Jennifer Bonner / MALL
Atlanta, United States
Hanif Kara, OBE
All exterior and interior walls, floors, and roof are made of eighty-seven CLT panels. Custom-cut, hoisted into place, and assembled in fourteen days’ time, the CLT in Haus Gables enables a solid house that eschews traditional stick frame construction. Structurally inventive, by acting as a folded plate, there is also an opportunity to hang rooms from the roof panels above, while also promoting a monolithic view of the material from the domestic interior.
Haus Gables further engages in the conceptual exploration of materiality through a series of fauxfinishes that clad the exterior and parts of the interior. Bonner reworks the old tradition of faux-finishing in the American South, historically stemming from an inability to afford precious materials and the subsequent desire to “fake it,” as well as utilizes a more contemporary technique of “color blocking” currently found in pop culture.
On the exterior, two sides of the house are covered in faux bricks made of stucco dash finish of glass beads that produces a glittery effect. Inside, black terrazzo is not poured-in place and polished, but applied as a thin tile, while oriented strand board (OSB) is replaced by ceramic tiles in the image of OSB. Marble finishes in the bedroom and adjacent bathroom are made of unlikely materials, including vinyl and cartoonish drawings, rather than the oft-desired, real Italian marble. Areas of grey concrete, yellow vinyl marble, and black terrazzo line some walls much like wainscoting, with several long views through the house allowing for a color-block effect. These faux finishes indicate spatial divisions.
Haus Gables, a residential project designed and developed by architectural designer Jennifer Bonner / MALL, completed construction in Atlanta, Georgia in 2018. The 2,200-squarefoot home challenges the domestic interior through materiality, color, and form. It is one of only a handful of residences in the country made of cross-laminated timber (CLT), an exceptionally strong wood material produced by gluing together layers of lumber that alternate in direction.
For this singlefamily home adjacent to the Atlanta Beltline, a cluster of six gable roofs are combined to form a single roof. In an attempt to rework spatial paradigms of the past, such as Le Corbusier’s free plan and Aldof Loos’s raumplan, Bonner offers the roof plan as a way to organize architecture. Here, the roof plan establishes rooms, catwalks, and double height spaces in the interior by aligning these spaces to ridges and valleys in the roof above. The floor plan is a result of the roof.
From a curbside view, an asymmetrical and unfamiliar form replaces the traditional gable elevation house, as if the usual form were clipped. Other slight alterations to the ordinary include roof pitches which are much steeper than those found in industry standards. The underbelly of the gable roofs creates an airy, lofty space filled with ample natural light for the small building footprint. This uncharacteristically slim house which sits on a 24 foot wide parcel, has a width of 18 feet, generates ideas for the applicability of the roof plan to denser urban environments.
(Excerpted from RIBA Publication, Crawley)
“CLT panels lend themselves well to roof structures. Without ties, the origami like roof serves as a form of shell, a folded panel reminiscent of a card model built 1:1.
Interiors are defined by structural panels, the geometry creating soaring volumes expressing external form and by a range of faux finishes applied to lower surfaces. Timber is exposed to a greater extent in more intimate areas such as bedrooms or covered as required in wet areas and panels are also used to form stairs, balustrades and suspended elements.
The architect digitally designed and nested each panel within larger ‘blanks’ (full panels representing the optimum size available since panels were to be shipped in containers from Europe). This demonstrated the most efficient cutting arrangements for pieces forming the irregular geometry. Working closely with an Austrian panel supplier enabled the design team to draw upon the manufacturer’s very extensive experience of milling and processing complex details, which proved invaluable in detailing, before checking every connection detail.
The construction process required careful planning and key to this was communication between various team members, including pre-empting difficulties by scenario planning. A key challenge was site logistics and providing a crane and staging area on a constricted narrow site, but panels were arranged so they could be craned from each of the 11 trailers delivered in order of assembly. A team of four installers installed all the panels over just 14 days before the build was handed over to the general contractor others for completion.”