Neal Creek Retreat

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Architects Paul McKean and Amy Donohue

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In the best tradition of regional architecture the design of this house was driven by the site and the desire to make an appropriate response to it. The site is within a 100 year flood plain and constrained by a 100′ setback from Neal Creek which runs along its’ eastern edge. Architects Paul McKean and Amy Donohue accepted those constraints and combined them with a desire to build small and smart and with a minimum footprint. The result is a compact house essentially raised above the flood plain: a box resting  atop another, smaller box. The smaller concrete box on the ground level houses storage and mechanical systems and is constructed in a way to allows water to flow through it should flooding occur. The box above is the house: a space that hovers above the meadow in which it is set, leaving the ground largely undisturbed and taking advantage of view, sky and foliage.

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The house received an AIA Built Honor Award in 2007. The jury comments were:
“The jury was taken by the way this building sits on the landscape and found it to be an example of elegant and innovative use of space on a very restrictive budget. They described the project as very humble in its concept – very tight in plan and beautifully executed with a vertical circulation for the meadow up into the house. The jurors particularly enjoyed the creation of outdoor space within the rectangular plan with no additive features on the outside.

I treated myself to a four night stay at the house, I would concur that the plan of this house is very good: it is logical and efficient and provides for an amazing amount of living in a relatively small space. But for me a continuing source of pleasure during my stay was the proportion of the spaces. Good residential architecture must have good proportion and this house has it. Being in it you feel that it is right and complete. It has a calming effect. What more can you ask from a vacation home?

Paul McKean Architecture