March-April 2013 | Featured Article

Extreme Homes

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Photo by Ken Wyner

Extreme Modern

Past Meets Future in Bethesda

This Bethesda house perches on a sloping acre overlooking the Potomac and the palisades of Virginia. But before the view, which many might consider the main course, come the appetizers: a gentle walk along a flagstone path between small pools that leads to a sudden opening between two distinct wings connected by an underground tunnel. The smaller wing contains an office, designed to be both isolated and connected.

The 3,947-square-foot house is heavily insulated and tightly sealed, and there is a solar hot water heater hidden in the garage. What appears to be an ascending jet wing over the two sections is intended to represent a hill slope. The opening is like the Red Sea parting, and the hill-like roof is a metaphor for Moses climbing a mountain for his first glimpse of the Promised Land, at least that’s how architect Travis Price sees it.

“There was metaphor behind every gesture,” says Price, of Travis Price Architects, a Washington, D.C., firm. He notes that the home’s design is rooted in the religiosity of the owners, a professional couple who asked not to be identified or to have the address published because “we’re not showy people.”

Beyond the architect’s metaphors are a lot of glass and steel in the home’s construction, with a picture window—actually, a great glass wall—and a rear terrace offering a Potomac panorama, the turbulent river contrasting with the still water of the ponds. Price was even inspired to write a haiku about the house.

“I’m really strongly bent on finding the story of client, the story of site and to make the shape evoke those emotions,” says Price, who worked with architect Diego Balagna on its design and construction.