“The only place on earth where all places are — seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending”
The above quote was written by Jorge Luis Borges regarding the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is our starting point in viewing the development of this thoughtful new home resting just below Town Mountain Road co-created by SAI Design and the adventurous owners. While there are many grounded realities that go into a sophisticated construction as this, equally, there are abstract notions that layer in meaning and spirit that give this home a rich, rooted history long before moving day arrives.
The Aleph is a silent letter quietly representing strength, humility, creation and the first breath. Placed on the site it represents where the topographical elevations of the earth meets the air coming up the hill. It is the point where the two distinctly marry.
The owners, a married couple, also bring together the two distinct elements of wood and clay. Both craftsmen, one is a woodworker while the other a potter. Wood and earth are mixed in and help shape the spatial organization of this home. The upper volume contains the more public “living” spaces is light, clad in wood and adjusts its angles to the views and to embrace the energy of the sun. Dramatically, it cantilevers out into space supported by the lower volume that hugs tightly to the earth. This volume clad in stucco and cement board houses the “private” spaces including studios and bedrooms. As you walk around the house, Jorge’s notion of the Aleph becomes clear. This was a place on earth where all places are represented, seen from every angle and remain clear of confusion.
This artful, architectural stew was expertly guided and stirred over a period of two years by Michael Silverman and Elihu Siegman of SAI Design. Given plenty of simmer time, the rich design evolved organically working back and forth from client to architect and from careful thought and functionality to artistic intuition. While your average builder might look at the specific site, common to Asheville, and see its limitations and standard outcome this team saw it as a creative springboard for achieving something unique. The home is a balance of being nestled into the hillside to minimize the visual impact while cantilevered to minimize the impact on the ground. Trees from the site were recycled into the house mill work and floors, not uncommon to resource minded mountain dwellers of Asheville. For me, part of the strength of the home lies in its founding design principles of being site specific in both layout and materials. The notion is explained above, however you simply have to experience the house to know that it just feels right. Take a look.
The home is 3100 sq.ft with three bedrooms (one bunk room for multiple guests) and three baths. Both the private and public entry is on the main level anchored by a generous storage, utility and laundry area. Beyond is the great room which is dramatic and simple featuring custom crafted details in wood and concrete. My favorite spot is standing at the top of the stairs where you can view the entire restful and rhythmic living space while at the same time uncover clues about the rest of the house thru inviting views down corridors in two directions and down the Escher-like stairs to the lower level. The generous landing area on the lower level neighbors a media room with built-ins flanked by the owners studios with indoor-outdoor work spaces at either end. Overall, the Aleph House makes sense with its carefully crafted and functional layout. Like the Aleph, it has a humility in its simple, shaker-like utility. Yet, it is layered with quiet sophistication that makes it rich without ever having to know why. The quality home will undoubtedly endure generations of both well grounded and inspired inhabitants and Asheville will benefit from a richer compost of thoughtful modern design. Great job guys!
Happy New Year to all!
Article by Troy Winterrowd, most photos by David Dietrich