Alex Thompson

Alex Thompson

New York, NY, US


Seigel Street House

This project was an entry for a competition to design a home that would stay within a given energy usage.  The house, meant for a small family, was set in a residential neighborhood of Seattle where the lots are close together.  To address the energy constraints, I combined several conservation methods.  Most significantly, I took advantage of the site’s seven foot increase in grade and re-graded it to create a berm in the northwest corner.  The berm acts as a thermal mass and modulates the house’s internal temperature.  Temperature is also controlled by the double-skinned roof, which works under the same rationale of dressing in layers, keeping the interior cool in warm weather and vice versa.  The overall window area is low for a typical house, reducing heat lost through the glass area, but the space is still bright, thanks to a single level and minimal partitions.  A skylight runs the length of the house, creating natural circulation through evaporation and reducing HVAC energy consumption.  The floor slab of the living room continues outdoors to a shaded terrace, creating an extension of the living space without added energy costs.  A shallow bio pond wraps the terrace, bouncing additional light into the  communal spaces.

Coincidentally, I had just taken my first trip to Seattle right before entering this competition, so the vernacular of the area was fresh in my mind as I designed the house.  Aesthetically, I designed toward a pared-down version of the prototypical Craftsman.  To achieve this, I turned to a combination of materials – smooth board-formed concrete and wood planking – and combined clean, inscrutable elements with ones that were articulated and warm.  

A final consideration was privacy.  The front façade, with its flat face and partial wall, is enigmatic.  The thickness of the front facade’s section dampens noise from the street.  Meanwhile, the berm on the north side and the elevated biopond on the south side act as buffers from the neighbors without resorting to overt barriers.  The house is also split into communal and private sides by the central hall.  The communal side contains the living, dining, and kitchen areas, and has an open floorplan and fluidity between indoors and out.  The private side, meanwhile, has enclosed bedrooms and nestles against the berm, lending it an air of quiet security. 

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Seattle, WA, US