Behind the Scenes on the AIA CRAN Home Tour
AIA Custom Residential Architects’ Network recently held its annual symposium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Professor Dan Rockhill of the University of Kansas headlined the conference portion of the program, joined by Sebastian Schmaling, AIA, Marica McKeel, AIA, Rena Klein, FAIA, Michael Imber, FAIA, John Senhauser, FAIA, Kevin Harris, FAIA, and others.
As always, a highlight of the gathering was a tour of notable local dwellings. See below for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the houses, both new and vintage. House descriptions were provided by the firms. For more information about the symposium and the AIA Knowledge Committee devoted to custom residential design, refer to AIA CRAN’s website.
Carlton-Edwards Architecture Interiors Design-Build
The Grandin Terrace home is a single family residence built for two empty nesters who wanted to simplify their lives and build a low maintenance house suited for aging-in-place. The clients wanted to create something new that would reflect their modern sensibilities and environmental stewardship. The client, design team, and builder kept these ideals at heart and worked hard to create a house that achieved LEED Platinum certification. To reach this goal the client had to embrace all aspects of the program, with particular interest in conservation of materials, energy, and water.
The house is built on a very challenging site that was chosen because it was the last property available in their desired neighborhood that made economic sense. The site is steeply sloping and a majority of the Grandin Terrace Road frontage is a large retaining wall supporting the road. The proximity of neighboring driveways and the home owner’s desire for privacy required the house to be set further into the property than would commonly be seen on a steep slope. The driveway enters the property in the North corner and curves down to a flat auto-court. The flattened grade and landscaping consisting of low maintenance grasses gives the sense that the house is nestled on the edge of a valley meadow.
The exterior of the house is clad in metal panels and has a standing seam metal roof that provides a dynamic textural experience as you descend the driveway. The front of the house is understated with just hints of what is discovered upon entering the house. Inside the house, one is presented with sweeping views of the landscape through large window walls that expand with the sloping roof. The house has an open concept layout that is perfect for the home owner’s large family gatherings. All of the main functions are on a single level, with guest suites on the lower level. While the layout is open, there is still a definition of spaces provided by an L- shaped configuration and a central fireplace. The interior showcases beautiful natural materials: stained Doug Fir beams and ceiling, Shou Sugi Ban charred cypress cladding, clear coated raw steel, and stone and cork flooring. The ceiling material and structure transition to the exterior to give a cohesive experience inside and out.
Robert S. Carlton, AIA
Geier House 1968
Geier Pond, Cincinnati, Ohio
Philip Johnson, Architect (1906-2005)
One of the earliest earth sheltered houses was designed by architect Philip Johnson. This project was commissioned by the James Geier Family and built under carefully mounded earth on a lakefront in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. The house, purchased by Sandy and Bob Heimann in 1989, is remarkable as it brings together the sculptural use of both earth and water to create an airy fantasyland. It is a delight to live in. By placing the floor level of the one-story home just slightly above the lake surface, a feeling of contact with the water is achieved. All major living spaces have extraordinary large window areas, with controlled views over the lake and outside terraces. Graceful mounds anchor the house into the earth, creating a snug harbor around which the glass-walled rooms are placed. The plan suggests a linear series of fountains within an enclosed pond. A visitor to this house walks into a gentle valley leading to the front door which dips below the meadow overlooking the lake. From this upper meadow, it is also possible to walk on the mound across the grassy house roof to a promontory above the lake.
Johnson handled the aesthetic problem of roof penetrations necessary for plumbing vents, heating flues, cooling ducts and the fireplace chimney by housing them in identical Cor-Ten cylinders that make a pleasant composition of rust-red shapes on the grass covered roof.
For safety of their children and friends, the Heimanns felt it necessary to install the current railing. Air-conditioning was also added to help with humidity control.
Not since the French Chateaux of Chenonceaux and Azay-le-Redeau has water been used as effectively to provide a setting for a residence. The fantasy of the castle and moat has been evoked in contemporary terms.
Haight Avenue House
drawing dept, architecture & design
This home, designed and built for a young family, is located on an infill lot in one of Cincinnati’s older neighborhoods. One homeowner was particularly concerned with the technical aspects of the project relating to energy efficiency, including passive and active solar technology, while the other owner had distinct aesthetic preferences, desiring that the house feel “low-slung” and unimposing. These criteria were particularly important in deciding the house’s siting, section, and plan arrangement.
Consisting of a single living story over a finished basement, the house is aligned on an east-west axis, producing a near-optimal arrangement for the purposes of passive-solar design. In section, the roof is composed of a large shed roof and a smaller flat roof, with a continuous clerestory between. This arrangement allows the house to have a low profile at the street while still providing plenty of diffused natural light from the north. It also ensures maximum sunlight for the solar array located on the south-facing shed roof where solar orientation is ideal, and where the array cannot be seen from the street. The solar panels and a home battery provide almost all of the home’s energy needs in the summer and about 25 percent during the winter months. Structurally, the shed roof is supported by a regular column system that is inboard of the envelope to increase the thermal performance of the wall assembly.
The exterior envelope relies upon double-wall construction to provide a continuous air barrier at the outer wall, except at the south wall where the winter sun is invited in through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Consequently, the service spaces within the home are pushed to the north-facing perimeter and the living spaces face southward to receive as much sun as possible.
Hawkins House 1984 & 1996
Original construction date: 1982 -1984
Reconstruction date: Approx.1992-1996
Reconstruction Architect : Steven J Bostwick, Architect Bostwick Forensic Architecture
This house, designed by David Niland, represents the “historic” reconstruction of a monumental piece of architecture & livable sculpture that was published in Japan Architecture. Due to questionable building envelope detailing and material use and installation, the structure was found to be literally rotting out from under the owner’s own feet.
The project involved re-design and detailing of the envelope, with removal, and replacement of approximately 75% of the building envelope surfaces and underlying wood frame structural components, due to severe water infiltration and accompanying deterioration. One of the only untouched components of the envelope was the ballasted EPDM roof, which was originally incorrectly thought to be the source of the home’s problems. Project mantra: Fix it, Make it work, Do not change anything!
Major redesign/reconstruction challenges:
- Dealing with the ensuing litigation’s pack of attorneys and opposing expert.
- Maintaining multiple flush interior-to-exterior floor surfaces for the owner’s ease of access, re-detailed in a waterproof/stormproof manner.
- Maintaining the original alignments/reveals between materials and features.
- Re-detailing flat 1/4 circle skylights facing south in a waterproof manner.
- Maintaining very low tolerance construction due to the existing trim-less “reveal” detailing.
- Designing and erecting scaffolding and temporary support shoring for the project.
- Ensuring that necessary functional additions to the construction were in the language of Niland, and appeared original to the home.
Peterloon Estate 1930
William Adams Delano, Architect (1874-1960)
John Josiah Emery, born in New York City in 1898, was two generations removed from his ancestral homeland, England. His grandfather, Thomas, had immigrated to America, making his way to Cincinnati in the 1830’s where the family fortune took root. It grew in two directions: as a lard oil and candle-making company and via real estate holdings throughout the city. The sophistication and knowledge gleaned from such an upbringing made the 30-year-old Jack, who had moved to Cincinnati in 1924 to resurrect the floundering family business interests, and his bride, Irene, the daughter of renowned artist Charles Dana Gibson, quite capable of overseeing the building of their dream house.
Jack and Irene also wanted to become part of Cincinnati’s growing “English Country Life” society, establishing themselves as one of the wealthiest families in what had been the farming community of Indian Hill.
The four-story Georgian-Queen Anne-style house on Hopewell Road, with its 36 rooms, 21 bathrooms and 19 fireplaces, took two years to build and was completed in 1930. The young couple had hired longtime family friend and one of the nation’s leading architects, William Delano (a cousin to Franklin Delano Roosevelt), to design the house. Delano had chosen, as a model for his design, a grand house outside of Brussels, Belgium.
Incorporating period rooms from historic European houses was a standard feature of late 19th-century and early 20th-century mansions built by wealthy Americans. Following that tradition, Peterloon’s massive living room, dining room and library have paneling and flooring from 17th and 18th century British and French houses. A carved 16th-century stone fireplace in the entrance foyer is the oldest piece built into the structure.
William Adams Delano, Architect (1874-1960)
Delano & Aldrich
AIA Gold Medal, 1953
Rauh House 1938 & 2012
John Becker, Architect 1902-1974
Albert D Taylor, Landscape Architect 1883-1951
Luminaut (Architects Plus) Cincinnati
1100 Sycamore Street, #200 Preservation
Cincinnati, OH 45202 Association
The Rauh House, built in 1938 by prominent insurance agent Frederick Rauh, is one of the first International Style modernist homes in the Cincinnati area. It is the crowning residential achievement of Cincinnati architect John Becker, a local pioneer in modern architecture. The house, which features a long balcony and shaded terrace, tubular steel railings, large windows with minimized corners, and whitewashed concrete block walls, sits on nearly nine acres of gently rolling, wooded land at the western edge of the Village of Woodlawn. In 2005, the house was sold to a developer who planned to demolish it and subdivide the property. A new cul-de-sac and retention ponds were built, destroying much of the existing landscaping, and the house was stripped and left exposed to the elements.
Frederick Rauh’s daughter, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, who grew up in the house, bought it after the development failed. With the help of Architects Plus and the Cincinnati Preservation Association, the house and grounds have been restored to their original state, but with modern mechanical systems and insulation, and custom steel windows to match the originals.
The restored house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2016 The Rauh House received the prestigious Award of Excellence from DOCOMOMO US at the annual Modernism in America Awards Program in NYC.
Luminaut (Architects Plus)
Titanium House 2005
JOHN SENHAUSER ARCHITECTS
Perched atop a wooded ridge, this residence emerges from its site– inevitably grounded, but exceeding its limits to engage with the trees beyond. The family spaces of the first floor loosely occupy the free plan, while above, explicit spaces are contained in distinct volumes.
Four vertical “walls of light” separate these private spaces while illuminating the floors below. Actively embracing the sky, these shafts become the locus of ornament conceived as a transparent and translucent lining, accessing light while affording silhouetted privacy. As the shafts move towards the interior of the house, they carve away the second-floor plate to form double-height spaces or to contain vertical circulation. By blurring the distinctions between familiar oppositions-inside/outside, front/rear, mass/lightness-the resulting assemblage dissolves traditional boundaries of habit.
John Senhauser, FAIA