Architect Max Levy, FAIA, has long been merging landscape and structure in his work. But never before had he been asked to merge three bedrooms with an architectural tour de force. Perhaps merge isn’t the right word, for this new bedroom wing doesn’t merge so much as magnify architect Steven Holl’s original building by connecting “quietly and at a distance,” as Max says.
The 1992 Stretto House is a landmark lauded for its lyrical roofscape that metaphorically echoes a parallel creek flowing over a series of concrete spillways. The undulating metal roofs are supported by four concrete-block bars containing the utilitarian rooms—an artistic take on the creek’s concrete dams.
“I knew we did not want to do an impersonation of Steven Holl, because that just would not ring true,” Max says. “The original house is so personal and voluptuously expressive, so much architecture going on there, that it would be like breaking into an uninvited duet with a virtuoso opera singer. At the same time, I knew that the addition shouldn’t just be a flat-footed, dull thing. It still needed to have spirit.
His solution was to set the bedroom addition away from the house—by 80 feet, to be exact, the length of a delicate glass hallway that tethers the house to the new bedrooms on the south. These linearly arranged rooms are far from the stream that inspired the house, but they too revel in their connection to the natural setting. Cut into a slope, the burnished concrete-block and glass bedroom wing consists of a master suite separated from the children’s bedrooms by a courtyard and fireplace. Each en-suite bedroom is fitted with glass doors that pocket into a wall between the sleeping area and porch, opening it fully to the outdoors.
“In all our projects, we try to bring nature into play in subtle ways,” Max says. Here that bold but quiet gesture takes the form of roof monitors fitted with diaphanous light sails. Made by a local artist and a metal fabrication company, the sails consist of Lumasite, a thin plastic that looks like rice paper, skewered to a lightweight aluminum frame. The frame is attached to a floor-to-ceiling mast with a cork grip, as on a fishing rod. Pivoting on ball bearings, the sails can be easily rotated to control light and shading throughout the day. And with an LED light fixture inserted on top of the mast, the roof monitor becomes a big lampshade at night.
“The light sails connect with the spirit of the house, and to me that really had more to do with nature,” Max says. “We just looked up and related to the sky.”
His choice of materials reinforced the addition’s association with the house, too, repeating them without copying line for line. The concrete block cladding the baths and dressing area resembles, at a smaller scale, the limestone on the house exterior, and the bedroom walls are wrapped in sanded-aluminum panels. Inside, the hallway’s black cork floor echoes the main house’s black concrete floor, and limestone floors in the gallery and screened porches match those in the house, as does the white ash cabinetry and millwork.
By expressing the originality of both architects, the Stretto House addition sets a high standard for building onto a masterpiece. Not only do the vaguely nautical light sails suggest the original water theme, “they make you mindful of something vast—in this case the passage of the sun,” Max says. “Almost all of our projects now have that quality.”
Project of the Year
Max Levy Architect
Addition to the Stretto House
ARCHITECT: Max Levy, FAIA, principal in charge; Matt Morris and Tom Manganiello, Max Levy Architect, Dallas
BUILDER: Hardy Construction, Dallas
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Emily Summers, Dallas
LIGHT SAILS: James Cinquemani, Dallas
LIGHTING: Byrdwaters Design, Dallas
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Datum Engineers, Dallas
PROJECT SIZE: 3,700 square feet
SITE SIZE: 2 acres
CONSTRUCTION COST: Withheld
PHOTOGRAPHY: Charles Davis Smith, FAIA (except where noted)
CLADDING: Burnished concrete block, Texas Building Products
DOOR HARDWARE: FSB
DOORS/WINDOW WALL SYSTEMS: Fleetwood
FAUCETS: Vola, Watermark
LIGHT CYLINDERS: Dallas Metal Fabricators
LIGHTING: Bega, ELP, Innovative Lighting
SCREENS: Phifer BetterVue
SINKS: Lacava, Elkay
STRUCTURAL GLASS: Precision Glass Bending Corp.
TUBS: Blu Bathworks, Americh
WINDOW SHADING SYSTEMS: Silent Gliss
WINDOWS: Santiago Ironworks
Plans and Drawings