BEBOUT RESIDENCE / KENTUCKY
SITE: 70 acres in rural Kentucky
PROGRAM: Home for two
SIZE: 1,500 sq. ft. (gross)
COMPLETION: 2009 (design)
NOTES: WF and TS Steel Frame, concrete on mtl decking
PROJECT TEXT: On a spectacular 70 acre site in rural Kentucky a husband and wife will build their retirement home. The property includes three meadows, a stream and the woods dividing and surrounding the meadows. The house will sit just inside the treeline separating the first and second meadows, with a view out to the second, away from the road. From the road the house will be invisible, even in winter when the leaves are gone, because the meadow is crowned and the house is just over the rise.
The owner is a jack of all trades, a contemporary renaissance man—deer hunter (bow, rifle), conservationist, steel fabricator, police officer, [ ]. He will build the structure himself, by hand, over the next five years leading up to his retirement from the police force. This fact has inspired the straightforwardness and simplicity of the design. Its elemental nature can also be understood as a response to the unspoiled purity of the site itself. The house is intended to occupy its site as if it occurred naturally there, with the sort of direct, honest, pragmatic presence of a barn or other working building. And it will be a working building because the owners intend to dwell there actively, living off the land and off the grid, hunting, gathering and farming. This implies a restraint that is challenged by an equally strong architectural ambition and a recognition of the importance of this structure in the lives of its inhabitants as not only their home but their world—or at least as the mothership within a world completely encompassed by the woods and three meadows where they will live out the rest of their lives.
The house reposes on a modest slope. Divided diagonally onto two levels, the layout of the house follows this slope, with the more private areas on the upper level looking out to the primary view, over the public areas on the lower level. To effect this level change the otherwise simple rectangular volume twists up in one corner, with the result that one transverse elevation adopts the angle of the slope while the opposite is steadfastly horizontal. This twist sets up the primary architectural problem, which plays out on the interior along the diagonal fold line, with the program arranging itself to either side on the two levels. A deep deck runs along the entire public side of the building, continuously connected to the interior by a double-glazed sliding glass door system that draws the life of the house to this (view) side of the structure, where it can spill outside during the pleasant months of the year. The private portions of the house are set back from this glass, on the upper level, where they are more enclosed and secure.
By such measures it is hoped that this small house will be able to provide a satisfying variety of experience and flexibility of use through the seasons and over the years without compromising its essential simplicity.