The single family house forms a linear structure in a cantilever cube with one being open and the other enclosed. The house is understood frontally by the layering of principal facades. The first of these consisting of a stainless cable rail frame Cor-Ten panel and mesh fence defines the outer edge of the house's boundary. It acts as a focal point, receiving the main entrance stair between front driveway and side entrance level. The house's form is also reflected in the distortion of the plan of the two decks above.
The design illustrates a programmatic separation of the public and private areas of family life. The family in the household is intended to have a private space for reading, sleeping, bathing, and retirement. The public part of the house is located on the entry side and faces land, woods, and road. It consists of a series of closed, linear spaces organized on two and half levels. The private spaces where the family meet and entertain are at the rear of the house, overlooking the creek in the park. The spatial sequence is composed of layers that extend the vertical stratification of space generated by the organization of the plan. This stratification is parallel with and emphasized by the physical plane of entry. It is literal in reference to ‘closed’ and ‘open,’ but should be understood as a spatial metaphor because the horizontal levels are continuous between them to accommodate programmatic and social interaction. The vertical sequence of the concrete fireplace is located in the middle of the living room with two-story open, which forms a central core to provide convenient access to any part of the house.
There are two aspects to the concept of the house: one ideal and abstract, the other real and analytical. These aspects are interdependent. The abstract concept of the house is the idea of a spatially layered linear system with circulation across and along the layers from main side entrance to rear and upper private areas. The proposition to this is the acceptance of the problem, inherent in any linear system, of ending that system. The ideal aspect of the concept - vision of the world of environmental design - affects and is affected by its real and analytical response to problems related to site, program, circulation and entrance, visual accessibility, structure and enclosure.
The compact, prismatic form of the house expresses a certain attitude toward the site: apart from being a shelter, the house is also an object, reflecting and refracting the natural around it. The modern house is rooted in the historical City of Takoma Park tradition of colorful array of Bungalow and Cottage houses.
The concrete fireplace is formed with Portland cement, lime, and mortar and placed on a Bianco glazed porcelain base. Concrete is not just a building material, it is the medium for a particular craft, and it is art. At Takoma Park House, we put high value on the traditions of good craftsmanship and design. Specifically, the elements of these virtuous building traditions include:
Design: Careful consideration of the client’s living or work space, so as to elegantly assimilate utility, shape, color, and concrete’s potential for other intricacies (inlays, ground or polished finish).
Making the mold: Each concrete pour will be placed into a hand made, wood mold. The mold will not be reusable at the end of the project, thus, each project is unique in design and fabrication.
The pour: Like a river that passes by at a moment in time, no two concrete pours can ever look the same, no matter how much we may try to duplicate the conditions. Each pour produces a unique concrete casting.
Craftsmanship: From design, to casting and installation, each Concrete project is made by a team of skilled craftsmen, working together to build exceptional products.
In kitchen, the tile walls are 22mm x 22mm Tomei Silver Green Mosaic and countertop are emerald marble. All level floorings are bamboo with cinnamon wide plank, glued on Lite-Deck concrete. The terrace/landscape panel wall which is access to a carport are Cor-Ten Steel. The aluminum doors and windows are manufactured by Marvin Windows.
Dimensions: Width 7,620mm x Depth 16,459mm x Height 10,363mm for the total residential building volume. The technical specifications for construction is a mixture of Insulated Concrete Form (structural wall) and steel beams and columns. The flooring is Lite-Deck Insulation with radiant heating system. The exterior veneer is a fiber cement panel with three colors.
Gross Floor Area (mq)480
Design teamRobert Nichols
Main ContractorHorsman Homes & RSB Builders
ConsultantsChesapeake Kitchen Design, George C. Gerber, PE
SuppliersMarvin Windows & Doors, Universal Floors, Inc., Jarman Company (fireplace)
Photo CreditsTodd A. Smith Photography LLC
I received B.Arch degree in Architecture and M.Arch degree in Urban Design from Cornell University from 1975 to 1981. As an exchanged student, I studied in the built environment program at Harvard Graduate School of Design in the summer of1977. I worked as intern at the Office of the Hillier Group and Michael Graves Architects in Princeton, NJ. Prior to receive the master degree in architecture, I have greatly learned from Colin Rowe’s theories and historical teachings of modern architecture. Rowe was a professor in the Urban Design program at Cornell University, and he taught me how to create and enact a "vision of the world of architecture". I am the Owner/Principal of Nichols Design Associates, Inc. in Washington, DC and Chairman of Board of Directors for the World Deaf Architecture group, an affiliation to the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Knowledge Communities and Networks.