In-Between Spaces and Overhangs
According to San Antonio architects David Lake and Ted Flato (Lake/Flato): “Spaces between buildings are as important as the buildings themselves.” I couldn’t agree more. Compelling outdoor rooms — like the one Lake/Flato conjured out of exterior wall, overhang, pipe, and wire (below) — are signature features of their work.
(Photo courtesy the Lake/Flato website.) And I’d go a little farther and say that the space adjacent to the house is as important as the house itself. This “space between” is the architectural lever that allows you to connect house and lot in a memorable way.
There is something utterly compelling about a well proportioned outdoor living room — whether it’s a generous patio or a simple terrace or balcony — especially in warm weather. It’s where we want to be for breakfast, a noonday meal, or to watch the setting sun over a frosty margarita. As a famous early 20th century maxim from the Hillside Club of Berkeley, California put it: “Hillside architecture is landscape gardening around a few rooms for use in case of rain.” This very quotation inspired the design of a house by San Francisco architects Mary Griffin and William Turnbull, which is organized around a grass courtyard and the breezeway dining room shown below:
(Photo courtesy TGH Architects.)
An example by San Francisco landscape architect Andrea Cochran illustrates how an outdoor room can be both a journey and a destination: paving and low walls define walkways leading to and becoming sitting areas.
(Photo from Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture.) It’s at the rear of a row house and in its linear geometry recalls the influential zig-zaggy Jerd Sullivan garden from the 1930s by San Francisco landscape architect Thomas Church, below:
(Photo from Gardens Are For People, New York, Reinhold, 1955)
As you browse plans, think about ways to connect house and site. Extending the roof is one way to accomplish this. Architect Harwell Hamilton Harris used an inverted gable to provide shade for balconies and frame vistas in his iconic modern Weston Havens house in the Berkeley hills of 1941:
The justly famous black and white photograph by surrealist Man Ray (above) vividly captures the dynamism of the design, how the roofs soar over the balconies like a bi-plane’s wings and seem to lift the house aloft. (Photo courtesy CED Archives.) It connects not just to the downsloping site but to the entire Bay Area!
Here are some other overhang strategies to prompt your own thinking about how to shape outdoor space.
In this design by Balance Associates of Seattle, the shed roof extends well beyond the house proper.
And, with the V-shaped support, artfully brackets the meadow view. (Both photos courtesy BalanceAssociates.)
A well-proportioned flat roof is equally eloquent as a frame, as in the so-called “glorietta” or roofdeck at the Edgar Kaufmann residence in Palm Springs of 1947, designed by Richard Neutra and meticulously restored by more recent owners (photo by Joe Fletcher for Ranch Houses: Living The California Dream.)
Sheltering balconies and porches with an open gable is another way to go, as Austin, Texas architect Heather McKinney (now McKinney/York Architects) shows in this handsome example.
In short, there are many ways to design for living outside the box.