Rock Creek House

The shallow house capitalizes on its steep site
The vertical spatial map of the house made apparent at night
A more private front façade
Private office meets landscape
New outdoor family playground
Tectonic grain diagram
Cones of vision
Playroom at attic
View up main stair
View to homework study nook
Entry Foyer
Main stair

Primary Author

  • Nader Tehrani

Contributing Authors

  • Katherine Faulkner / NADAAA (Managing Principal)
  • Harry Lowd / NADAAA (Project Manager)

Photographers

  • John Horner

Objectives

This re-adaption was intended to leverage both the connection with the landscape and the robustness of the existing structure. The design was to modify the attic and basement to double the size of the house, to accommodate the expanding family of 5, as well as an additional 2-3 staff members. While the north façade on the street should remain relatively intact for privacy, the idea of the house was to develop a more generous exposure to Rock Creek and the southern exposure, extending the house into the garden areas and to the nature preserve beyond. By expanding the square footage of glass on the southern face, effectively the load bearing function of the brick wall was proportionally altered to become a curtain wall, with steel structure providing both compressive and lateral stability for this new face. The old bricks surrounding the existing windows were re-used to build up the new attic space, thus there was no need to introduce new bricks. The most salient spatial intervention was the introduction of a new stair at the center of the house as well as two multi-height spaces intended to link the disparate levels of the home. The first is a double height space connecting the entry level to the garden level, with a new living room that extends the interior spaces to the southern exposure. The second space connects the entry on the northern side to the former attic, now a research and play loft for the kids capped by a skylight.

Context

The Rock Creek House is an adaptive re-use project of a 1920’s brick structure that was originally composed of two floors, as well as a mechanical basement at the garden level, and an attic that offered storage space. The house was no longer able to function well for the family which was expanding. The location of the home, within the inner DC district, provided amenities that the family did not want to give up. The house is within walking distance from both school and business districts and a beautiful natural preserve. The need of the family was to adopt the existing building as the infrastructure for expansion, without the need for a move to the suburbs, where larger spaces would have been more available for the expanding family.

Performance

Urban on the northern face at street level, the property gives way to a dramatic drop on the southern side in relation to Rock Creek, and the extended natural preserve that is its legacy. The house builds up on the formality of the front –its requisite symmetries, order and tone—while giving way for a more open informality on the south taking advantage of its relationship to the sun and greenery. By expanding the areas of glazing on the south, and establishing a more precise relationship between the rooms and their respective apertures, a new architectural order is established on the south – more informal, open and in dialogue with nature. At the same time, this very simple strategy imposed may be one of the most radical impacts on the structure of the building. With the two new multi-height spatial interventions the once stratified realms of storage, bedrooms, work areas and living areas become interconnected and seamlessly intertwined allowing family members to interact even when not in the same space. Additionally space was designated for both the mother and father of the house to have their own defined office spaces to allow more time to be spent at home. Economical in its spatial organization, the project leverages the existing composition of the house to maximize its architectural and programmatic impact without the need for demolition or an entire new construction.

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The shallow house capitalizes on its steep site