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TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

United States Architecture News - May 06, 2020 - 16:33   2963 views

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

San Francisco and New York-based architecture practice TW Ryan Architecture has completed a family house that is pure and primitive in form and defined only by chimneys, walls and roofs in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States.

Called Three Chimney House, the 538,83-square-metre house is the first ground-up project of the firm. 

The project is part of a 45-acre site situated on the west of the Ivy with rolling hillsides, featuring a small pond and unimpeded views west toward the Shenandoah Mountains.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

As the studio highlights, the client’s 45-acre property was originally part of a larger Homestead used in the Civil War as a hospital for wounded, and most recently used as open fields for horse training and grazing. 

The last remaining structure on the unoccupied property at the time of purchase was a dilapidated 1960s hunting cabin.

TW Ryan Architecture designed the house for a young family of four with deep roots in the area, the architecture of the house takes inspiration from traditional Southern colonial houses, which the architect had also grown up around. 

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Abstracting and re-interpreting these materials and archetypal elements, both client and architect envisioned finding a timeless yet contemporary voice for Southern architecture in America.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

"Conversations about Three Chimney House began in Brooklyn soon after the founding of TW Ryan Architecture in 2013," explained the studio.

"Early phases working with the client on this project involved an intensive search for land in horse country surrounding Charlottesville."

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Siting, Form & Function

The siting of Three Chimney House is derived from the specificities of the land. It sits at the edge of the woods, roughly in a north-south orientation but rotating each of the house’s main functions into separate wings that frame picturesque natural views from each room. 

For example, the Main Hall is oriented west toward the sunset while the rotation of the Residential Wing captures view of wintergreen mountain ski slopes.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Entry Hall, Main Hall, Residential Wing and Guest House

The central structure of the house begins from the driveway as a low-slung single-story modernist-in- spired light-colored brick Entry Hall. A library linked by a glass-walled gallery anchors the house on the entry side. 

Upon entering, the warmth of the exterior carries to the interior while the circulation of the Main Hall unfolds and visitors’ interactivity with the three iconic chimneys animates their understanding of the architecture. 

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

The Main Hall—which contains the kitchen, dining room and living room—looks and opens up to wide, unobstructed views of the Shenandoah Mountains. 

The wood-clad Residential Wing is attached to the south side of the Main Hall via a hallway to create a threshold for entering the more private spaces of the house. Branching off the Main Hall to the north are an art studio and guest house.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Establishing & Adhering to Design Principles

"We wanted to create a house that is pure and primitive in form, defined by chimneys, walls and roofs. Derived from the specificities of the local context, the design principles for the house aim to be timeless, durable, self-evident," added the studio. 

"The end results required a close reading of local building traditions."

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Materials & Construction

Brick, Copper, Stone, Wood - The client requested that the success of Three Chimney House be measured over centuries, in opposition to the mere decades of many suburban housing developments being built across the south. 

With this mandate, materials were selected for their long history of use in the area, longevity and ability to patina over time. The hope was that the construction success of the house would be measured against the nearby colonial forbearers rather than the modern houses under construction today.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Chimneys

Derived from the great chimneys of Stratford Hall, not far from where both clients grew up in Virginia. The three great chimneys mark the house on the site. 

At 30 feet in height, they are visible from almost every vista of the 45-acre site, serving as a point of orientation when the clients are walking the grounds with their energetic Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Walls

Serving as a counterpoint to the chimneys, 12-foot tall site walls define the progression of movement through the house. They intentionally conceal and reveal the panoramic mountain views while registering the sloping natural landscape against the house. 

Mies van der Rohe’s early 1920s brick country house serves as an inspiration for how the natural landscape can be made clearer by the built construction, while not being tamed. 

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

The particular bricks are standard size and lime coated prior to firing in the kiln. Mortar joints are rough and flush to the face, emphasizing the mass of the surface instead of the individual brick units. 

Over time the lime baked surface of the bricks will age. The wood walls of the Residential Wing are inspired by the black cedar post fencing around the property as well as being a traditional finish for barns and house farms. They are constructed of 5” vertical lounge and groove rough sawn cedar boards and finished with a black cabot’s stain.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Roofs

Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello nearby, natural copper roofs cover the three pitched volumes of the house. Formed with 18” wide sheets of copper, the top and bottom 4 feet of each standing seam has been beaten down by hammer to create a flat edge, giving a clean, sharp definition to the roof edge. 

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

The copper will patina over time eventually ending in verdigris approximately 50 years from now and marking the passage of time.

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Site plan

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

First floor plan

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Second floor plan

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Site section

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Elevations

TW Ryan Architecture designs house that is primitive in form and defined by chimneys in Virginia

Axonometric drawing 

TW Ryan Architecture, founded by Thomas W. Ryan, AIA, NCARB, is a San Francisco-based architecture and design firm that combines construction and craft to design contemporary spaces that have lasting impact.

TWRA's work is driven by an economy of means and clarity of concept, seeking to innovate through a distortion of the familiar. The studio's most recognized projects include Three Chimney House (2020), Surf House (2015), Brownstone (2016), Adrian Rosenfeld Gallery (2017) and Steel House (2017).

Project facts

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Property: 45 acres
House: 5,800 square feet
Project Dates: Commenced: 2016; Construction: 2017-2020

All images © Joe Fletcher

All drawings © TW Ryan Architecture

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