House with Big Window

Alessandro Armando – Manfredo di Robilant Architects transformed a preexisting residential building in Cambridge Massachusetts into a contemporary house with a plastic envelope that reflects or absorbs the skylight.

 

Architecture / Paolo Rosselli

This house in Cambridge MA, a few blocks northwest of the MIT campus, is nestled in the dense early 19th century urban texture of the area.

A small garden surrounds the house, and the west side gives access to a building in the lot behind. The current appearance of the house is the result of a radical renovation that lasted from 2010 to 2013, based on Alessandro Armando – Manfredo di Robilant Architects’ project.

Alessandro Armando – Manfredo di Robilant Architects, Urban House with Big Window, Cambridge Massachusetts

The volume of the preexisting building has been maintained except for an addition to the western side of the roof.

The project seeks to reconcile two oppositions in a dense urban environment: privacy on the one side, “eyes on the street” on the other side. A big corner window is in fact the “eye” of the house and two aluminum sliding shutters function as the eyelids.

Alessandro Armando – Manfredo di Robilant Architects, Urban House with Big Window, Cambridge Massachusetts

Outside, a plastic envelope reflects or absorbs the skylight, creating different visual effects depending upon time, weather and standpoint. The mahogany stairs, deck and windows’ railings are warm to sight and touch and stand in opposition to the rigor of the facade.

Alessandro Armando – Manfredo di Robilant Architects, Urban House with Big Window, Cambridge Massachusetts

The problem of the energy saving has been solved by fixing new insulating panels to the walls and by protecting this new layer with an external envelope that is made of translucent plastic panels. The space in-between the insulating panels and the external envelope allows air to flow in summer. The new envelope is light, though its structure is oversized to strengthen the existing structure. To lower the summer demand for AC the metal panels of the roofs are light grey, with a thick layer of insulation underneath.


Urban House with Big Window, Cambridge Massachusetts
Program: single-family house
Architects: Alessandro Armando – Manfredo di Robilant Architects
Record architect and associate for interiors: Samir Srouji
Structures: Sami Kasssis
Assistance to landscaping: Adrian Fehrmann
Completion: 2013