The Hill House in Winthrop, Washington is a modest, sustainable home with a big presence. The house sits on a long, narrow and rocky hillside that slopes into the rugged landscape. To fit on the hillside without imposing on it, the building acts like a habitable landscape, adapting to the changing seasons and needs of its inhabitants. To keep the construction as sustainable as possible, gabion walls were created out of excavation waste and recycled steel and sustainably harvested wood were used throughout.
The structure is composed of a 20-foot wide x 115-foot long stepped platform, a shelter formed by the roof and east wall, and several gabion stone walls. The interior and exterior are separated only by a glass wall that wraps around three sides of the home, blurring the line between inside and out. Finish materials were chosen to enhance this effect. The result is a seasonally expansive structure that generously sized in summer at 2200 square feet, and shrinking down to a modest and efficient 100 square feet in winter.
According to the architect, “the east wall cuts into the land like a rusty blade, evoking the cultural history of the mining encampments found nearby and providing privacy from the road. It offers a defensive backdrop when viewed from the interior and, when combined with the sheltering roof and warm fire, lends a primordial feel that is unexpected in this thoroughly modern structure.
Gabion stone walls were made using the excavation waste generated while grading the site. These walls act as a bridge between building and landscape, providing both function and decoration. The architect made sure to make the entire structure not only beautiful, but sustainable as well. According to the architect: “Sustainable materials, technologies and techniques are used throughout, including recycled steel, sustainably harvested wood, BIBS insulation in oversized wall and ceiling cavities, on-demand hot water, low-flow fixtures and convection heat. Fenestration is designed to encourage passive solar radiation in winter. In summer, natural ventilation, large overhangs and seasonally-deployed, exterior-mounted sun shades (made from fabric used to shield fruit trees on nearby orchards) protect the glass from summer sun.”