Located on a deeply wooded lot lies a prismatic gem designed for living. Hiding below hilltop-level, is a modern masterpiece designed by Gunnar Birkerts, a Latvian born, German-trained, architect. Flooded with natural daylight seeping in through zigzagged panes of glass, this home was designed to connect with nature. Visible from the street, its window-lined pyramidal roof is clear indication of something unusual.
Placed directly off a busy drive, a smooth entrance leads between two retaining walls into the lot. These brick walls, painted the same stark white as the main structure, give the design a strong sense of continuity. The house sits behind a short, but steep hill. The undulation of the earth keeps the home deeply shrouded and blocks off quite a bit of street noise according to the current owner.
Commissioned by a Herman Miller executive, Birkerts began this project in 1964. Following his Finnish inspiration, Eero Saarinen, Birkerts had emigrated to Michigan in 1949 after his graduation from the Technische Universität in Stuttgart, Germany. Less than two years later, Birkerts found himself working in Saarinen’s office. Birkerts later founded his own architecture practice, which is still active today.
Composed on a radial grid, this house is full of angles and designed for maximum privacy. The only hint of an interior glimpse comes through a curtain glass wall that sits below an overhang in a trapezoidal entryway. Immediately behind this iron-gated glass aperture lies another white wall, directly inside the house. This barrier further obstructs outside views, yet acts as a seamless transition from outside to inside, repeating the look of the exterior walls. It is from within, however, that this house is most striking. Features like an indoor-outdoor courtyard, clerestory windows, and doors that fit flush with the walls when fully open, only add to this house’s character.
To be continued…