Madrona House / Daniel Toole Architecture + Carsten Stinn Architecture

Madrona House / Daniel Toole Architecture + Carsten Stinn Architecture

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Text description provided by the architects. The Madrona House nestles into a historic Seattle hilltop neighborhood, looking east to Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountain Range beyond. Built for a recently retired couple that owned the historic craftsman house next door, the house was designed to maximize light and connection to the outdoors, with a strong sense of mass and materiality.

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Thickness & Light – The clients wished for a concrete home centered around a courtyard with as much connection to gardens, outdoor space, and natural light as possible.  One of the partners is from Switzerland and dreamt of an all-concrete home, while the other wanted something warm that related to the neighborhood.  The home was designed as a plinth with thick walls and a hearth rising out of it, capped by a carved wooden volume. Concrete formwork was rough-sawned and allowed to shrink before pouring to produce irregular fins. These relief textures change with the time of day and the color of the sky through the seasons, giving a sense of heft and permanence to the home. Glazed openings are inset to the interior surface to express the thickness of walls, creating covered outdoor spaces where possible. Details like concealed headers, minimally exposed flashing, and a continuous reveal joint between the concrete and flush wood upper story accentuate the mass and elemental composition of the home. Light is delivered through the more open east and west ends of the home, as well as the courtyard and a few large skylights.  The north wall of the main living space catches and diffuses south light throughout the day, compensating for the minimal access to light due to the 3-story neighbor to the south. 

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Gardens & Air – Despite neighboring houses as close as five feet away, the integration of gardens and fresh air was important in the design. To the west, an entry grove and kitchen herb garden are contained by a preserved historic brick wall, while the east hillside is a miniature meadow, providing a lush foreground to the views of Lake Washington and the Cascade Range beyond.  A green roof treats runoff, provides pollinator habitat and gives a colorful backdrop for views from the second floor. Passive ventilation is achieved through a minimum of two operable openings per room, along with two larger venting skylights that allow stack ventilation through the stairwell and upper roof, creating a living environment in connection with nature and avoiding installation of air conditioning. 

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Aging in Place – As the house was designed for downsizing, aging in place was another key criterion.  The design includes a completely flat ground floor, with a zero-threshold shower that can easily be converted for accessibility. The office was designed for easy conversion into a master bedroom. Finally, an elevator pit and shaft are in place for easy installation should it be needed, with this space currently used for storage at both levels.  These measures ensure this house can be enjoyed for the rest of the clients’ lives and offer flexibility for future owners. 

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