Discreetly peeking out from behind concrete walls, weathered steel and landscape plantings, the “Mask House” with its monolithic front face, exudes a very private facade. This initial image belies the vastly more warm interior living space and pool/patio area.
Mask house was commissioned by newly-retired clients whose careers were spent very much in the public eye. The client requested a new residence that would throw off many of the images and requirements of their former profession, and instead begin to describe a quieter, private life, more suited to family gatherings and general daily living.
Location: Nashville Tennessee; Architect Hasting Architecture Associates;
Situated on a gently sloping site, the 6,500-square-foot, single-story house is tucked behind an expansive paved forecourt and protected by retaining walls to the north and west. In keeping with the client’s request for secluded quarters, the architects devised a 160-foot-long by 16-foot-high cast-in-place concrete wall for the north facade that, in essence, masks the remainder of the house from the street.
The client also requested a home of ample light, warm materials and large expanses of glass organized around an outdoor living area. Simultaneously, they desired a home with little to no visual connection to the street.
Through these planes a protected path was created, thereby transitioning guests from a formal, nearly impenetrable motor court to the openness, warmth and generosity waiting on the other side.
They veiled this elevation with a sculptural row of weathering-steel panels that, in turn, conceal its only fenestration—a thin band of windows along the main living space inside.
Fittingly, the architects’ imaginative, seclusive strategy is most apparent (and surprising) at the home’s entrance, which is indicated by a raised weathering-steel panel extending out beyond the concrete wall.
This large, satiny portal can only be opened from inside. The homeowners enter through the garage.
Pierced with a pixilated pattern of acrylic-rod peepholes, the red lacquer pivot door has no visible hardware.
The north concrete wall anchors the hearth room while the south wall is all glass, facing the outdoor living area. A sinuous ceiling clad in ipe wood is held off the concrete wall revealing a continuous skylight for dramatic indirect light reflecting off the north wall. Charcoal coloured concrete slats clad the structure adding a rich contrast to the light concrete walls, wood soffits and white trim. The neutral pallet provides a backdrop for the lush landscape, sunken lounge and pool to take centre stage.
Sunlight fills the space via the clerestory windows that span the length of the great room.
The load-bearing concrete wall, insulated with a layer of rigid foam, supports the steel structure of the home’s core volume, a spacious living-dining-kitchen area.
The neutral pallet of the home provides a backdrop for the lush landscape, sunken lounge and pool to take centre stage.
C-shaped in plan, the three volumes emerge at the rear of the house with glass window walls and doors that open onto a fully furnished and equipped south-facing courtyard. Deep ipé-lined overhangs control solar heat gain and glare and appear to spill into the main space, where the ceiling and floor are surfaced with the same rich wood.
The home is organized around a central courtyard to which all living spaces open onto. The large central “hearth room” creates a dynamic gathering space, while more private rooms are sequestered in the wings.
Inspired by Venetian masks found within their extensive art collection, the residence, therefore, was conceived as a set of veiled experiences. The motor court and front façade employ expansive planes of concrete and steel that vary in colour, texture and scale. This side of the mask suggests a monumentality that creates a distancing between occupant and visitor.