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House no. 4

Research, prototypes and context

Easton+Combs

House no. 4
By Caterina Testa -

Architecture practice Easton+Combs was founded by Lonn Combs and Rona Easton in New York in 2004. After a stint at Rome’s American Academy, the firm opened a new office in the rural Berkshires of western Massachusetts between Boston and New York. This was the start of a new series of ventures that took two prevalently urban architects into building for rural settings. In recent years, the Berkshires office has focused on applied research into energy-efficient houses and economical, low-environmental impact building methods whose aesthetic approach is rigorously essential and minimalist. Although well honed in many building sectors, Easton+Combs are now prevalently concerned with residential projects, for which they develop scrupulously researched prototypes studied for the particular location in question. This was the approach to House No. 4, set in the woods of the Berkshires hills. The actual building was preceded by a series of models and prototypes enabling the firm to experiment with a series of architectural and construction solutions that were then put into practice. The preceding projects - Houses No. 1, 2 and 3 - are the typical way in which the practice approaches a brief, combining research into the external conditions with design of the building’s interior. Natural daylighting and the consequent maximizing of energy efficiency are key elements determining internal spatial distribution. House No. 1 was the first in the series of residential prototypes. Developed as a case study for a system of experimental prefabricated walls in high thermal performance material, the aim was also to base interior spatial distribution on passive building design principles. Spatial distribution was consequently organized around three carefully oriented patios that took light into the furthest reaches of the house and also provided natural ventilation. House No. 2 looked at how to develop a synergic mix between active energy solutions, passive energy saving...

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