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  • Writer's pictureCheryl McIntosh

Kirkland Avenue Residence–"Garuda"

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Garuda is a Hindu divinity, a great winged bird, usually the mount of the Lord Vishnu. In Buddhist mythology Garuda are enormous predatory birds with intelligence and social organization; the name means “well-winged”.

The house we designed for two generations of an Indian-American family in Kirkland, Washington was affectionately named “Garuda” as the building form took shape. The house incorporates a great (winged) roof enclosing and sheltering the upper floor family gathering spaces: living, dining, and cooking areas. Traditional cooking and dining are critical to the two sets of parents and children sharing the upper floor space and the openness and varied ceiling heights provided under the great roof were carefully designed to provide a shared gathering room.

In 3400 square feet Garuda houses the owners and both sets of their parents on three levels. The benefit of a custom design allows the open upper floor living/gathering/dining/cooking space and a generous master suite and a ground-level middle floor for two suites of bedrooms/baths for resident parents, a traditional Pooja (prayer) room, laundry, mudroom and dog space, and office/spare bedroom. The lowest level provides a generous family room and theater refuge from the open more public spaces above, a supporting powder room, and a 706-square foot 2-car garage and storage area.

A central atrium open to all three stories connects and combines entries from north (street) and south (gardens), circulation space, and a twenty-foot-high climbing wall. The upper floor takes advantage of water and territorial views across Kirkland, the middle level benefits from direct connections to the large rear yard, landscaping, and a storm water mitigating “rain garden”, allowing private outdoor access and terraces for the older generation using the home.

Careful attention was paid to the family’s traditional cooking and dining and gathering around meals. The large open kitchen for multiple cooks was placed at the west end of the house under clerestory windows. This critical space is the focus, shared by two generations of family and opens to sitting and eating/gathering places tucked under the lower central roof. A large dining table shares a bay in the upper floor overlooking the private rear yard landscape. Balconies on the upper level open to the northwest views through big folding and sliding doors. The house’s form and screening/connecting atrium also created a high clerestoried space for the private master bedroom, living space and open bath at the opposite end of the sheltering roof.

Openness, clean clear materials, and a sense of space and natural light guides the space in the upper and main stories. The house’s form flowed from the need to remain under the low Kirkland zoning height limitation (twenty-five feet), and the variable ceiling heights for (more open) living and gathering and (more intimate) dining spaces.

The upper floor was created to literally soar/span the more individualized lower floor spaces while creating a simple light-filled central atrium tying the house together and presenting easily read entries and a common defining core to the various parts of the house. The spaces we created are consciously planned to yield more open “public” places in the highest levels, becoming more private spaces as the house transitions to the ground and below it.

The exterior forms are emphasized with glass and fiber-cement panels at the top level, soaring over and sheltering containers clad in tougher, leathery Corten Steel at the ground level. Exposed concrete walls and rock-filled gabion retaining was selected to anchor the partially day-lighted basement level and garages to the land. Materials were chosen to be low-maintenance, relatively inexpensive, and to contrast the volumes that express the interior spaces.

Radiant heated natural ground concrete flooring, simple aluminum-clad wood windows and painted poplar trim, exposed concrete walls, colorful tile, and art niches accent a clean, simple interior.

The residence uses low-maintenance materials, high-efficiency windows, doors, appliances, and heating systems as well as extensive insulation and efficiency of space to lend sustainability and low energy use. Natural light limits the need to light the interior during the day and responds to the Pacific Northwest gray skies and long rainy winters. The open gracious interiors celebrate and the ample privacy facilitates the multiple generations sharing a relatively small home.

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