Arizona Ave


Washington, DC

3,800 SQFT


2016 AIA DC Unbuilt Award


Project Gallery

An aging house, no longer suited to the needs of a young family, is situated on a steep slope and set back 100 feet from the adjacent street. As a result, the family of 5 (with dog) parks at street level at the base of the incline and use existing site stairs - 154 of them. Worse yet, the existing yard has no areas of leveled grade sufficient for outdoor family recreation.

The existing condition. 154 steps from the parking to the front door.

Required rear yard set back slicing through the middle of the existing house.

A new 'house' volume in front of the existing.

Setting the volume on a grage cut into grade. Eventually, the existing non-conforming must go.

Carving away at the volume to introduce light and air.

A courtyard at the main living level connects directly at grade.

New living space above on the first floor.

Bedrooms on the second floor, framing a courtyard.

Skylights bringing light to the interior.

What do you do when a house, situated on a steep, 40-foot slope set back 100 feet from adjacent street, requires climbing 154 steps to get inside? We seek to create usable space along the site’s topography at three distinct levels: a new garage and recreation room; main level living spaces connected by an exterior courtyard; and bedrooms connecting to a rear yard at the second level.

The basement’s scheme minimizes required excavation while maintaining parking slope requirements, solving the problem of grade requirements by moving the house down the hill and making space for a two-car garage. Behind the garage, a recreation room gets natural light from the courtyard above.

A courtyard anchors the first floor’s footprint, lending light and expansiveness to the multi-use family space and a convertible office area.

The interior courtyard provides circulation paths between the master bedroom and children’s wing, and its cut-away volume provides a path for light to penetrate.

The roof plan shows light monitors over the master bedroom and children’s common area, which suffuse the upper levels with light.

A proposed site stair runs along the south wall of the new house, directly linking street to courtyard, courtyard to rear yard. The linking of exterior spaces allows for interior privacy as preferred while at the same time limiting isolation of the site’s unique outdoor areas: high overlook, a mid-slope receiving the majority of direct sunlight, and slope base at the public sidewalk below.

Within the Residence, main level living space brackets the courtyard; tall sliding doors allow for the kitchen and home office to expand, both visually and physically, into the open courtyard void. Additional multi-door openings open to pleasant views looking both down and across the planted site. At the second level, a spine of circulation connects to two ‘wings’ of bedrooms, similarly bracketing the courtyard. Openings along the south wall of circulation employ a slatted cedar screen for shade.

A horizontal cedar board façade envelopes all sides of the house, while a sleeve of zinc panels lines the interior courtyard, softly reflecting light and taking on natural, velvety patina over time.