Arritt Farmhouse / OnSite

© Courtesy of

Architects: OnSite
Location: Virginia,
Project Managers: Marie and Keith Zawistowski
Project Team: Sean King, Patrick Hummel, Erin Carraher
Structural Engineering: Pierre LaFlamme
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Courtesy of OnSite Architecture

The project consisted of the complete renovation of an existing two hundred year old farmhouse and the design and construction of a new three story tower addition. The addition, a quilting studio and guest rooms, is conceived as a torqued translucent volume with punched window openings that frame particular creek and mountain views.

structure axo
© Courtesy of OnSite Architecture

The time-tested timber framing techniques uncovered while renovating the existing house inspired the tower’s structure. A three-dimensional computer model enabled the building to be constructed as a kit of parts, each pre-cut and coded for efficient assembly. The building’s translucent polycarbonate envelope conforms to the, hyperbolic shape, baths the interior spaces in an even natural light and reveals a sculptural timber frame. The building is the resolutely modern expression of an ancient technique.

Cite: "Arritt Farmhouse / OnSite" 29 Jul 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>
  • cl

    Is the addition heated & cooled? Insulated? Does the polycarbonate skin over timber with the large airspace act as insulation? What about vapor/air barrier? is it needed? It is in Virginia, so I would suspect some level of heating & cooling is required?

    • R Goldschmidt

      It will probably made by a good insulation, but from 5 to 5 years it must be change all the polycarbonate panels. But about vapor/air barrier I don’t know what to say. I don’t whant to think about the condens inside. It looks a little bit fechwerk stile in th night. I like the house shape, but the walls…

  • jdcarling

    Please describe the heating and cooling of the home. Include insulation techiniques and waterproof techiniques of walls.


  • Susan

    the polycarbonate skin over timber with the large airspace act as insulation? What about vapor/air barrier? is it needed? It is in Virginia, so I would suspect some level of heating & cooling is required?

  • ozmoto

    Why does the building lean?

  • voisin de ville

    polycarbonate is used this way in France, and normally propose a good insulation.
    I wl=ould ask the same question as ozmoto:
    what justifies this form ? structure stabilty ? symbole ? nothing just ?
    If it’s “nothing easthetic pleasur”, I would say this is just a demonstration of ability to draw and to organise a site … youpi what a fun …

  • freq

    “Why does the building lean?” / “what justifies this form?”

    Why not? / The pleasure of looking at it? Would that suffice? What reasons would you accept? And why?

    • ozmoto

      I didn’t ask it not to lean…. the pleasure is yours not mine…. weak….I’d have to have a good reason….I’m curious.

  • John

    Perhaps the building leans because it is using historic buildings as a precedent, structures which are often no longer square.

    • ozmoto

      Oh… and the building glows at night like historic leaning buildings do.

  • wpgmb

    so what? it’s a fun project. almost like something you’d find in Tokyo. not bad for Virginia.

  • OnSite

    John got it right: the addition is built on the footprint of an old slave kitchen, that was not built nearly as well as the rest of the house and was on its way to falling down. While we had to demolish this building (the timber was reused in the renovation), there was a lot of sentimental value attached to it on the owners part. The “lean” to the new addition, which is torqued 3.5 degrees, recalls the one of the old kitchen before it had to be taken down. The new addition being translucent, we call it the ghost of the old kitchen.

    As far as the insulation question is concerned, the two layers of self insulated polycarbonate panels coupled with the trapped air in the wall cavity provide the building’s insulation.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • LD

    That narrow umbilical-cord-like hallway is a failed and desperate attempt to link the old and the new structures. Come on, you can think of a better solution than that.

    The architects should have combined the two balconies on the second floor of the old building while they were there. “Hey neighbour!”

    • Megan

      No way LD: The clear separations between old and new are what gives this project its gentle elegance.

      • Josh

        Agreed Megan. I would have taken it a step further and tried to completely dematerialize the connection and made it even lighter/transparent. The play of old and new reminds me of a couple projects I saw over in Europe, notable the Jewish Museum in Berlin (the way Libeskind leaves a gap between the Coliegenhaus and his glass courtyard, and the underground passage way to the new building) and Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Gasometer City housing in Vienna.

        I love the attention to materiality in the addition and the dialogue it has with the existing house.

      • LD

        No way Megan: It only more clearly divides old and new, rather than “gently” or “elegantly” unites.

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  • ryan

    pomo is back!

  • Nicholas

    This is really beautiful,What is it really for?

  • Matt

    I admire the idea and the subtlety. At night the intention speaks most loudly. The issue I am having is the execution. The cheap windows and the unfinished interior detailing degrade the project rather than help amplify it. If the architects’ point was to help us pay more attention to the old building, greater refinement of the new construction could’ve made this project a real success. As is, it’s just not quite there.