When we issued our challenge to area architects to look to the Queen City’s culture, history, natural resources and climate for inspiration in creating a “Charlotte-style” house, Jim Kirby and Rick Kazebee dug deep.
And looked up.
The pair – Kirby, vice president of GreenTHINC, and Kazebee of Kazebee Design – design residential, commercial and retail buildings.
For the house they designed for our challenge, “Southern Yellow Pine,” they relied on materials found deep in the earth and high in the sky to integrate the home into its environment.
They looked back in time to the materials that were available when the region was originally settled, including southern yellow pine; red clay bricks, which have been “forged from the soil” for hundreds of years; and grey concrete made from materials formed 12 million years ago.
The red brick, which they explain made Charlotte the “brick capital of the nation during the post-World War II building boom, is “more than veneer,” they point out. Along with the concrete, they provide a thermal mass that “collects heat during the day and releases it in the evening.”
Although the materials may be drawn from colonial times, the design, both aesthetically and in terms of minimizing environmental impact, are thoroughly modern.
In fact, when asked if there is a specific aesthetic or construction design they are known for, Kirby said: “Vernacular Modern – honest methods of building design stemming from the past but not lost in it.”
The site plan itself is designed to maximize the sun’s heat and light, both as it travels across the sky daily and the earth’s course is altered seasonally. Trees are incorporated to provide shade in the summer. The upstairs bedroom windows, on the front and north-facing side of the house, are bumped out on one side to angle them toward the east to capture more daylight.
Angles abound on “Southern Yellow Pine,” reaching up to form high windows, sloping to drain precipitation into rain gardens, and maximizing ventilation and shady overhangs.
One of the most interesting features about the home is the back, which is almost entirely a wall of glass, creating the effect of making the house look like it has been cut in half, like a dollhouse that provides access to the rooms by eliminating a wall. But it’s not without purpose; facing south, the back of the house maximizes sunlight in the living areas of the house. The bedrooms, on the other hand, are on the darker, northern facing side of the house.
The Kirby and Kazebee house and its presentation were among the more detailed ones submitted to The Meck Times. Asked why the pair spent their unpaid time and energy on the design, Kirby explained: “It was a fun opportunity to explore an interesting question.”