Launch Slideshow

Project Images

Project Images

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    Adam Sokol

    The front elevation with the inverted window bay situated to capture distant views. Architect Adam Sokol also offset the roof ridgeline to produce more headroom in the space directly above the windows.

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    The almost solid rear elevation blocks undesirable views of nearby houses. The patio is cut out from the building's form to provide protection. "The cutouts also de-emphasize the volume," Sokol says. That volume is clad in EcoStar shingles that are manufactured using recycled tires Sokol adds.

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    courtesy asap pllc

    The site plan shows how many houses abut the narrow lot in this dense neighborhood.

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    courtesy asap pllc

    This drawing shows Sokol's simple starting point and the moves he made in response to the site and program that resulted in the final form.

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    The western wall cants away from the adjacent house at a 6-degree angle to allow natural light into the neighbor's living spaces.

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    Adam Sokol

    A small terrace on the third floor can't be seen from the street and is sheltered by a large oak tree. "It's very hidden," Sokoal says, "and people are often surprised when they discover it."

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    The combined kitchen and dining space gains sunlight from three directions--the oversized patio door, the windows at the top of an open stair, and a glass wall in the living room.

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    Sokol opened the three-story stairwell and aligned it with large windows and skylights. To save on cost and to integrate the stair with the interior spaces, Sokol designed a "distorted spiral drywall railing that winds down the entire stair."

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    The second-floor guest bedroom has built-in bookshelves and a cozy alcove that can be used for multiple purposes.

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    The angled wall in the top-floor master suite is clad in natural birch for a pale reflective surface that amplifies natural light throughout the room.

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    Adam Sokol

    Detail showing the birch wall panels and sunlight being reflected.

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    The master bath shower is also tucked beneath the offset ridgeline and brightened with an operable skylight.

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    Adam Sokol

    Looking into the kitchen/dining room from the back patio.

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    Adam Sokol

    An evening streetscape shows the close proximity of neighboring houses.

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    Adam Sokol

    The distant tower vista as seen from inside the house.

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    The psychiactric hospital designed by architect H.H. Richardson in 1871.

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    Floor plans

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    Section drawings

Adam Sokol had a lot to consider when designing this new custom house just north of downtown Buffalo. The 29-foot-wide site has a neighboring house to its property line, and creating opportunities for views, outdoor living, and abundant interior daylighting in a region notorious for long, harsh winters presented challenges. Sokol also wanted to incorporate the historic neighborhood’s strong traditional context. With a stringent budget of less than $200 per square foot, the project resulted in some inventive design opportunities. 

Having practiced in New York before moving to Buffalo to launch his own firm, asap pllc , Sokol immediately saw a way to take advantage of this urban infill setting. He placed an inverted window bay on the front elevation to capture vistas of architect H.H. Richardson’s 1870s hospital complex. “Houses in this neighborhood have this amazing view of Richardson’s towers,” Sokol says, “but no one emphasizes it or even acknowledges it.”

Sokol took great pains to offer his clients those architectural panoramas, but he also paid attention to fenestration throughout the rest of the house. Daylighting and outdoor spaces are important to the architect, as is protecting occupants’ privacy. Soaring, open interiors make the most of a few judiciously placed windows, doors, and skylights. Sokol wanted copious natural light inside to reflect the passing of time and seasons in addition to rendering artificial lights useless before sundown. “We had a digital model of the entire block,” he explains, “and we checked sunlight angles and sight line perspectives to get these precise views and quality of light inside.”

The architect also took note of how his design would affect the neighbor’s daylighting. The homeowner next door enjoyed a decade of unobstructed eastern light in her living and dining rooms because the previous house on this lot burned down. “We canted that wall back 6 degrees to improve sunlight into her house,” Sokol says. “In fact, all of the house’s angles are in response to the site.” One wall slants for the neighbor’s benefit while tilted windows deliver a view. Sokol also offset the roof ridgeline to generate more headroom for the third-floor office nook, which overlooks that calculated vista.

“I wanted the house to be contemporary, but also to fit in,” he explains. The overall shape of the house began as an outline of the previous structure and, rather than adding outdoor spaces, Sokol subtracted them to mitigate overall volume. The entry porch, carport, rear patio, and a bedroom balcony are all cut out from the building’s form. Sokol added those functional yet funky angles, but clad them in shingles—a common regional material. “For Buffalo, this is not the usual type of house design,” the architect admits, “but it appropriates the prevalent forms of the neighborhood and adapts them to a 21st-century lifestyle.”