The fourth house in Arts & Architecture’s Case Study program departed from the trend with a noticeably more introverted design. Intended for a modestly sized urban lot, rather than the dramatic and expansive canyon or forest locations of so many other Case Study homes, it couldn’t borrow drama from the landscape, nor would the residents welcome curious glances from their close neighbors—so the house looks entirely inward.
Rapson called his design the “Greenbelt House” for the glass-covered atrium that divides the living and sleeping areas. In his original drawings and model, as in Archilogic’s 3D model shown here, this strip is shown filled with plant beds in a striking geometric pattern. However, Rapson imagined that it could be put to many uses, according to the residents’ tastes: a croquet court or even a swimming pool could find their place here. This “brings the outdoors indoors” rather more literally than, for instance, Richard Neutra’s expansive, open-door designs.
It also provided almost the only daylight and “outdoor” views for the sleeping quarters. Certainly, the main bedroom, as drawn, has no direct line of sight to the outside world—only some sunshine from the very high, shallow windows right under the eaves, and dim light filtered through opaque glass panels over the bed. Privacy has been achieved at the cost of increased claustrophobia, and reliance on an internal view fully open to the kitchen and living quarters, as well as the greenbelt.
However, there’s scope to vary that. The walls comprise grids of panels that could be fixed or moving, solid or opaque or clear glass. And Rapson specified that furniture should be designed by the architect, but “light and mobile,” even the built-in units. So although his own model shows the outside walls largely blocked by storage, that could be changed, and windows introduced (by replacing opaque with clear glass, or perhaps by opening movable panes). At the same time, the folding doors to the atrium could be closed to provide internal privacy.
Rapson’s design is aesthetically striking and self-consciously modern, with the roof dipping gently inward toward the greenbelt (rather than conventionally peaking at the center) and the wall grid with occasional bright-painted panels suggesting a Mondrian painting. Floors were to be grey concrete, ceilings off-white or—in the bathrooms—frosted glass over fluorescent lighting, turning the entire ceiling into the light source. The wall grids were also to be painted grey, and the kitchen surfaces stainless steel, with only upper cabinets fronted in wood. Again, this stands in marked contrast to the prevailing use of natural materials in other Case Study Houses.
Although this concept seems more adaptable than many of its more outdoorsy siblings in the programme, it was never built. Explore the 3D model to see how a different furniture arrangement might change the effect. Do you find this layout constraining or exciting?