A good house design, at its most essential, addresses the living requirements and preferences of its occupants, but equally important is a house's consideration of the land it occupies and the manner in which it addresses its site. Not only is proper house siting integral to good house design, it's a vital element of sustainability—a common belief among many architects. In his newly released book House in the Landscape—Siting Your Home Naturally (Princeton Architectural Press, $40), architect Jeremiah Eck, FAIA, expounds these concepts, urging architects and owners alike to design and build more thoughtfully and illustrating the many ways houses may interact with their landscapes. Eck, partner at Boston-based Eck|MacNeely Architects, is uniquely qualified to discuss the way houses relate to their landscapes; in addition to his design work, he also is a painter of landscapes. Through his landscape paintings, Eck gains a deep understanding of the site elements contained within them, which translates into his architecture and the way he sites houses.
Beginning with an explanation of how to read site plans for those unfamiliar with them, Eck quickly moves on to the meat of his book: 22 inspiring residential projects that exemplify site-sensitive and site-responsive design. Along with two of Eck|MacNeely's own projects are featured houses designed by some of the best-known firms, including Frank Harmon Architect, Cutler Anderson Architects, Eggleston|Farkas Architects, The Miller Hull Partnership, Maryann Thompson Architects, SALA Architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects, McInturff Architects, and several others. Photos, sketches, and site plans are included with each case study to help detail each site's features and the issues they posed, the architects' solutions, and the resulting house designs.
Through these case studies, Eck illustrates the ways proper—and often creative—siting can allow house and landscape to merge and work in unison, creating dwellings that are sustainable in the most straightforward manner. Many of the projects demonstrate how good siting—whether urban, suburban, or rural—can play up and take advantage of a landscape's best features and how houses designed to respond to their environments frequently reinterpret vernacular architecture and traditional building strategies for modern lifestyles. What these projects truly reveal is the creative compromises sometimes necessary in the negotiations between a site's features and the owner's programmatic requirements, particularly when sustainability comes into play.
At its heart, House in the Landscape makes a persuasive argument against houses that disregard their environments and in favor of those that work with the advantages of their sites and transcend their limitations.