Edgeland House


Bercy Chen Studio designed Edgeland House according to its client, a science-fiction writer, and his vision. The writer's literary mind filled with a naturalist sensitivity imagined a futuristic house in an extravagant location. The house was to be built on the edge of the city limits, more precisely in abandoned industrial zones. This stimulated imagination tested the architect team's creative limits, while encouraging them to construct a fantastic "house in a pit" that emerges from between the cracks of a cliff in the suburbs of Austin, Texas.

The inspiration came as much from the future as it did from the past. Thanks to the roof structures that are a reminder of the art of origami, Bercy Chen Studio took the Pit House as a model that is characteristic of North American Indians design, a type of primitive, semi-underground, dwelling. Just like this "house in a pit", Edgeland House is found two metres underground, which guarantees the comfort of an almost unchanging temperature all year round.

Using three noble materials -concrete, steel and glass, the house was built into a cliff, in the grave of former excavations of an old oil pipeline. That meant that the impact on the land was minimised. The contrast is as evident as it is attractive; the structure and black metal roofs stick out from the rock, the vegetable coverings suggest nature is advancing over the construction, while the large glass surfaces connect the house with the outdoors.

Half underground, the harshness of time is noticeable on Edgeland House and can maintain a thermal balance all year round. Its design takes advantage of the ground's thermal capacity to regulate temperatures, while the linear patio, in the centre, allows fresh air to circulate between the cliff and the stunning river that flows nearby.

One of the other way of achieving a constant temperature all year round is the green roof covering. That means controlling the building's climate with renewable energy is easily achieved. The house uses geothermal energy which is installed in a closed circuit of vertical wells that transport water in order to obtain a thermal exchange from the earth's mass. A pump pushes hot water around the house's climate control circuit.

To heat and cool the house, it also uses a water system that uses rain water. A waterfall in the garden collects irrigation water for reuse. The covered landscape of roofs is planed with indigenous plants. Interested in preserving local flora, Bercy Chen Studio uses a native flower organism to spread more than 40 native species to the zone.

This home is an ingenious example of architecture integrated with its surroundings that makes use of practical solutions that come from the primitive world as well as new technologies developed in the field of alternative energies. Edgeland House is the proof that sustainability and beauty can exist in harmony.

Bercy Chen Studio:

With its headquarters based in Austin, Texas, the architects' studio was set up in 2001 by Thomas Bercy from Belgium and Calvin Chen from Taiwan. This Euro-Asian alliances produces an original perspective when it comes to architecture. The studio specialises in innovative and sustainable designs, and is a member of Austin's Green Building Program. The design team involved in Edgeland House comprises Thomas Bercy, Calvin Chen, Dan Loe, Ryan Michael, Brad Purrington and Agustina Rodríguez.

Photos by Paul Bardagjy, courtesy of Bercy Chen Studio