1963 Mountain Brook House in Alabama Gets a Contemporary Update

1963 Mountain Brook House in Alabama Gets a Contemporary Update

Architects: Design Initiative
Project: Mountain Brook House
Project Team: Phillip Woods Home Builder, BBG&S, Barnett Jones Wilson, European Kitchens of Alabama, MDM Design Studio, Patti Woods Interiors
Location: Mountain Brook, Alabama, United States
Size: 2,500 sf
Photography: Graham Yelton

The original Mountain Brook house was designed in 1963 by Fritz Woehle, FAIA, a local Birmingham architect known for his expressive modern design. Like many of Fritz’ projects, it is specific to the client and responds directly to the surrounding context.

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Benched into the site, the original design consists of a round volume (the ‘drum’) with the program organized radially, a brick wall that interrupts the form and creates the central dining room, a fireplace that separates the living room from the front entry, and a rectangular exterior deck. It was designed with full-height glass at the perimeter of the round volume to take advantage of the views out to the beautiful landscape. While most of the program is oriented toward the exterior, the dining room is internally focused with a conical ceiling and diffuse skylight. Unfortunately, as the house changed hands and through subsequent renovations, much of the original intent was lost.

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The current owners are fond of modern design and admired Fritz’s work. In addition, the owners have also always wanted a glass house in the woods somewhere. With this in mind, Design Initiative developed a solution that would balance the existing with the new. A primary goal of the project was to restore the original intent of the design while updating the residence to function for their needs. A space to entertain guests, as well as display their extensive art and artifact collection was also important.

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Responding to these needs, new windows replace the walls at the perimeter of the ‘drum’, opening up the views back onto the site. A two-story glass volume at the original deck location links the upper and lower levels and increases the amount of usable square footage. The interior spaces are connected through a unified material palette and circulation path around the interior of the ‘drum’. A steel clad fireplace that opens up to the dining room and the living room, houses mechanical, audio, and storage functions.

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