Eager to plant their roots more deeply into their new hometown, experiential graphics designer Youn Choi and award-winning architect Doug Pierson, AIA, partners in life and founding partners of pod architecture + design (pod a+d) in Carrboro, have designed a modern house for their family of four that they’re about to build on a site that poses a host of challenges.
“No one has purchased the lot for a long time because it’s so hard to build on,” said Pierson, referring to the 1.2-acre swatch he and Choi purchased within a 12-acre preserved wooded area. “It has severe limitations: a year-round 100-foot creek setback, an oddly shaped buildable area, a steep hillside, dense forest coverage, and it’s adjacent to a floodplain.”
Yet Pierson and Choi didn’t see those issues as limiting. They saw them as inspirational.
From their design studio in the historic train depot in downtown Carrboro, Pierson explained how the land informed the custom design of the future 2500-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath modern house that he and Choi will share with their two young children.
“We’ve chosen to honor the unique site by letting it suggest the form of the house,” he said. “So we’ve partially embedded it into the wooded hillside and opened it up to the natural meadow and creek at the lower elevations. We’ve used the strict construction limitations to establish a design that follows the usable land contours, reflects the climb in elevation by ‘hopping’ up to the higher elevation, then anchors itself back to the top. The form evolved wholly from the site limitations and our desire to maintain the meadow undisturbed.” He paused and smiled. “On a different site, it would be a different house. So we’re very happy that we found this particular site.”
Pierson, whose family hails from North Carolina, and Choi, a native of South Korea, are excited about reusing the Southern yellow pine trees that have to be felled to make room for the house. They’re having all of them milled locally then returned to the site to be repurposed as cabinetry and architectural woodwork.
According to the design, this modern, sustainable house will be a composition of sleek, rectilinear forms, at once soaring and grounded. Huge expanses of glass will frame views of the meadow, forest, and creek and allow natural light to fill the interior. The foundation and retaining walls will be polished concrete block. A terrace on the upper level will have glass overlook guardrails.
They haven’t decided on the exterior material yet. If the past is precedent, it will be corrugated metal. But Choi is still searching for a new cladding material that can be continuously wrapped around the house’s form and respond to the site and the climate.
Inside, their modern house will feature exposed structural steel, polished concrete floors over radiant heating, quartz countertops, and the repurposed southern yellow pine for custom cabinetry.
Committed to Local:
Pierson pointed out that he and Choi have hired green home builder Kevin Murphy of Newphire Building in Chapel Hill, and an all-local roster of consultants and suppliers including: structural engineer Rob Munach of Excel Engineering in Carrboro; Fitch Lumber & Hardware in Carrboro; Stonehenge Masonry and Adams/Oldcastle Products, both in Youngsville; Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp. in Mocksville; and radiant flooring expert Mike Torville of Carrboro.
The Choi-Pierson house should be completed by August of 2019.
About pod architecture + design:
At pod a+d, we believe in the integration of architecture and all aspects of design to connect buildings + environment + identity. That’s why pod a+d is a hybrid firm, offering all architectural services, environmental design, experiential graphics, and wayfinding design. Exterior and interior architecture; furnishings and finishes; financial feasibility and scheduling; engineering and construction; and environmental graphics – considered simultaneously, these disciplines inform our hybrid/integrated approach to architecture. For more information: www.podand.com.