Amazing Vacation House in Osage County, Missouri by Barton Phelps & Associates - Architects and Planners
About the site: a wooded limestone bluff overlooking the Osage River on a thousand acres of working farmland in the rolling Ozarks - the name derived from the explorers’ term, “aux arcs”, referring to the bows of the region’s rivers. The house initiates a rural retreat / conference center and ecological preserve for use by an extended family, youth groups, and educational institutions and its design reflects ideas about relationships between social interaction and the experience of nature.
Design for gathering (and escaping): the building’s dual public / private use reflects a complexity of initiative and the plan establishes a graduated structure of spaces. Clusters of rooms frame the central court, itself defining a niche in the larger landscape. The pattern gives options for social interaction in family and conference modes. Lined by arcades on three sides, the courtyard functions urbanistically as the most public interior space (the entry canopy is designed as an orchestra shell) and most other spaces can be entered off it. Glass enclosures expose interior volumes to view from all sides and long sight lines connect distant points.
In winter, an overhead glass door closes the portal to shelter circulation around the courtyard. On the west, two-story bedroom suites are separated by walkways that give private routes into the woods. Sitting rooms and screened porches cantilever over the forest floor, softening the building’s landing and merging with outside.
Landscape Change: new facilities are sited for minimal disruption of natural terrain and farm operations as surrounding woodlands and meadows undergo restoration. The new entry drive begins high on the property giving expansive views of the farm but no hint of the new house or the river beyond. The farm compound is prominent upon entering.
The road drops into the woods and road turns sharply to enter a car court. The view through the big entry portal is the dominant feature of the front of the house. Moving onto the stone-paved platform of the central courtyard, one gets a first full view of the river below. A network of roads and trails leads visitors from the house to explore selected natural features - overlooks, rock formations, old-growth glens, and limestone springs - that dot the property.
Other-directed spaces: communal activities in the east wing are reached via the courtyard. Shed-roofed volumes project from the bluff, interacting differently with the outdoors. The gallery / living room extends farthest - along an axial clearing - to frame a view of the river’s southerly arc. The dining room pushes into the woods, its slanted window mullions tilting with the tree trunks beyond. In the billiard room, glazed corners give non-axial views out and back into the house.
Duality: building form and materials emphasize variety in spatial type and heighten awareness of difference. Dualities - communal and private, open and closed, opaque and transparent, above and below, heavy and light – are emphasized to encourage comparison and allow users to prefer places for group activity or solitude. The stone masonry front and lower story anchor the building to the rock on which it is built. On three sides the battered masonry base lifts the light, wood-sided envelopes of the mostly single-story composition above the sloping site. On the east, masonry walls drop off the bluff to enclose a mezzanine exercise room and lower level swimming pool. Entered at the low end of its folded ceiling, the pool space rises to give views out amid a grove of stone piers that support the voluminous wood and glass forms above. A natural limestone bank supports a rough stone stairway that links the lower garden with the central courtyard.
Elevated Performance: heating and cooling are produced by an extensive “groundsource” well system that transfers constant ground water temperature to heat pumps distributed in attic spaces. Space heating combines radiant slab and forced-air systems for efficiency. Pool water is heated by groundsource and kept covered when not in use. North – south orientation and deep embedment of the lower levels in natural rock reduce energy requirements. Glazing systems are thermally broken metal frames with inch - thick insulating glass. Louvered arcades reduce summer heat gain. Domestic water is supplied by wells on the property and septic systems with sand-bed filters release clean irrigation water. Fire sprinkler and hydrant systems are fed from the pool and farm pond.
Tucker Design Award, Building Stone Institute, 2004
American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum, 2002
Design Award, AIA / St. Louis, 2002
Sinquefield House, Building Stone Magazine, July/Sept, 2004
Long for the River, Colorfulness, (Beijing), June, 2004
A House at the Meeting of Two Landscapes, Places, Spring, 2002
River House, Interior Digest, (Moscow) October 2002
Amazing Vacation Houses, The Travel Channel, Mike Mathis Productions, 2005.