image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image

This passive solar, semi-underground, rammed earth house and separate recording studio designed for a family of musicians are both nestled deep into and under north-side earth berming while their tall south-facing aspects open to the sun, breezes and landscape along a lake's northern shore. Massive insulated rammed earth walls offer high thermal mass to counter the expanses of south glazing which are designed to capture full sun in winter using a high mass, high glass concept. This project, including design and implementation, occurred over a five-year period in the 1990's.

Conceptually for the house, the curvilinear and angular geometries are a direct response to the tremendous solar exposure and views of the surrounding hills and lake, a shining island jewel. Arcing gently along an east-west axis, the house is fully exposed to the sunny south with a series of intervening rammed earth 'monoliths in the landscape' specifically located along the south and central portions of the house, interior forming 'solar pockets' absorbing available solar radiation in the interior and providing quiet, intimate spaces within the larger whole. Service areas line the north side of the interior circulation and are fully underground. All public and private prime spaces occupy the south side of the open planned two-story structure.

Both house and studio are now over ten years old. Built as a 'test' first structure, the recording studio served as an experimental step toward informing the design and construction of the principal residence. Both are now blending seamlessly into the landscape per the original intent of the design. Extensive plantings to the south by the owner, using deciduous trees and perennials, provide summer shading while north and end berms together with sod roofs offer protection from chilling winter conditions.

Both home and studio have gathered extensive regional, national and international recognition and awards. The home has also been featured on the CBC's 'Nature of Things' for it's innovative use of healthy, locally available materials. Most notably, the two wythe, insulated-core rammed earth wall system, similar in concept to other two wythe masonry wall systems, is the result of a collaboration between the owner, Terra Firma, Phillip Van Horn Design, Philip Grange and Wayte Bloom Structural Engineers. This wall system has now evolved and become the standard for the cold Canadian climate as a result of the efforts of Terra Firma's ongoing research, development and implementation, and is now in wide use both in Canada and abroad.

Numerous additional exterior and interior images of this rammed earth house appear throughout the Terra Firma Builder's web pages. For further information regarding the production of the overall project design, including conceptualization, site planning, building design and all detailing of the interior and exterior of this project, please contact Phillip Van Horn design.

© phillip van horn 2011 all rights reserved