The Fennell residential project designed by the Oregon-based firm, Robert Harvey Oshatz, Architect, is a beautiful example of a modern home that is crucially connected to and in full respect of its natural surroundings.
The design approach espoused by the veteran Oregon-based firm is organic and deriving of great inspiration from the environment. The firm’s projects are conduits sometimes literally so in parts, to the natural exterior. Here the commitment to sustainability is solid and informs everything from the building materials used to the inside-outside, low clutter interior schemes of the rooms.
The Fennell residential project described here is a good example of the firm’s legacy. “The home predominately uses locally sourced materials; was insulated far beyond code requirements, has high performance glazing throughout, and geothermal heat pumps,” states the team.
This whimsical home stands near that beautiful tributary of the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon – The Willamette River. The fantastic, highly textured form of the structure is shaped like rolling waves made of exposed Western Red Cedar shingles, with their almost overlapping walls looking like a tight mollusc unravelling to trance music.
“Inspired by the setting, the house was designed as a series of curves that seem to flow over one another. A glue-laminated beam dives into the floor where you enter a side courtyard, while another breaks overhead,” confirms the team. The construct of the house is obviously solid but its colour scheme and space divisions are so frill-free and non-obstructive that the overall home seems almost bubble-like, one that would maybe un-dock at any time and follow the waters on its Douglas Fir log and steel stringer float.
The curvilinear, undulating shell and copper roof of the structure naturally make the ceiling fluctuate in height across the two-storeyed room arrangement, but the fairly open scheme and all the natural air and light swooping in from the clerestory windows effectively mitigate the use of energy for both artificial ventilation and illumination.
Re-assuring glue-laminated exposed beams whoosh past inside, and Brazilian cherry hardwood forms the flooring. The kitchen is solidly decked in wood and granite, making the pendant hanging lamps here look slender and highly susceptible to swaying in comparison.
Above the study is the master suite, another simple space made special by its overarching views across a balcony of the living/dining spaces and the river. There is a wonderful patio on the water, separated from the grey-white-wood ensconce of the living room by a high performance glass wall.
A clever sensory addition are the glass fillers – they are aesthetically solid in themselves, but also add to the whimsy by reflecting so much of the surroundings. The criss-crossing wooden beams in the rooms make another subtle statement that a home’s interiors don’t need geegaws and frames to look special.
The client purportedly prefers a bachelor loft-like living, and this home sure delivers on that wish. The structure, so fabulously unusual from the outside, and so simple and roomy from the inside, is actually heavily invested in the surrounding views. The river and its moods are all the home’s residents are ever going to want to complete their space.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy the Architect