Sliver House is an urban infill project rising in Fountain Square, Indianapolis.
We often get calls from people looking to renovate or develop new projects in this neighborhood. Generally, many aren’t a great fit. To clarify, some don’t appear to have margins to support the level of design we offer, and we prefer to not leave design decisions up to the developer. A lot of great things are happening in Fountain Square, but we feel like some of the residential rehabs + new construction going-on in the immediate area could be of higher quality (on both the design and build sides). There are most certainly exceptions to this opinion, as there are a few architect-designed projects in the immediate area that are excellent.
Once again, Paul Musielak of GEM Homes, invited us to collaborate on this unique design opportunity. We helped Paul and Kristina design their personal residence last year. For that reason, we were happy to continue the relationship on a very unique site with great potential!
Project Info – Sliver House, Fountain Square
Architecture: HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles (Derek Mills)
Interior Architecture + Material Selections: by Developer and Builder (Architect crossing their fingers)
Construction: GEM Homes (Paul Musielak)
Structural Engineer: Silver Creek Engineering (Matthew Owen)
Process Photography: HAUS + GEM Homes
Design Process – Sliver House, Fountain Square
GEM Homes had been doing some work with the developer of this property and made the introduction. Meanwhile, we were able to sit-down for a beer and agree on the design layout concepts for the project in about 90-minutes. And afterwards, we developed more detail and presented concepts for neighborhood and zoning review.
This site is about 18.5′ wide side-to-side (pre-existing house was 14.4′ wide). Certainly, based on the narrow width, it is was not possible to build anything reasonable on the site meeting current zoning requirements. Clearly, even the original house was not close to meeting current zoning criteria. Of course, the City and neighborhood understood the circumstances, and we were able able to proceed with only minor design changes, mostly related to the required fire-resistance and window openings to the side-yards.
We’ll share some diagrams of the design concepts in the near future. In brief, the design concept centers around a stair-well/light-shaft connecting and sharing light to all levels. Indeed, zoning ordinance will only allow fire-protected windows on sidewalls, as neighboring walls are only about 2-3 feet away. From there, we have an upper 2-story volume sliding over a base-volume. Basically, the base volume extends visually through connecting ground level deck, privacy fencing, and into one-car detached garage. The two volumes are of a complimentary material to express the contrast between the two volumes.
We have prioritized glazing and balconies at the front and rear for all levels due to the absence of windows on the sides. The goal was to enable front balconies access to some views downtown, with rear balconies getting a visual on the Square. We knew going-in that a slender, vertical house like this was going to require structural review, primarily to address the shear issues in the narrow direction. Since we wanted to maximize the glazing front and back, we started with a structural design solution that integrated steel moment-frames. GEM Homes priced this option, and the steel + associated footing tie-ins were difficult, expensive, and many footing contractors didn’t want to deal with it.
The contractor requested that the team brainstorm an alternative, simpler solution that would be lower budget and include CMU foundation walls instead of all-concrete. GEM and HAUS (with Silvercreek collaboration) were able to quickly modify the design to delete the steel, add layered wood-framed shear-walls tying to reinforced CMU foundation walls + concrete footings. We had to reduce the amount of front and rear glazing to achieve the shear walls, but feel this was a good compromise that maintained the design concepts.
Construction Process – Sliver House, Fountain Square
This “before” photo shows the property in 2017 or so. These houses have a quaintness and cute scale. However, they are mostly in disrepair and the small ones too tiny to support an evolving demographic.
Here below is a progress photo from the street. 1005 house has been removed and footings are underway. It appears that the house to the left will be renovated in tandem with Sliver House (by others).
Spread footers are being formed in this view from the rear of the property looking north-northeast.
This particular 10″ wide CMU wall anchors one of the shear wall locations. Eventually, contractor will fill respective CMU cores with grout to tie-together the rebar reinforcing and shear rods/sheathing. We look forward to seeing framing happen in late November 2018.
The client hasn’t asked us about exterior cladding materials. Nevertheless, they have clad the one-car garage in a medium gray corrugated siding. On inquiry, we learned the plan to clad upper two stories of the house in same siding. Of course, we are hoping to maintain the original concepts, which can be achieved with various materials as long as the transitions and relationships stay intact.
One-Car Garage Framing + Cladding
Here is a view from the alley of the new Sliver House garage structure and cladding. These are tight quarters for sure. Developer said that this gray corrugated siding will be same cladding used on the upper 2-story volume. This might not be too bad if the details are good.
Framing on primary structure is underway.
It is always exciting to see the project go vertical. Initially, we want to see if it is the correct size and shape and how does it “feel”? Next, are the details correct?
The overall massing and proportions look correct. But here on the front elevation, we noticed that framers added a flat 8′-0″ ceiling to the front third floor balcony. Firstly, this top balcony is to be vaulted and feel spacious, so we are working to get that corrected so as to maintain the distinct front “frame” motif and balcony volume. Also, development team has downsized and/or eliminated some windows and doors without Architect review or endorsement.
We communicated the concern about the front balcony to the build team and they agreed to remove the flat ceiling framing in the front 8′-0″ or so until reaching the shear wall to the left. Builder said he has ideas for the flat ceiling toward the back and wants to leave it toward rear of balcony. To be sure, we are happy for a small victory in maintaining partial front elevation design integrity. And looking forward, we eagerly anticipate further progress.
Please check back for updates, as we’ll be adding news as the story unfolds!