The douglas house

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The douglashouse :

Architect Richard Meier Location Harbor Springs, Michigan map Date 1973 timeline Building Type house Climate temperate Context lakeside slope Style Modern Notes white massing rising from evergreens.Subscribers - login to skip ads The Douglas House is dramatically situated on an isolated site that slopes down to Lake Michigan. So steep is the fall of the land from the road down to the water that the house appears to have been notched into the site, a machined object perched in a natural world. The entry to the house extends beyond the building envelope. Here, as the sharp downhill grade of the land requires the house to be entered at roof level, it takes the form of a flying bridge that seems to shear off the top of the frontal plane. The east side, facing the road, is the private zone, protected by a taut white membrane pierced by square apertures and horizontal strip windows. The unimpeded flow of space between this wall and the hillside is accentuated by the roof-level bridge, and experienced as an activated void that further seals the private zone from the road. Once inside the entry vestibule, the view opens to the West, down to both the living and dining levels, and out to a large roof deck overlooking Lake Michigan. As in the Smith and Hoffman houses, the living-room fireplace is located directly opposite the entry, but in this case it is two stories below. At roof level, its stainless-steel smokestacks act as a foil to the entry and frame the view. Horizontal circulation moves along four open corridors, stacked one above the other behind a screen wall. Internal and external staircases provide vertical passage at the corners. A skylight running nearly the full length of the roof-deck focuses sunlight into the living room, reinforcing the separation between the public and private sectors of the house.The living room virtually hovers in the landsape within three glass walls. The fireplace anchors the room, binding the floor to the lake's horizon as if the water itself were cantilevered from the bricks. The house's levels can be traced in the mullions of the glazing. The dramatic horizontals of the lake's surface, the horizon, and the shoreline elide into these articulations. Vertical mullions fan out from the corners, carrying with them the lines of the great trees alongside the house. The unimpeded flow of space from inside to out, so powerfully inscribed in the Smith House, is rendered more profound.Photo 1: Scott Frances/EstoPhoto 2: Ezra Stoller/EstoPhoto 3: Scott Frances/Esto

entry floor plan

Hovering over the shores of Lake Michigan, the Douglas House was built by Richard Meier in 1971-1973 for Jim and Jean Douglas. The house is gently placed on a steep slope over the water, almost as if it is floating amongst the trees. As Meier stated about the house, So steep is the slope to the water that the house appears to have been dropped into the site, a machinecrafted object that has landed in a natural world. The dramatic dialogue between the whiteness of the house and the primary blues and greens of the water, trees, and sky allows the house not only to assert its own presence but to enhance, by contrast, the beauty of its natural environment as well. More on the Douglas House after the break. Due to its location, Meier layered four floors and anchored the house into the hill. The entry is on the east side of the house facing the road, which Meier considers the private zone and is expanded by a roof-level bridge. Once inside the entry vestibule there is a continuation to a roof-deck, and the living room and kitchen are seen two stories below with the fire place in view across from the entry, typical in homes designed by Meier.

Flickr / joe83ltu The public zone of the house, including the living room and dining room, faces Lake Michigan and gives the impression of a completely different place when compared to the deceiving one-story entry space. The living room is open to the surrounding landscape with three large floor-to-ceiling windows, which was heavily used on the western side of the house to take advantage of the view. It also receives sunlight through a skylight that further separates the public and private zones. The bedrooms were designed small and cabin-like, intimate for their private function. The layers of the floors are read on the exterior through

these window mullions, and the interior public and private zones can also be determined depending on the number and sizes of the windows.

Flickr / joe83ltu Circulation through the house is primarily horizontal with the open floor plans except for two staircases, one interior and one exterior, on the corners of the house. Their placement was intended in order to not interrupt the horizontal views towards the outdoors.

Flickr / joe83ltu As is typical of Meier buildings, the house is completely white made with reinforced concrete and glass except for two steel pipes that extend from the chimney up to the roof, framing views at the entry level. The white of the house allows it to stick out as a man-made object on the landscape during the changing colors of the seasons, which can be experienced inside through the large glass panels. These natural surroundings were also taken into consideration during the construction of the house where as few trees were removed as possible in order to leave the landscape in its most natural state while forcing the house to integrate with it.

After a three year construction period, the Douglas House was completed. Meier furnished the home with furniture designed by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and himself, and when completed it needed no ornamentation other than the nature it was designed around. Meiers work enabled the house to extend with the natural horizontals of the shoreline, the lakes surface, and the horizon while following the pattern of the trees with vertical mullions, creating generous spacious continuity from interior to exterior. Architect: Richard Meier Location: Harbor Springs, Michigan Project Year: 1971-1973 Photographs: Depending on the photograph: AIA or on Flickr and seen on WiredNewYork, joe83ltu References:, MyNorth, WiredNewYork


floor plan

west elevation

The Douglas House design by one of our favorite architects, Richard Meier is based on the shores of Lake Michigan. The house is one of several spectacular residences Richard Meier completed early in his career and that helped to solidify his reputation. The whiteness and pure geometry of the house stand in sharp contrast to the pine trees

that surround it. The openness of the plan and the glass elevations ensure dramatic lake and shoreline views


Richard Meier's Douglas House 1971-73 Harbor Springs, Michigan USA On a steep and obviously isolated hill in the Michigan town of Harbor Springs sits the Douglas House, one of my personal favourites of Meier's private homes. It looks larger than it really is, because of all the glass, but I can assure you its footprint is small, and its multileveled "wedding cake" design is carefully executed to anchor it on this hill:

House on a Hill - The "Public" Sector of the Douglas House


The "public" sector of Douglas House - "public/private" are Meierian expression - faces Lake Michigan. To get there, however, one must drive, walk or cycle along a narrow road and enter on the eastern or "private" side. That side looks like it is not part of the structure at all, with few windows and the look of a white wall. This rear entrance is actually to the roof of the building, via a flying bridge. After descending into the building, which is essentially a summer retreat, imagine relaxing in this interior space: Douglas House - Interior (complete with chairs that are designed by Le Corbusier)

Closed Blind View from One Direction

View of Area from Reverse Direction with Blinds Raised

flickr / joe83ltu on left, k-NAP on right

More on Douglas House - the 'Private Side' exterior Quote: "So steep is the slope to the water that the house appears to have been dropped into the site, a machine-crafted object that has landed in a natural world. The dramatic dialogue between the whiteness of the house and the primary blues and greens of the water, trees, and sky allows the house not only to assert its own presence but to enhance, by contrast, the beauty of its natural environment as well." Richard Meier, Richard Meier, Architect, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976) We have already noted that the "front entrance" is seldom shown on either the Smith or the Douglas House. Further, that Meier prefers to call this side - the "private side" (or "private sector," if there are two or more sides involved). Why does he do that? Let's take two views of the Douglas House on the private side:

Private Side of Douglas House: left is entrance via the "flying Bridge" right is view from that bridge on the northeastern side

flickr / joe83ltu

There is no attempt to dress this side up. For Meier, this is a private side that is meant only for service and entry functions. The flying bridge, which is a vaguely Medieval phrasing, evokes the image of a moat and crossing into a protected castle. Below is a black-and-white view of the public sector, photographed by the AIA. The house actually sits on a seamless pedestal, that is the same width and depth of the v