LocationPortland, United States
Architect in ChargeBenjamin Waechter Architect
Structural EngineerMunzing Structural Engineering
ConstructorPrutting and Co.
Text description provided by the architects. Steep Slope
The Tower House is perched on a small shelf along steep topography downhill from NW Cornell Road. It touches the ground lightly and is built up rather than out. The house is accessed by a thin steel pedestrian bridge that meets the house at its mid level, the dining room and hub of the house. The site is tucked away with just enough street frontage to access the site.
The uphill side of the site is nestled into a stand of douglas fir and pine trees characteristic of nearby Forest Park. The downhill side drops off with undisturbed panoramic views of the city and mountains beyond. Like a medieval tower house, this tower house has one primary room per floor with support spaces incorporated into the building perimeter.
The Tower House is conceived as 3 main rooms (LIVING, DINING and BEDROOM) floating loosely in a tubular shaped building skin or “sleeve.” These are the dominant rooms of the house. They are tall, generous volumes of space finished with oil rubbed quarter sawn white oak. They are simple, quiet rooms with a sense of luxury that comes from authenticity and craft. The white oak palate is limited to these spaces creating a strong threshold between inside the room and out, heightening ones sense of being held and contained.
The cladding of the house is seen as a sleeve, as if it were a stretchable garment pulled down tight over the structure. It is made of black vertical corrugated steel with rounded corners eliminating the need for corner trim. It is a continuous, uninterrupted surface punctuated only by the window openings and loggias.
Between the 3 main rooms and the exterior sleeve of the house, the spaces take on a cellular structure, adjusting to fit functional requirements while keeping within the space provided. Stairs, bathrooms and closets are the building blocks of this interstitial space.
The stairway, with offset interior and exterior openings, acts as light loft refracting light within its 3 foot width and providing the main rooms with a soft, filtered ambient glow. Closets and bathrooms have an intimate scale with a sense of being tucked away, hidden and private.