In a golf course community in Fayetteville, Arkansas, dominated by traditional homes, the Shaw Residence is decidedly modern and thoughtfully adapted to its hilltop site. Based on a Roman courtyard house, the house turns inwards to a secluded courtyard that organizes the program around it and opens to the forest to the south, while revealing the slope of the natural topography. In true Roman fashion, the compluvium roof collects rainwater for irrigation of native plants.
The low slung body of the house is a simple rectilinear form that begins as a figural, expressive front to a planar, framed rear. The brick on the main facade is textured to emphasize the public face, punctuated by a generous canopy over the front door, while the southern, rear façade, the painted steel plate cladding gives the appearance of having been cleaved - the brick volume cut open and exposed to the woods beyond. The garage extends to the east, connected to the main house by an art studio. Carefully framed windows punctuate the brick front and sides while the interior is lined with continuous glazing around the courtyard.
The courtyard and covered terrace expand the living area of the house, taking advantage of the Arkansas climate and the significant time that can be spent comfortably outside. The terrace itself serves as a brise soleil and a bridge between the wings of the house, screening the occasionally intense southern sun as one of many passive and active sustainability strategies. With a geothermal system to provide heating and cooling, high efficiency lighting and plumbing fixtures, and insulation exceeding the energy code, the house is extremely efficient, quiet, and comfortable.
Warm, tactile materials fill the interior, including a rift cut white oak ceiling throughout the house and outside on the covered terrace, only interrupted by generous light wells. The brick of the exterior reappears inside for the fireplace fronts in the living room and main bedroom, each washed in sunlight. Polished concrete floors are warmed by radiant heat, with a herringbone stone tile border evocative of the brick texture on the front. Wrapped around the courtyard, the main living and dining spaces all enjoy distant views through an elevated, covered terrace and immediate views into a landscape of native plants and grasses that terraces down to the forest.
Embracing the significant change in topography - a geographic feature in the Ozarks - the house gradually projects from the hillside, revealing a series of foundation wall ‘fins’ that give the house another kind of scale and texture. With a variety of comfortable spaces to enjoy, flowing from inside to out and back again, the Shaw Residence is a thoughtful alternative to the conventional homes that surround it, with a contemporary language that draws from timeless traditions.
Marlon Blackwell Architects (MBA) is an agile, full-service design firm based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Our belief that architecture can happen anywhere, at any scale, at any budget—for anyone—drives us to challenge the conventions and models that often obscure other possibilities. We use an economy of means to deliver a maximum of meaning in places where architecture is often not expected to be found.