Will Ruhl lifts house on concrete stilts to create larger family retreat

US architecture firm Ruhl Walker co-founder Will Ruhl has completed a home renovation for his family in Massachusetts, lifting an existing residence on concrete supports to create an extra living space underneath.

Gap Cove House is located in Rockport, and was designed by the architect for himself and his wife, their two grown daughters and grandchildren.

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

The residence sits on a stretch of rocky coast, where a coast guard observation tower once stood, beside is a former coast guard station built in 1888.

The original house is under 10 years old and was prefabricated in Maine. However it didn’t provide enough space, so Ruhl raised the whole building eight feet above its foundations.

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

The concrete base was then ground down to a smooth finish, and now serves as the base for a large outdoor living room.

A series reinforced concrete pillars surround the space to support the wooden home above, and also create an enclosed unit that houses a foyer and laundry room.

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

“The house is designed to exceed FEMA coastal velocity zone construction regulations by raising the main living level four feet higher than required,” said Ruhl Walker Architects. “The ground floor porch is an added benefit of this strategy and is designed to allow storm surges to flow through unimpeded.”

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

Measuring 1,600 square feet (169 square metres), the raised part of the house is clad in red cedar to subtly tie in the with older timber buildings in the neighbourhood.

“The exterior materials were selected to minimise maintenance and to patina over time to mottled greens and greys that will match the lichen-covered rocks to which the house is anchored,” the firm said.

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

Solar panels are incorporated into the build. In its first year of occupancy, the house generated more than 12 kilowatts of power.

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

The upper portion of the house is split over two levels, but the majority of rooms are on the first floor. An open-plan kitchen, dining and living room overlook the ocean, with light interiors throughout.

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

Materials include bleached white oak flooring, poplar walls that are painted white, and light wood cabinetry.

A white stairwell is made from custom-perforated steel panels that filter sunlight.

Gap Cove House by Ruhl Walker

Three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a media room are situated towards the street. The house is also designed to be wheelchair accessible for the grandson, who has a terminal genetic condition.

An elevator connects the three levels, and window sills are placed low so he can watch lobster boats go by.

Photography is by Chris Becker.

Project credits:

Geotechnical and structural engineer: RSE Associates
General contractor: Skinner & Watkins
Steel fabricator: Modern Metal Solutions
Solar system design and engineering: Sunpower/Revolusun
Landscape design: Ruhl Walker Architects and Annisquam Landcare
Custom cabinetry: Downsview

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