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Exploring the nature of boundaries was the starting point for the design of a single family residence in Nashville, Tennessee. As evident in both the city and the site, the perception of the line between the order of the city and the order of nature must continually respond to the changing urban fabric and the way in which it is inhabited. Just as urban growth left traces of past boundaries, the house, with its’ fortress-like street façade and otherwise more transparent courtyard facade, becomes a new threshold between the community itself and the inner sanctum of the private courtyard.  Our project attempts to exist as a new boundary between the order of the city and the natural order of the wilderness.

City Boundaries/Thresholds

After the original settlement along the banks of the Cumberland River in 1780, Nashville has grown concentrically with rings of growth remaining visible in the urban fabric. Union Station and its associated train tracks from the 1890’s marks an early boundary to the city with tracks carved deep below the level of the city. As the city continued to grow, bridges were built over the railroad “gulch” in an attempt to reconnect newly developed land with the original city. Subsequent growth and the introduction of the Interstate Highways in the 1960’s and again in the 1980’s is evident in two distinct boundaries of highway also cut deep into the landscape below the level of the city. Again, bridges attempt to reconnect, turning old boundaries into new thresholds as the line between the order of the city and the order of nature responds to inherent urban growth.

Site Boundaries/Thresholds

The context of the site itself represents another type of growth and development within the urban fabric. Large properties, once the pride of estate homes and farm lands, have increasingly been subdivided and often enclosed becoming gated communities. In the case of our project, a golf course was divided into three different communities, each separated and bound from the rest of the city by a private gate.

House Boundaries/Thresholds

Historically, because of its location at the juncture between the urban order of the city and the natural order of the wilderness, the Villa has framed our perception of the relationship between these realms. In the case of our project, the first reading of boundary is simply the house itself, a threshold between the city with its public and cultural readings, and the protected courtyard, a private place of seclusion for the family.


At a closer level, however, the perception of the boundary shifts to read as the stone facade itself. One enters the house through a void in the front, which has been carefully placed so as to be hidden from view as one approaches the house. The monolithic, predominantly opaque street elevation becomes a foil against which the scenography of the surrounding houses are read. This fortress-like street facade, which erodes as it wraps around the house to become a plinth, or nothing at all, is contrasted by the predominantly transparent courtyard facade providing a direct connection between the interior spaces of the house and the protected natural order of the courtyard. 


The reading of this more transparent facade, most evident when looking back from the far end of the courtyard, reveals a portion of the house placed outside the massing proper.  The house is turned inside out, placing a room outside of itself, symbolic of the threshold to new and changing boundaries.

© 2022 by  eric rosen architects

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