Text description provided by the architects. The Optic House was a collaborative design effort by Randy Brown Architects and their client. As a famous eyeglass designer, the client requested an instrument for viewing and to be viewed. The inspiration for the design revolved around the branch of physics known as Optics. This branch specifically studies the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it.
Stepping up the rolling hills of this sparse Nebraska landscape, the house sits on the edge of a 100-acre lake. The house is a foreign gesture on the land, terracing up the hill to take advantage of the dramatic views. The concrete plinth is tucked into the hillside with a wood framed cement board clad fragmented form which stands out as a sculpture in the landscape. Closer inspection of the site reveals that the folding ground plane was the inspiration for the folded walls that cant and slide creating spaces and voids that come to life with sunlight. Dancing shadows bring dimension to the exterior as the sun moves around the house. The voids create apertures to allow the sunlight inside and to frame views of the lake and horizon.
Inside a monumental steel stair connects the bedrooms with the living spaces. The main floor is a series of open spaces that allow for cooking, eating, relaxing and working. The main entertaining space is a two-story volume with an adjacent terrace that overlooks the lake. Scrim walls and custom sliding doors create flexibility and allow for a desired amount of day-lighting. Just as the client talks of fitting eyeglasses to the head, the positioning of the house on the site and the user’s movement through it evokes an awareness of the ground plane and the user’s removal and reconnection to it.
The client’s language and ideas of material and tectonics were an impetus to creating a tectonic language of folding, framing, and transitional transparency throughout the house. This language assisted in addressing issues such as western exposure to sunlight, while not taking away from the potential of the architecture to celebrate the views.