Z HOUSE / FARSHAD FARAHI
McLean of Virginia, a lushly wooded neocolonialism suburb of Washington DC, is hardly a place to look for striking contemporary designs around the corner. There are barely any visual anchors, spectacular sceneries, or visible landmarks to inspire an architectural design experiment. But that is precisely what “Z HOUSE” intends to creating a contemporary living space in McLean.
Z House however has been designed from the start to tightly fit a 10,000sqft size and program. At the north – western tip of the existing original one – story rambler building a three -storey-high section has been added and the existing part was remodelled and adjusted to the new addition style of architecture. From the outside, this has resulted in blocking as little light and as few viewpoints as possible throughout the one-acre site, in the yard, and inside the building. The new addition form an upright Z in the plan and in the main longitudinal section (hence Z House). Though It had been integrated into one cohesive piece by wrapping the outside floors, façades and the roof in an off-white colour as a continuous surface which has started from the ground, folded to form the façades and continued to compose the roof. The roof itself is unique in its use of white rubber, a material used until now only in large-scale industrial buildings. Here, the technology has been adapted to residential construction and it helps save energy, maintains a minimalist look, and seamlessly compliments the white flow .
The most visible angle to the site is from the intersection of the two side streets. A familiar façade and roof section– found in many houses in the area – is visible on this side and assures consistency with the neighbourhood. Yet, it has been invigorated by incorporating a vine-covered pergola. Different lighting patterns during the day and in different seasons combine with the structure of this pergola to create ever-changing perspectives for passer-byes and spectators, and also lighten the form.
On the inside, the new wing houses a 28-ft high bright and airy atrium, with all major spaces arranged around it; the atrium is more than a secondary fill-in of what is left after organising the different functions: it is a liquid space , seamlessly and freely fills all the living areas in a continuous flow. This “liquid space” is a cornerstone of the design.
A large number of tactically-positioned windows and skylights bring in daylight at different amounts and at different angles during the day and open unobstructed perspectives throughout the atrium and into the outside world. Full-length mirrors open the already expansive space horizontally: their combination with the light from the windows, the glass staircase railing, and views from the natural landscape outside generates images coming out of pure fantasy; Water, in the main pool and in small ponds, has also been symbolically used to open the space -- vertically -- to new imaginary dimensions.
A Feng Shui model has been used to define and select colours used in different spaces, the artwork, furniture, and other subtle touches in different sections or directions of the house. This is to complement the free liquid flow of space with the free flow of Chi (energy).
Location: McLean, VA, USA