pittsburgh, pennsylvania

The unique challenges of site and the lost traditions of place can lead to a new architectural form which makes architecture inseparable from its site, topography, region, and tradition. Built on and adjacent to the foundation of a residence built in the 1960s at the end of a cul-de-sac on a sloping site neighboring a wooded park, this new home gives the impression of a small scale one-story residence from the residential street while becoming a three-story residence from the park landscape.

The main level of the residence is conceived of as a tree house/ shelter, perched above the steeply sloping terrain. To preserve the owner's privacy, the upper level of the home does not have extensive low windows to the park and its trails; instead, a continuous clerestory connects the owners to the tree tops and the sky. Within the residence a spatial sequence provides the participant with the feeling of being a part of the tree canopy, the slope of the terrain, the cave as sheltered privacy and lastly, the ground and the connecting landscape.

The home's irregular geometry is generated from the specifics of the site geometries, the cul-de-sac, and the trees. Counterpoint to this non-orthogonal footprint and reminiscent of how a chain saw fells a tree, the home is unified by a continuous diagonal cut for its roof. This sloping plane reflects the unique form of the home's footprint. Similar to the voids revealed in aged tree stumps (or "ho'ki'kwi" in the language of the original inhabitants of this region, the Shawnee Indians), carved through the home is an open space containing a ramp and stair that connects the various levels of the home while providing framed views to the natural landscape.

Clad in natural poplar bark (or "oulagequi" in Shawnee) -- a material long used by the American Indians -- the home camouflages itself into the park surroundings like a underwing moth. The interior is made of American / native woods such as birch, cherry and walnut to recall the warmth of heartwood as one transverse the home's interior topographic landscape.