There’s an irresistible meta-critique at the heart of architect Jennifer Bonner’s Haus Gables in Atlanta, asking: What if you blurred the lines between real architecture and the media and methods used to simulate it, namely drawings and models?
A professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) with a practice of her own, Bonner is fascinated by this potential interchangeability. She exhibited a maquette of the recently completed house at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial; the wooden “dollhaus” with hinged walls that swung open exposing the interiors was moodily photographed to emphasize the design’s riot of roof gables, which lay somewhere between McMansion convention and German expressionism. The real Haus Gables is scaled up to 2,200 square feet, and walking into it reveals how little has changed in that translation.
It even has the tectonics to match. The two-story, two-bedroom house was assembled from 87 cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels bolted together with foot-long screws. These massive custom-milled panels, up to 9.5 inches thick and 34 feet long, provide both structure and interior surfacing. The sheer material heft and lack of seams in the woodwork make it easy to imagine sliding an entire floor or wall into place, as in a dollhouse. The interior finishes are accordingly playful: An Instagram-influenced millennial-pink vibe abounds, and the overall color palette is heavy on sunny hues (marble-patterned vinyl tile in a canary yellow) and cool pastels (teal vinyl tile called Speckled Caribbean Cruise). Upmarket faux finishes, including Italian tiles that impersonate terrazzo and marble, move from the floor and up the walls at wainscoting level. (Bonner hand-drew the placement of the finishes for the contractor.) Some of the tiles are only one-sixteenth of an inch thick, “stuck on the wall, like a sticker,” she says.