William Morgan House
Built in 1973 by William Morgan, FAIA.
Morgan’s own family house was generated by the land formation of its site, the orientation to the ocean, and the stepped program of its spaces. The house is composed of two triangular masses, a slightly larger volume that sits at the crest of the existing sand dune, opening to the street, and a second volume that sits on the ocean-side of the dune opening to the beach below. The two volumes are organized on a symmetrical west-to-east axis from land to sea, which begins at the street entry, continues in the descending stair, and terminates in the ocean-side deck.
“The simple geometry of the forms is carefully matched to the profile of the dune and is reinforced by the bleached wood siding laid up in a pattern of opposing diagonals. A system of concrete grade beams and slabs, built over pi lings, supports the wood frame. The skill with which the Morgan house is fitted to its site accounts for a good deal of its success. But just as important is the clarity with which the architect has developed his ideas and made them hold up, without noticeable compromise, through design development, construction and final finishing. When first published as a project (RECORD, September 1972), the house drew critic ism from several correspondents who felt the site had been treated without sufficient regard for its ecological sensitivity. Some said the site should not have been built on at all. Such questions may still fairly be raised, but the continued stability of the dune, the return of the dune grasses and other plant and animal life are all encouraging signs that deserve notice and recognition.”
The original program required a hurricane-resistant 1800 square foot oceanfront residence for a family of four including separate bedrooms and baths for two young sons whose interests including surfing, sailing catamarans along the shore, fishing and other activities related to the sea. The residence is organized on three levels elevated above the face of a natural sand dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Bisecting the orderly plan, a central stairway interconnects the three living levels and leads directly down to the beach.
The lowest level above the dunes houses bedrooms for two teenage sons and their studies with baths. Living, dining, kitchen and entry areas occupy the main upslope level, with a parents' studio/ sleeping area in the balcony above.
The piling-supported structure utilizes wood frame construction above grade, diagonal tongue and groove siding, and laminated southern yellow pine roof beams supporting heavy timber decking with rigid insulation and hand-split shingle roofing. Separate air handling units on the upper, middle and lower levels of the residence provide heating, ventilation and cooling without vertical ductwork. Lot size limits the building width to 35 feel.
“The interior is sparsely furnished and simply decorated, with the accent on the geometrics implicit in the construction. Morgan designed the aluminum tables and chairs and the light fixtures. There are no frills-"There's no way he could have used a lot or electronic gimmicks." opines our colleague "because salt air is so unkind to metal transistors”- though the kitchen does boast a few of the latest laborsaving devices. Storage and seating are built in at various points. All of which serves to flesh out Morgan’s opposition to the tendency among many architects to employ “too much technology and not enough humanity." Morgan's house, like the construction of ancient Rome, achieves maximum serviceability with a minimum of science.”
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