CUL-DE-SACS usually conjure images of suburban sameness—maybe a handful of brick-veneered McMansions, a half-circle of low-slung split-levels, a ring of cookie-cutter Craftsmans.
Not this one.
“Fayetteville” architecture usually conjures images of Fay Jones-esque organics, of wood and Ozark Mountain stone and glass, of homes that merge and meld into the sites enveloping them.
Not this one.
Instead, pull into this Mount Sequoyah cul-de-sac and park in front of this home—built as the personal home of Frank Jacobus, founding partner of the firm known as Silo AR+D and UA associate professor of architecture—and you might be surprised by what’s in front of you. Especially if I were to tell you (and I am!) that at its core, the home’s design was dictated by the wooded site around it. There’s no melding happening here: Rising from the green, there’s a white metal home that’s folded into shapes that play with your understanding of geometry. It’ll catch you off guard, at least at first. But then you’ll notice that the expanse of white metal almost makes the surrounding oak leaves appear greener. That the abstraction of the shapes almost highlight the hillside’s contours. That, in a way that might be hard to articulate, you’re feeling a fundamental connection to the land beneath you.
Walk inside, and you’ll see that your connection to the site goes even deeper—that your experience in the home, in many ways, is the experience you’d have if the home were actually not there at all.
“What I guess I’m trying to say is there are other ways we can appreciate and accentuate a site rather than just merging with and growing out of it, you know?” Frank says.
WHEN WE LAYMEN think about our dream home, we’ve got a pretty limited vocabulary to pull from: tall ceilings, panoramic windows, an open layout. When you’re an architect, you’ve got languages. Frank realized early on that designing a home for himself would never be as straightforward as interpreting his clients’ wants and needs and turning those wants and needs into something fully articulated. So he drew. And drew. And drew. He made a total of five full-out drawings of his family’s home, to be precise, in which he tried in earnest to merge both the “architect” and “family-man” sides of himself. He did this all the while creating something evocative of a design philosophy rooted in both abstraction and site connection, the central tenets of Silo AR+D’s approach to architecture.
As both a practicing architect and a tenure-track professor, Frank knew that people in his circles were going to look to this house as a bellwether of sorts: OK, that’s who you are—that’s either how talented or not talented you are. He admits that he was “clouded” at first by what the house “should” be. Ultimately, it was his wife, Emilie, a grade-school librarian, who determined what the house needed to be: a multistory home that reached high up the hillside to take advantage of the Boston Mountain views.
That sparked something within the “architect” side of Frank. After all, the hills, reminiscent of the tree-snarled Connecticut landscape of his youth, are what had attracted him to this subdivided plot hugging the north side of Fayetteville’s Mount Sequoyah. Working on his final drawing for the house, he recalled how he and Emilie and their two teenage sons would pack picnics and head to their virgin property. The boys would gather and stack rocks while their parents marveled at how the experience changed the farther up the hill you climbed—how you started out in the neighborhood, climbed up through the woods and then up and up into an Ozark panorama. Wouldn’t it be cool, he wondered with Emilie, if the house weren’t haptically divorced from the site? That when you went inside, you were walking up and down the stairs as if you were walking up and down the hillside? If you were a little out of breath by the time you reached the top, just like you would be if the house weren’t there?
And in the end, that’s where the house ended up. Take away the exterior’s metal whiteness, its almost crystalline volumes growing out of the ground like a geode of otherness, and this is what remains: a house that lets the Jacobuses live as they did during those daydreaming, hill-climbing picnics. In essence, a house that enables them to live as if it’s not there at all. The drawing that became the home is organized around a series of half-levels that, though open to one another, subdivide the living space into different experiences that recreate—and accentuate—the hillside’s dynamism. With each level you climb, you experience a constantly changing relationship to the land, one that follows its contours and highlights all that’s best about dwelling on it—that allows you to experience it the way you ought to, the way it was intended. It’s a counterpoint to the natural beauty surrounding it.
“Being in the house feels like you’re attached to the site, like you’re never divorced from it,” Frank says. “I love the form and the space inside, the flow of the levels from one to the next. I love how on the outside—because it’s a white surface—how when the trees lose their leaves, you get these shadows, and how in the early morning, you get this pinkish tone to the house, and in the late afternoon, this orangey warm tone. It’s a literal reflection of its place in a lot of ways. It’s just a pleasure to live in.”
It was also a pleasure to build, Frank will tell you. As the first home he designed for himself, as well as the first home he ever contracted, it was a project that not only made him a better teacher, but a better architect—or at least a more empathetic one.
“When you’re the homeowner, you’re realizing what you could have done a bit differently and what would have functioned better,” he says. “And then on the positive side, you realize that things you were maybe indirectly thinking about or intuitively thinking about are just the most pleasurable things. Like we just love sitting in our living room and watching the leaves blow and the changing of the leaves. … The big windows, all the way down to the floor, allow us a kind of access to the environment that we haven’t had before. Little things like that aren’t the architecture stuff of legends by any means, but they just change the way you live.”
Architect: Silo AR+D
Contractor: Frank Jacobus
Home Energy Rating: Pinnacle Energy, Inc.
Plumber: Quality Plumbing
Electrician: O’Barr Electrical Services, Inc.
Mechanical: Thomas Murie
Tile: Chris Lee Contracting
Custom Maple Hardwood Flooring: Chris Lee Contracting
Countertops: Pruden Granite and Tile, LLC
Glass Shower Doors and Mirrors: Fayetteville Glass Co.
Interior Railing: Chris Lee Contracting
Exterior Railing: Modus Studio