Michael Bell ¦ Design
Glass House @ 2° ι Houston ι Texas 1998 - 2001 ι Glass House @ 2 Degrees is a plate structure—the taut surfaces of tempered glass are pushed to reveal tensions and energies . . .
This nine-hundred-square-foot, single-family house with two bedrooms and two bathrooms was designed for a five-thousand-square-foot lot in Houston’s Fifth Ward, the city’s lowest-income neighborhood, and commissioned by the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation. The project’s cost will be subsidized by a federal voucher program that will provide a $9,500 down payment, in hopes of providing a lower-income family with the foundation from which to build a home in the American metropolis. Glass House @ 2 Degrees is imagined as a lens that affords a new view on the city—a tentative, complex, yet powerful grasp on an elusive life.
An ultimately stable and closed structure, Glass House @ 2 Degrees extends its apparent geometric boundaries with transparency and an emerging complexity of torsional stresses that animate and threaten to buckle the planar surfaces of the off-the-rack sliding glass doors. It is a folded structure—a simple approximation of a continuous surface—with a topology metered by the critical dimensions of mass-produced building components. Its form is a working compromise between philosophy, mathematics, geometry, and production. Six sets of sliding-glass doors measure twenty feet each; the alternate inside-outside panels slide along a planar center of gravity and alter the rotational momentum of the balanced track. The building folds in on itself to form two shallow light wells that bounce light into the bedrooms. The two-degree fold results from a push at each corner of the building; the north and south elevations implode at the center.
Glass House @ 2 Degrees is a plate structure—the taut surfaces of tempered glass are pushed to reveal tensions and energies—as well as a repository of energy and the accrued labor of its making. It was one of nine projects from more than four hundred international entries awarded a 2001 Progressive Architecture design award.
The project was also shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in an exhibition curated by Terence Riley.