Matryoshka House / David Jameson Architect

© Paul Warchol Photography

Located in , Maryland this small house is organized as a series of volumes nested one inside another.  At the core of the volumes is a suspended meditation chamber.  Follow the break for more photographs and drawings of Matryoshka House by David Jameson Architect.

Architects: David Jameson Architect, Inc.
Location: Bethesda, Maryland,
Principal: David Jameson, FAIA
Project Architect: Matthew Jarvis
Contractor: Added Dimensions, Inc.
Project Area: 3,200 sqf
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Paul Warchol Photography

© Paul Warchol Photography

The suspended box acts as the physical and spiritual center of the project.  The internal energy of the meditation chamber is encapsulated within an open glowing frame. An alternating tread stair engages the participant to deliberately ascend the threshold to the meditation chamber.

© Paul Warchol Photography

The meditation chamber is surrounded by a wooden container which encases the living areas of the house. This shell is in turn cradled by stucco walls serving as a protective layer and grounding the house to the earth. The in-between spaces of the nested volumes are strategically sliced to allow the sun to project lines of light within. By separating the three shells, the interstitial spaces allow light to become an architectural material that activates the interior.

first floor plan
© Paul Warchol Photography
Cite: "Matryoshka House / David Jameson Architect" 26 Dec 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • up_today_arch

    Would be very interesting to see more detaled drawings for this suspended box…. It is core of the project…

  • Allan

    Everything is perfect about the house, except the meditation box above the hall. It doesn’t fit there and the material is wrong (white associated with meditation is a cliche; the white plaster seems cheap and the box has shower room doors.) Maybe if it was covered with wood to distinguish it.
    And is it good to meditate in a cantilever?

    That said I think the house has only minor flaws. I really love the exterior (really-really) and most of the interior is perfect.

    • Josh

      Completely agree Allan, if you are going to showcase something, then showcase it. Let it be the focal. The stairs up to the meditation are INCREDIBLY akward from style to function.

      Lets take out the meditation box, now we have given air and lightness to a rather congested modern box house. Visual lightness and cohesiveness would be well received. As it stands, there is no break. There is a lot of tension (too much for me).

  • Timo Lorenzen-Schmidt

    It is so refreshing to see some contemporary architecture succeed in such an ultra conservative housing environment particularly in the DC Washington Metro Area. This House is such a beautiful gem and full of surprises in the details of which my favorites are the entrance ramps over the planters and the nifty stairs leading to the meditation chamber. Great Job Owner, Architect and Contractor!

    • Keith


      Well said. I think what’s overlooked, more often than not, is the body of work being done in DC Washington Metro Area by this firm as you pointed out. Hit the nail on the head right there.

  • All

    Wow, is it a dentist cabinet hanging there? No, wait, it’s a meditation cabinet, but that said, I’ve got to tell that the house is really fantastic (REALLY). From the outside to the inside. Good to live in.
    Only the white med room I don’t like at all (Maybe if it was covered with wood…).
    One of my favorite…

  • Holcim Awards US

    This is a great simple well designed house. Fantastic detailing and wonderful materials.

  • Jerry Seinfeld

    This house reminds me of typical suburban modernism. In terms of construction and detailing, it is of course well planned and executed, especially given the constraints of local craftsmanship, which prefer prefabricated materials and cost effective labor. The design itself is not very clear, it seems like it takes taste and aesthetic preference to truly appreciate the outcome. The interior is definitely more interesting than the exterior, the idea of different shells and finally an unconventional space like the floating chamber has it’s charm. The exterior however reeks of outdated taste. A mix between abstract and figurative, this house seems like a collage of concepts.

    • Newman

      Hello, Jerry.

  • Kramania

    I agree with Jerry here, this building is not in particular clear in it’s idea.

    I really think that there is a lot of villa projects at archdaily, that are not so interesting in terms of architecture as a tradition or field for research. Exceptions exist, and pherhaps there is local elements that is part of some form of tradition or empirical field.

    Suburban modernism should definitley be discussed. Most architects avoid this field, and there is little thought or writing on the field that reaches the broad masses. Very odd, concidering how sprawl happens everywhere in the world at present.

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