Design Vault Ep. 6 Guildford Court with Peter VanderPoel


peter vanderpoel


Peter VanderPoel is a practicing architect licensed in Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia. His practice focuses on residential and small commercial projects in and around Washington DC. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kansas and a Master of Architecture from Virginia Tech and is a Certified Passive House Consultant. He has taught architecture at the university level for over 10 years and is current an Adjunct Professor at Virginia Tech's Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) in Alexandria, Virginia.



The Guildford Court project was an opportunity to build a luxury home in a suburban area of McLean, Virginia. The demands of the site were the driver of the design. The lost is similar to the state of Georgia, both in shape and orientation, and is located on a cul-de-sac with a very narrow street frontage. The property lines that extended back from the street describe an angle of approximately 60 degrees. The lot if very steep, rising 20' as it extends back from the street to the northwest. "I find the best architectural solutions as ones that respond and accommodate external forces, rather than ignoring or fighting them" - Peter VanderPoel.

The 60 degree angle drawn by the property lines suggested three axes might be used, as a hexagon is defined by three axes to enclose its shape. The program called for three major components: automobile access and garage, semi-public (formal and casual entertaining) and private. Moving cars across the site and garaging them is naturally limited by a cars ability; climbing steep hills and parking on steeply sloped surfaces is undesirable. The south side of the site is the lowest area with a minimal slope running from east to west. This proved most desirable for moving cars on and off the site. Placing the garage block here would also provide some privacy for the interior portion of the lot. These axes allowed for programmatic elements to respond to one of the three axes, depending on needs and relationships. The street frontage is similar to Georgia's Atlantic coast; relatively narrow and near the south side of the property. The semi-public portion of the program is located here with an area for an office near the front entrance, beneath the private block and the family functions in the main, brick clad block. The private portion of the program was placed on the east side of the property raised up to meet the high end of the site, resting on the semi-private block. Stairs provided the hinge on which to turn these three block through their 120 degrees rotate with the semi-public and private stairs expressed as a grand, sculptural stair with a large skylight about. The splayed organization allowed for a natural courtyard scheme with the south and east side screened by the house itself and the trees and slope at the north and west to screen those views. The privacy afforded by this arrangement was leveraged by inclusion of a pool in this area. A series of terraced retaining walls, reliant on the same 3 axis grid, sculpted the steep portion of the site and carved out the level area for placement of the pool.



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