Homestead house by Birdseye in Vermont typifies residential architecture

Designed by architecture studio Birdseye - Homestead, located in South Hero, Vermont - is an interpretation of the built environment in its vicinity.

by Dhwani ShanghviPublished on : Jan 16, 2023

In his lyrical description of the site for Villa Capra Rotunda, Italian architect Andrea Palladio attributes the theatrical disposition of the project to an ideal site - a gentle slope, with a water body on one side, and mountains on the other. This bucolic setting of orchards and vines affords views of the landscape - some restrained, and others extending to meet the horizon. The villa itself, therefore accommodates loggias on all sides that yield uninterrupted vantages to the site around.

“The site is as pleasant and delightful as can be found, because it is on a small hill of very easy access, and it watered on one side by the Bacchiglione, a navigable river; and on the other it is encompassed about with most pleasant risings which look like a very great theatre and are all cultivated about with most excellent fruits and most exquisite vines; and therefore as it enjoys from every part most beautiful views, some of which are limited, some more extended, and others which terminate with the horizon, there are loggias made in all four fronts," writes Palladio.

Villa Capra Rotunda, site context| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
Villa Capra Rotunda - site context Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Similar site conditions lend themselves to Homestead - with Lake Champlain to its east, woods to the south, and vast meadows to the west. Located in the small town of South Hero in Vermont, United States, the house sits on a 12.6 acre parcel of land surrounded by similar tracts of land with single storey houses and barns.

Homestead, site conditions| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
Homestead, site conditions Image: Courtesy of Ivar Bastress Photography

The residential design by Vermont-based architectural design and building company Birdseye, the house is an interpretation of the built environment in its vicinity that is sprawled across the landscape, particularly the neighbouring barn. Boasting a single gable and gambrel roof within a timber frame, the aesthetic of the barn informs the visual expression of the villa architecture of Homestead, which itself strives to manifest the typical farmyard composition of the agrarian typology. Formally, however, the house seems to typify residential architecture - comparable even to Palladio's best known legacies to the architecture world - the afore mentioned Villa Capra Rotunda.

Homestead, site conditions| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
Houses of the agrarian typology in the vicinity Image: Courtesy of Ivar Bastress Photography

The latter, whose piano nobile is composed of two bays of served spaces on either side of a central circular public atrium, is a perfectly symmetric building with two perpendicular circulation passages puncturing the square plan through the centre of its sides along two axes. The plan for Homestead can be interpreted as a reorganisation of this quintessential domestic layout, with three single-storeyed, gabled volumes dedicated to the served spaces - alluding to the two bays of the Rotunda. The two intersecting circulation paths of the Rotunda are substituted by a single linear circulation passage (also gabled), which serves the three different wings of the house on either side of it.

  • Plan of Villa Capra Rotunda| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
    Plan of Villa Capra Rotunda Image: Courtesy of tumblr
  • Plan of Villa Capra Rotunda| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
    Plan of Homestead Image: Courtesy of Birdseye

The main entry lobby, accessed via an entrance courtyard, leads to the first wing, whose open plan accommodates the pantry, kitchen, dining area, living room, and TV Room successively.

The first wing accommodates the public spaces like living, dining and kitchen| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
The first wing accommodates the public spaces like living, dining and kitchen Image: Courtesy of Erica Allen Studio

On either side of the entrance lobby, which holds a central position in the corridor, the passage extends out, perpendicular to the first wing.

The gabled circulation corridor| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
The gabled circulation corridor Image: Courtesy of Erica Allen Studio

The second wing, closest to the lake and parallel to the first wing, lies on the other side of the corridor, where a smaller corridor connects the bunk room, dog mudroom, two guest rooms and primary bedroom, placed linearly.

The bunk room and the guest room in the second wing| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
The bunk room and the guest room in the second wing Image: Courtesy of Erica Allen Studio

The third wing, also parallel to the first two, constitutes the mudroom, gym and storage room culminating at the garage, exiting to the auto court on the exterior.

The bunk room and the guest room in the second wing| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
The auto court leading to the two garages Image: Courtesy of Erica Allen Studio

A second garage creates a smaller, fourth wing. An open verandah continues externally from the wall of the gym, which encloses the spine of the corridor to continue to the disconnected garage. Along the length of the corridor, an office and a library are housed in small nooks. At the other end the corridor extends out to enable continuity with a cabin in the future - towards the lake cove.

The circulation corridor extends outwards to accommodate a future expansion towards the lake| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
The circulation corridor extends outwards to accommodate a future expansion towards the lake Image: Courtesy of Erica Allen Studio

The layout of the wings and its associated spaces - with the living and sleeping spaces located closest to the lake - facilitates the creation of outdoor spaces appropriated for the specific wing/s it serves. The entry courtyard, as the name suggests, is the courtyard through which the house is entered, and is enveloped on three sides - by the second and third wing, and the circulation corridor.

 Outdoor spaces appropriated for specific wings| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
Outdoor spaces appropriated for specific wings Image: Courtesy of Ivar Bastress Photography

Designed in the image of a plaza, the courtyard is not only a common outdoor space but is also a source of natural light for the south hall in the second wing, as well as the library and the office in the circulation corridor. On the other hand, the auto court acts as an access-way for both cars and pedestrians and is shared by the two garages. The patio - overlooked by the living room, and itself facing the lake - is accommodated with outdoor seating and simultaneously provides light to the corridor. 

 The entrance lobby overlooking a plaza-like courtyard | Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
The entrance lobby overlooking a plaza-like courtyard Image: Courtesy of Erica Allen Studio

Typifying the agrarian typology, Homestead is composed of elements that contribute towards reinforcing its pastoral identity. Single storey gables (with standing seam roofing in black), extended rafter tails, and the size and shape of the fenestrations all contribute to this much desired vernacular association. However, a second, subliminal spatial association is observed with the Palladian villa - an archetype of residential architecture - albeit expressed in a different language.

 Single storey gables, fenestrations and rafter tails lend the house it’s pastoral identity| Homestead| Birdseye| STIRworld
Single storey gables, fenestrations and rafter tails lend the house it’s pastoral identity Image: Courtesy of Ivar Bastress Photography

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