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Beach Haven West, NJ
Proposal for three houses below sea level

Fall 2014, Studio
Paul Lewis

In collaboration with Van Kluytenaar

Built on top of former wetlands, the increasingly submerged community of Beach Haven West, New Jersey is facing a future of elevated roads and houses raised on nine-foot platforms. With a growing number of retirees moving to this beach community full-time, the lifted home poses all kinds of problems for even entering the front door. To avoid elaborate switch-back ramps and elevators which could easily be damaged by water, Ramp House emerges out of the long straightaway of an ADA ramp. While it borders on the absurd, the ramp in fact provides each house with much needed recreational space and allows the bulk of the three houses to occupy only one and a half of the three lots—separating them from their neighbors and carving extra space for lush, green wetlands to grow in alongside them. While conjoined and co-dependent for structural reasons, the three houses are programmatically and visually private. Each house has two large picture windows and a South-facing patio, but is configured differently according to flexible orientation of the stud walls that flare off the central trusses. 

Most raised homes depend on a forest of pole supports to lift them off the ground. Covered or exposed, poles are bulky and tend to leave dark, cavernous areas beneath the house that are not occupiable. Ramp House proposes a series of interlocking trusses which touch the ground at only three points and lift up to allow light underneath the main structure. The trusses allow for the wide-span picture windows that face the water, and the floor joists cantilever off each outside truss to create an exterior porch. Stud walls (shown in white on the model) flare off each truss to define the boundaries of the three homes such that the trusses are shared and the houses seem to blur into one another while still maintaining their functional autonomy. 

The trusses are clad with a perforated wood rainscreen which gradually becomes more opaque as you progress up the ramp and into the house interior. Each unit has only has two windows, but these windows are big enough to supply sufficient sunlight (East and Southeast-facing) cross-ventilation. Each unit also has a series of pivot doors which can be left open in the summer to facilitate airflow or closed to trap it and block wind from the Northwest in winter. 

Interior windows + Exterior ramp deck