Frank Harmon’s Low Country House Wins National AIA Design Award

Photo by Richard Leo Johnson
Photo by Richard Leo Johnson

April 21, 2009 (RALEIGH, NC) – “All good buildings begin with the land.” That is the edict that informs every building Raleigh, NC-based architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, designs. It is also one of the key reasons his design of a modern “green” residence in Charleston , South Carolina, recently received one of the American Institute of Architects’ Housing Awards for 2009.

For nine years the AIA has presented its annual Housing Awards to promote the importance of good residential design as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable national resource.

In an article on this year’s award-winners in the Wall Street Journal, author Christina S.N. Lewis observed: “With obvious opulence on the outs, the winning AIA homes offer a glimpse of the styles and features that might appeal to homeowners of the future. Many incorporate eco-friendly ideas: solar panels, radiant heating and ‘daylighting,’ the practice of maximizing natural light while reducing glare and heat. Another theme was the celebration of hardy, maintenance-free materials like stone, steel and copper, and reliance on locally available resources.”

Harmon’s Low Country Residence, completed in 2005, is exemplary of all points. It was designed to tread lightly on its lush site overlooking historic Shem Creek, and to evoke the feeling of living outdoors. The long, one-room-deep floor plan creates a slender footprint on the land and allows each room to have windows and porches overlooking the creek. The operable windows also provide natural cross-ventilation and lighting. Approaching the house under a canopy of moss-draped live oaks, the view of the marsh appears like an element in a Japanese painting.

Harmon’s modern interpretation of Charleston’s historic shutters – a series of 10 perforated steel screens that a single person can raise or lower — provides the glass wall overlooking the creek with protection from harsh weather and summer sun. In their upright position, the screens create shade for the glass wall overlooking the creek. In their closed position, they protect the wall and house from hurricane forces and flying debris – an essential need for an area that was ravaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

For strength, the 2500-square-foot house is built of steel and laminated-wood (Southern yellow pine) framing that rests on matt-concrete footings. The roof is a large, simple plane that shelters the house from the area’s torrential rains. Brazilian hardwood porch floors and pool decking avoids heat absorption and radiation during the hot summer season.

This is the third design award Frank Harmon’s Low Country house has received. It has also been featured in numerous magazines and journals and was a “House Of The Month” in the Raleigh News & Observer.

Jurors for the 2009 awards were: Kenneth Workman of RWA Architects; Rainy Hamilton Jr. of Hamilton Anderson Associates; Jane Kolleeny of Architectural Record and GreenSource magazines; and Jeff Oberdorfer of First Community Housing. Project summaries for all of this year’s award-winning designs can be found at

For more information on the Low Country Residence and other projects by Frank Harmon, visit

Photo by Richard Leo Johnson
Photo by Richard Leo Johnson


posted by blueplate pr

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