Project: Timber Cube Houses
Architects: coLAB studio, llc
Project Lead: Matthew Salenger, coLAB studio
Location: Tempe, Arizona, United States
Project size: 8100 ft2
Site size: 16800 ft2
Building levels 4
Photo Credits: Tridicat
Timber Cube Houses is a residential development of three houses.
The plot is bounded on all sides and too small for a typical dense multi-family development as there is not enough space for parking, structure, and waste.
One idea is to turn the site into a desert oasis; a respite of nature in a rapidly urbanizing part of town. Or the land could be developed with just three multi-story private urban homes to fill the void. Or it could possibly be a quasi-public area for events.
The design aims to combine these three concepts: Three tall houses that leave enough room for parking, structure, and waste that gives a healthy amount of land over to Sonoran landscape. In addition, a semi-public square is provided.
The garden is raised up five feet above street level everywhere except the north property edge, where the garden slopes down to two feet. The houses are raised up eight feet above street level, supported on mass timber columns. The three-foot gap between the homes and garden wall allows the homes to look like they are floating amongst the plants and trees.
The homes are perfect 30-FT cubes and contain three levels. The space below them is used for storage, waste, and autos. The ground-level space between the homes is used for gatherings, play time, guest parking, projects, etc. The wall at the perimeter of the site creates a private enclave for those within and a garden for those outside.
The homes are clad in rusted horizontal corrugated metal, a modern material that marries local agricultural buildings with the look of “the old west” pioneer towns. The cladding contains large-scale artwork created by our studio; a series of drawings from life of indigenous plants. The graphics and the trees blend and blur into each other, allowing the dark clad homes to fade into background.
What were the solutions?
Construction, Materials, and Space:
The Timber Cube Houses are built of Mass Timber, meaning heavy structural elements made of combining smaller typical framing members. In this case, large forty-foot columns run from foundation to roof, with glue-laminated beams supporting floors and roof. Between the beams are nail-laminated slabs. For shear and lateral support, cross-laminated panels are added at structurally necessary locations. All of these elements are exposed on the interiors, for walls, floor, ceiling, etc.
Daylight Deep into the Home:
All interior spaces have natural light; even the areas at the center of the structure.
On the intermediate interior level, the Master Bathroom is centered on the floor plate. Natural sunlight is delivered into the space via a Solar Tube at the shower. The two bathrooms on the third level also have similar “skylights.”
Windows and Patios:
The homes are designed with the main living, working, and sleeping spaces on the south side, the stairs on the north side, and a narrow utility core between them on all four levels.
To keep the building energy efficient and pleasant to live in, the windows are carefully placed to maximize interior daylighting all year, but to eliminate direct sunlight in the hottest six months. Most of the glazing faces south, where fixed solar shades block most of the harshest sun angles. Windows facing West and East are very small and very few. Windows facing north are minimized as the stairs (and a storage space) are placed along that elevation.