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Bare Hill Residence

Harvard, Massachusetts​

Tucked behind tree line on the shores of one of Massachusetts’ pristine lakes, the design of the Bare Hill Residence presented a unique set of challenges. The three-bedroom home, complete with music studio and garage,  needed to be built on a site that was densely wooded, steeply sloped, and grounded in solid granite, all while minimally impacting the natural setting.

Given the layer of stone beneath the forest floor and the blasting it would require, the foundation was kept as contained as possible, reducing disturbance to the ground and maintaining the site’s natural topography. To fit the building’s considerable program onto a compact foundation, the home’s various spaces cantilever out, rising from a central circulation axis that rests on the ground. These rooms are supported on slender, concrete columns that disappear among the surrounding trees. This minimized foundation has less impact on root systems, allowing trees to continue their growth with intimate proximity to the house. From the interior, spaces seemingly held aloft amongst branches of the forest create an otherworldly illusion. The plan also allows for the house’s profile to disappear when looking from the lakeshore. Rather than seeing the weighty façade of a solid, two-story building, the cantilevering significantly minimizes the visible mass.

Careful study was carried out in regard to natural light and ventilation. Each room is connected to the central hall along a horizontal fracture on one side, allowing natural light to filter in from three directions, as well as from a roof-level clerestory on the fourth wall above. Passing through the entry to the main space, scenic lake views come into focus, with cross-breezes flowing throughout the home. From any single point, there is a visual connection to nature or opening for multidirectional sunlight. At the same time, each space is meticulously oriented such that there are no unwanted sightlines into private spaces, and equally few visual obstacles to the surrounding landscape.

With attention toward energy use and conservation, the home utilizes triple pane glass, supplied by Zola Windows, who specialize in Passive House European windows and doors. The house also employs a geothermal heating system, which includes radiant floors. This way, despite the frequent opening and closing of doors to let out the client’s beloved Newfoundland dogs, the home stays comfortably warm.

The Bare Hill Residence is clad with cedar shingles that slowly fade to soft gray, harmonizing with the concrete and colors of the wintertime forest floor. The careful reduction of footprint and scale integrates the building seamlessly with the landscape, resulting in a home that invites breezes, light, views, and nature to interact with life inside.

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