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Monday, October 26, 2009

Grid House

Grid House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Moto Designshop

For the design of a townhouse on Pine Street in Philadelphia, Moto Designshop created an animated facade -- "deployable according to prevailing functional requirements" -- that hints at the innovation within. Behind the wood facades lies a composition of interior and exterior spaces that combine to bring daylight, air, and landscape to the inhabitants. That some of these spaces can be shifted is at the heart of the house's innovation.

Behind the ground floor's wood facade is at some times a parking space, at other times a small garden. In the latter condition, a two-story space is created, and when the wood facade is slid to the side the house is primarily open, the antithesis of its masonry neighbors. What enables this openness is a 2-tier lift that lowers the parking space to the basement, thereby shifting the second-story garden to the ground floor. At first glance this seems like an arbitrary gimmick, but it fits seamlessly into the design's blurring of inside and outside.

The plan is fairly straightforward, with three bays across its 60' depth, vertical circulation along one party wall, and services (bathrooms, kitchen) along the opposite wall 18' away. From the roof deck to the ground floor the exterior space is at the center, then the front of the house (the lift), and finally in the house's backyard. So even though the house is three bays deep, it is never more than two bays from the exterior and sunlight and air. Also, from the ground floor to the third floor, the stair is a straight run and open to allow more sunlight into the house.

To blur what is inside or outside, the glass walls between the two spaces are operable, sliding or raised to make seamless transition between the two realms. That the lift is sometimes inside (car in the cellar) and sometimes outside (parking space at grade) is a suitable extension of how walls peel away to make the outdoors infiltrate the house's various rooms. Without the lift, the house is still striking, but its addition enables the landscape to come to the fore in the inhabitant's lives, the automobile suppressed to the space of the cellar.

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