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Houston Z House



House for friends whose home was destroyed by Harvey, a mini manifesto against McMansions.  The aim is for a house that frames the lush landscape.  It’s Z shaped plan brackets the park-like front yard, and a private garden at the rear, maximizing daylight and natural ventilation to all spaces of the house.  The sloped roofs meet the neighborhood’s 6/12 roof pitch regulation in an inventive way that keeps the original house’s low, one-story profile on the street, rising up toward the back for the second story.  The roofs slope down to south and west, shading the house against the harsh Houston sun.


I told Chris the first time I entered the house that it had a surprising solidity and integrity to its design, a “thisness,” that I found compelling and comforting at the same time. By “thisness” I meant that the house had a wholeness and inevitability to its shape that felt fully finished and functional, like a spoon or a water tower. Because what would you add to it? And of course all the odd constraints imposed on us, the affordances of the trapezoidal lot, the deed restrictions, the stretched to the limit budget, and the material and labor shortages, all these contributed to the energy, thoughtfulness, and detail of the design. All the rooms seemed to be exactly the right size, and public and private spaces were demarcated by the stairs that climbed through the middle of the house to the upper level. Because what would you add to it?


-Dave Mazella

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