Architecture Meets Nature in This Hillside House

Los Angeles and New York City-based architectural firm FreelandBuck is no stranger to design with layers and illusions. Led by David Freeland and Brennan Buck, FreelandBuck strives to create spaces that have distinctive spatial sequences which complement the environment around them. For their project Stack House, David and Brennan bring design to a hillside.

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Standing at a dizzying four stories, Stack House is notched into the hillside itself and overlooks the San Gabriel mountains. Each room is subtly rotated to ensure a seamless transition between the interior and exterior.

We had a chat with David and Brennan to learn more about the construction of this one of a kind home.

THE PLUS: How challenging was it building on a hillside?
Brennan Buck:
The hillside site dictated the four story vertical massing and limited our ability to connect the house to the surrounding landscape. Our solution was to shift and rotate the house on each level to create a series of terrace and balcony at pull the exterior into the footprint of the house.

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TP: The available space was quite narrow. How did this influence your design process?
BB:
Working within the narrow site, we tried to create a building that didn’t only face street frontally, but addressed all four sides of the site with subtle relief and large windows.

TP: What do you like about the idea of curved walls?
BB:
The curved walls “knot” together a simple rectangular plan of four rooms at the centre creating a series of continuous views and circulation routes between rooms.

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TP: Was there any influence on the overall design idea of stacking stories like boxes?
BB:
The idea of stacking rooms helped to break down the imposing scale of the house to better fit the scale of neighbourhood.

TP: The description mentions sustainable features. Can you expand on this, and how important was sustainability to you in this design? What role does sustainability play in architecture from your point of view?
David Freeland:
Sustainability is not the way we start working on a design problem, but it is an important consideration for our clients and more globally, the environment we live in. Through focus on modest project scale, careful selection and sourcing of materials, as well efficient building systems we hope to make choices that move our projects closer to the goal of net zero building.

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TP: Did the many slant and offset elements maximise your opportunities to create a comfortable and convenient living space?
DF:
Yes, the subtle rotations of each room captured unique views of the surrounding mountains.

TP: What was the idea behind incorporating an ADU?
DF:
Providing a flexible living and income opportunity for the homeowner.

TP: How does the Stack House interact with its environment from your point of view?
DF:
Through visual connection and exterior spaces that extend the interior space through large sliding doors.

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TP: The board-and-batten cladding is striking. Was this an easy choice, and what were possible alternatives?
DF:
We also looked at stucco plaster and cement board rainscreen.

TP: What projects can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
DF:
We have a number of single family homes in development.

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Photographs by Eric Staudenmeier.

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