Fish House

Tim Fish, AIA
Tim Fish

Project Location: Roswell, GA
Completion Date: 10/01/2016
Owner: Tim Fish

Project Description

After a long search for a suitable site on which to build, the architect/owner found a steep narrow site with views to a waterfall. It had been considered too difficult to build on in the past. In order to balance the house on the site, two perpendicular block like forms were envisioned. One to retain, and one to balance and reach. Keeping the simple idea intact through the development of the design became a quest. A central stair serves to pin the masses together, and distributes light within. Roof decks become an extension of the living spaces, and an expression of the forms. The transformation of the cliff like site to a house and home was a long and sometimes challenging journey that now brings peace and comfort.

The steep narrow site for this house backs up to the Chattahoochee National Forest and slopes nearly 100 feet from top to bottom, allowing the home to look out over a historic waterfall and ridgeline beyond. The lot was between two existing houses, and had never been built on.

The 2,800-square-foot house consists of two perpendicular masses; one retains the slope and the other rests on top of the first. It is a simple idea that responded to the site and allowed the top mass to cantilever over the lower one for views to the waterfall and the surrounding forest. A butterfly roof caps the upper mass to funnel rainfall to a central downspout and planned cistern. Clerestory glazing of polycarbonate panels brings daylight into the garage/shop and lifts to the south to cap the central staircase drawing daylight to the living spaces below. Exterior cement composite panels wrap the upper mass differentating scale and color from the brick plinth below.The southern exposure to the waterfall and forest includes large sunscreened windows between vertical parallel strand lumber columns and exposed roof framing. The same parallel strand lumber was used for the central stair open treads that spanned between PSL stringers.

The upper level includes a 6 car garage (2 cars each side front to back, with two cars on hydraulic racks above) and master bedroom. The lower roof deck is accessed from the garage level stair landing and includes an outdoor fireplace. A shop mezzanine looks over the garage half way up to the upper roof deck partially shaded by the south wing of the butterfly roof. The main entry, living space and open kitchen is one level down from the garage with windows running the full width of the site. A office/guestroom is tucked under the garage skimming (barely) over rock beneath. A office nook projects through the bay window to the north. The lowest level includes two bedrooms on either side of a living space and efficiency kitchen. An exterior porch with exterior fireplace has a prime view of the waterfall below.

The plans and section were designed to maximize useable space throughout. Provisions for a future elevator were included. Rooms flow to minimize corridor space. Stairs and roof lines acces and contain useable volume. Flat roofs with cumaru tiles on pedestal supports take advantage of the views as well as the limited level area available on site. Railings of translucent polycarbonate create privacy on the street side, with stainless steel cable railings maximizing views to the forest. Custom waterjet cut railng posts were designed to work in either application.

The design balanced value, sustainability and efficiency, while fitting into its unique site by making reference to the shadowy masses of rock and earth. The vistas from the rooms and decks capitalize on the natural surroundings, while the forms and scale relate to the neighborhhod context, as well as the forest frontage. It’s a balance.