Entry View

We think of architecture as accumulative. But that’s not the only way to look at it. Architecture can also be subtractive. The Ewing House appears to have been literally carved out of earth, as though the site had eroded to reveal the building’s shape. Although the first floor is hidden all around by a grassy hill, the house is filled with light throughout the day. A rectangular volume containing the children’s bedrooms floats lightly above the earthen base.

The shape of the home sprang from the idea of creating a central location where Tab Ewing, a single mother, could keep an eye on her four young daughters as she worked. The kitchen became the house control center, similar to an all-seeing Panopticon tower. From that central space, the three outdoor courts, along with the den and the living room, are clearly visible.

The roof slope echoes the slope of the surrounding hillside. In contrast, the red exterior metal panels systems and corrugated metal siding stand out from the surrounding forest.

Energy costs are extremely low thanks to geothermal wells, radiant heat, and earth-sheltered construction.

Earth-sheltered homes are resilient. According to the US Department of Energy, they are “less susceptible to the impact of extreme outdoor air temperatures than a conventional house, require less outside maintenance…and the earth surrounding the house provides soundproofing. In addition, plans for most earth-sheltered houses ‘blend’ the building into the landscape more harmoniously than a conventional home. Finally, earth-sheltered houses can cost less to insure because they offer extra protection against high winds, hailstorms, and natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

The home won an AIA award at the 2018 Design Pittsburgh celebration. Thanks to Joey Reid and Paul Wakim for their project photography, Iliya Jordanoff for his management and drafting, to Ben Imhoff for his renderings, and to Mark Delissio for the super-cool mig and tig welded steel model. Please click here for a collection of AIA jury comments.