Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Suburban House Prototype

Concord, Massachusetts

1976

This project involves a prototype for suburban middle-income housing. The model photographs and plans show one version of the house designed as a single-family unit. The axonometric drawings show more generalized versions designed as repetitive multi-family units for the suburban block or development. These units are rotated spatially in several ways to share party walls, and serve for one family, two families or four families. The adaptability of the sidewalls to two different mirror-image configurations allows both flexibility of orientation and visual variety. When the units are placed back to back, they form a through-block slot facing out to two different streets.

In the single-family unit pictured in the model photographs, the introduction of the diagonal vector in plan provides the elongated rectangular space with a dynamic internal spatiality that belies its compactness and counters the monotony of serial repetition on the larger scale. The partially inscribed circle at the entry acts similarly to open up the “box”, and the rounded corner created on one side of the front elevation, depending on the configuration, serves volumetrically to separate the house from the one next to it.

The theme of the rotated circle within the rectilinear box also suggests the larger concept of the units’ spatial rotation to produce the various serial arrangements.

The purpose of the project is to suggest an alternative to the ubiquitous suburban “ranch” house.  This compact prototype, for a typical half-acre tract, offers the suburban resident both a sense of community and privacy from his neighbors. While the yard is shared in the party-wall configurations, the elevating of the garden to roof level provides each family with its own piece of nature and an overview of the surrounding landscape. The vertical organization not only gives each interior space greater amplitude, but at the scale of the neighborhood, the three-story double and quadruple modules afford a density and character lacking in the usual suburban development.

Credits