltering roof with generous overhangs is an intelligent design response, but here the severely simple geometry was intolerant of such formal detail. So we designed an enclosing wall that could stand getting wet — without either decaying or compromising its thermal integrity.

We turned the geometry of the desired flat roof into an opposed pair of hyperbolic paraboloids with a long central valley that directs the entire water catchment to single large spout — a water cascade in summer and an ice column in winter — that is a visual feature at the end of the spinal axis.

The house includes sophisticated acoustic design to achieve a designed reverberation time in the performance studio where the musician owners work at home.

This was a building incorporating many new-to-us materials, so we learned a lot. We learned for example that the really high thermally insulating ‘Nanogel’-filled translucent high ribbon glazing was brilliantly effective from a thermal standpoint, but leaked like a sieve — until (pushing up against warranty concerns) we introduced our own gasketing.

Exterior walls are build of durable insulated concrete brick. This material was selected for its resilience to moisture and good thermal performance.

Project Team

Architect

C&H Architects, Amherst MA

Constructor

Teagno Construction, Amherst MA

Structural Engineer

Ryan Hellwig PE, Northampton MA

Mechanical Engineer

Kohler & Lewis, Keene NH