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Highbank Residence

A Lakeside Home to Relive Cherished Memories

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Highbank Residence
By Elisa Grossi -

Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, this large vacation home had its beginnings in the client’s cherished childhood memories of boating on the crystal-clear waters of the nearby lake in northern Iowa. Nestled in a small grove of oak trees and half-concealed in a hollow between the access road to the parcel and a shore of the lake, the house was designed as a place where the owners can host multiple generations of family.

The architects took their cue from the long horizontal lines and broad roof overhangs characteristic of Midwestern Prairie-style
residential architecture, a design that fitted perfectly with the owner’s request for a secluded, unobtrusive building that would nonetheless have splendid views over the lake. The volume – a board-formed concrete plinth supporting a wood and glass pavilion – in fact, seems to dematerialize as it ascends. Roadside, the house presents as having two levels, the series of solids and voids creating a rhythm along the façades. In contrast, the western, lakeside section follows the sloping topography and is just a single level. Here, extensive glazing gives all rooms broad views across the water. In plan, the residence consists of two rectangular blocks: a long volume running parallel to the road and lake shore containing the living environments and, perpendicular to this, a single-story garage, its roof planted with native vegetation to blend it into the landscape. The building has been slipped between the large oaks already on the parcel. As well as shading the house and grounds, they also guarantee the privacy requested by the client.

The house is reached via a stone pathway through a meadow of wildflowers. The design creates a continuum between external and internal spaces via the use of extensive glazing and the same materials throughout: concrete and wood on both the façades and interiors, albeit treated to give a different tactility – rough on the...

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