Bruce Damonte

A bland, poorly planned home could not serve its owner, who approached the architect originally wishing to build a connected separate two-story structure, to finally have “a room to receive guests, a place to be all together in, … an office/guest room and a semi-independent in-law bedroom/living unit for Mom and Dad … I just want a house that works!” The designers took on the challenge and convinced the owners to not expand the problem unsustainably: more house, energy, materials, maintenance, forest destroyed, land wasted…. Instead, they stressed the greener solution of building less, and intelligently re-using the original structure by transforming it into a well-designed home for under half the cost of new construction.

The introduction of a new, high-performance superstructure onto and into the mundane original house effectively doubled the usable area of the existing structure. The new volume is a metal “prosthetic” that transfigures and entirely re-programs the three-story wood-framed house on this forested Pennsylvania site. The contemporary intervention is distinguished from the existing masonry-clad structure, which was largely left in place as the two volumes interlock – opening up the central core and floor plan.

Exploded Axo

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A subtle and carefully retrained material palate of cherry wood completes the metamorphosis, providing virtually within the same footprint, all the new program requirements. At its core, a dynamic tensile enclosed stairwell, with ample operable skylights bring a cascade of light deep into the house while passively ventilating the entire three-story structure from attic to basement. The masonry walls, mostly preserved and covered, increase the overall thermal mass of the resulting compact home, now protected by a sophisticated “cold-roof” and high-efficiency thermal insulation and systems.

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Reborn, the interiors flow with light intimately connected to the surrounding forest, creating a beautifully crafted contiguous environment of informal space for entertainment, cooking, homework, and music. The rationalized structure allows partitions to dissolve between entry, living, kitchen, and dining: a true Open Plan. The entry was re-oriented by way of a vestibule which initiates an undulating ribbon of patterned relief that moves between interior and exterior to provide a weather buffer, storage, passage, music niche, entry foyer and seating as it ties the composition together.

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SITE: Clark’s Summit, PA / SIZE: 750 sq. ft.
SCOPE: Remodel and addition to existing home
DATE: 2011

The wall to the neighboring forest was completely replaced, by the ribbons expanded field of storage – This “smart-wall”, of floor to ceiling cabinetry cleverly conceals a wet bar, television, and yards of absorbed program to triple the homes available storage while sensitively placed perforations along its length frame the spectacular forest beyond. Fenestration permeates upwards to expanded attic space – extending the upper metal envelope out into the framed landscape. A unifying exterior deck extends from this ribbon to step down into the forest, extruding the living space out onto the site, permitting the house to blend and merge with its extensive grounds.