AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier & Partners Architects

© AIA

Hovering over the shores of Lake , the Douglas House was built by 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 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.”

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. Meier’s work enabled the house to extend with the natural horizontals of the shoreline, the lake’s 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: RichardMeier.com, MyNorth, WiredNewYork

Cite: Perez, Adelyn. "AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier & Partners Architects" 28 May 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Dec 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=61276>
  • http://uptodayarch.blogspot.com up_today_arch

    Good piece of classic architecture… No rendering, no 3d… just paper model before…

  • spacemonkey

    Renderings and 3ds are just a tool, as they are the pencil and the paper. Using 3ds or not doesn’t mean the project is going to be better or worse, or that you have to do a building that seems a spaceship, a bug or some kind of amorphous thing.

  • spacemonkey

    Forgot to say that this house is great. Didn’t know about it.

  • http://twitter.com/mcortizp/status/14927925231 Maria C Ortiz

    :) RT @Dunnarq: Esta casa está en mi "TOP 5"!!! AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier | ArchDaily http://bit.ly/befiJu

  • Anonymous

    You got to admit though – there is a lot of deception with 3D renderers.

  • spacemonkey

    Yes but that doesn’t mean that it is 3ds fault. I’d say everyone who goes out of the school now does renders, you just have to see a student competition, in the last one I saw I just found one group that did a real model instead of a virtual one.

    So if every young architects or students do 3d models, you could associate extrange formalist projects to 3d renders or to the new generations of architects and the new tendencies. I opt for the second one.

  • The Big Black & White Zebra

    Great architecture before star-chitecture took over… like Hadid, Leibeskind and Ghery.

    • Tuf Pak

      Oh man. Richard Meier was as much a starchitect 15 years ago as Zaha is today. (and if you talk to a certain class of NY city developer, he’s still cock-of-the-walk)

      Same as it ever was, if you ask me. The echo-chamber is just a little louder now days.

      • The Big Black & White Zebra

        Yuh – same as it ever was…
        Meier was star-chi’ fifteen ago but not nearly forty when this was built… this is contextualism with a personal attitude overlay… star-chitects buildings are personal attitude in an alien context…
        Think we agree Tuf pak… no?

  • markX

    Do not even comment if you do not know about the great masters and their works.

  • sinner

    always thought the structure was a balloon frame and not reinforced concrete..like the smith house

    • sinner

      and the chimney is made of bricks

  • MiC

    Well 37 years old… :S How many houses are been build since than with similar quality? Too Much too thought about. Congratulations AD for add some classics, it’s for certain works to follow with interest. I will wait for Chemosphere of Lautner… :P

  • http://twitter.com/efayfoto/status/15067237397 Elizabeth Gouldon

    Check out: "AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier | ArchDaily"( http://twitthis.com/oylbem )

  • http://twitter.com/natash_22/status/15081357827 Natalia Chekhovska
  • http://twitter.com/isakw/status/15081867546 Isa

    Love this house, Richard Meier – Douglas House… http://migre.me/Knqx (via @archdaily) #architecture #ADclassics

  • http://twitter.com/tssveloso/status/15119993123 Tiago

    #Arquitetura – AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier http://ow.ly/1RQ5R #architecture

  • http://twitter.com/webinetrymb/status/15148270228 Michael Baugus

    Breathtaking! AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier | ArchDaily http://bit.ly/cKPFz8

  • http://twitter.com/aarondino/status/15183813488 AaronDino

    Reading: "AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier | ArchDaily"( http://twitthis.com/oylbem )

  • http://twitter.com/olivierdubois/status/15396986084 o0

    Architecture: Douglas House [Pictures] – http://ht.ly/1RTk7 (via @archdaily) #design #architecture

  • http://twitter.com/kparch2010/status/15431410322 Kevin Parent

    AD Classics: Douglas House / Richard Meier | ArchDaily: http://bit.ly/9YHzar via @addthis

  • http://twitter.com/jasonnewlin/status/15787548275 Jason Newlin

    And speaking of Architects… Richard Meier's Doouglas House was one of my favorite when I was an architecture student: http://bit.ly/906R9z

    • anthony chalfoun

      hey there!!!I am an architecture student first year and i took the douglas house as final project of the year!!if you could help please i need more info about the house…photos,sketchs,sections…i couldn’t found it i’ve been working for weeks and i’m not ready yet please help? if you could send the info at my e-mail anthony-chalfoun@live.com i would be very thankfull waiting for a reply please i would have to analyse the inner space of the house too

  • zzqdzj

    hey there!!!I am an architecture student first year and i took the douglas house as final project of the year!!if you could help please i need more info about the house…photos,sketchs,sections…i couldn’t found it i’ve been working for weeks and i’m not ready yet please help? if you could send the info at my e-mail zzqdzj@hotmail.com i would be very thankfull waiting for a reply please i would have to analyse the inner space of the house too

  • Pika-Pi

    Hello, can anyone tell me what are those trees called?