The American Institute of Architect’s Honor Awards program recognizes achievements for a broad range of architectural activity to elevate the general quality of architecture practice, establish a standard of excellence against which all architects can measure performance, and inform the public of the breadth and value of architecture practice. Charles Luck Stone Center was honored to be an in-kind contributor (granite countertops) of one of the winning designs – the LUMENHAUS, designed by the Virginia Tech Solar Team. LUMENHAUS is the third solar house designed and built at Virginia Tech as part of a research program begun in 2002. An innovative design integrating architecture and technology, the project won the international Solar Decathlon Competition in Madrid, Spain in June of 2010. In January, 2012, it was announced that the LUMENHAUS has won a 2012 AIA Honor Award for Architecture. This is the first time this award has been given to a university team. The house is both a dwelling and an exhibition informing the public about issues of alternative energy and sustainability. It has been exhibited in Washington D.C., Times Square, Madrid, Spain, Millennium Park, and at the Farnsworth House in Plano Ill.
Inspired by the glass pavilion-style Farnsworth House designed by Bauhaus architect Mies Van Der Rohe, the house features a flowing, open plan that connects occupants to each other within the house and to nature outside. The rectangular space is an efficient, small footprint, yet a perceptually generous space. The house’s interior and exterior meld into a seamless transition when the Eclipsis System is open, delivering a rich transparency of space. This is a grid-tied solar powered house based on the concept of ‘Responsive Architecture’. It adjusts to climactic changes and user requirements through automated systems that optimize energy consumption while offering an architecture of delight.
In good weather, the screens open, creating both a physical and psychological connection with the outdoors. The floor space doubles in size and the north and south walls become nonexistent, making the rooms boundless. The characteristics of each layer of the changing wall system create a diversity of spatial readings. The central core plays an important spatial role as well, yielding alternate paths on which one can walk.
The house is designed to be extremely flexible, to adapt to the owner’s changing needs, on a daily basis and with his or her changing life circumstances. Each area has specific activities, but has been designed to be flexible in that the user can have the option to alter the areas for their own programmatic needs. For example, the doors within the central core contain activities such as the office, storage and entertainment within its lining and doors that can be pulled out to close the bedroom into a private space.
The characteristics of each layer of the changing wall system create a diversity of spatial readings. The kitchen counter can be transformed into a bar for entertainment and the dining room table is on castors so it can be moved outside during warm summer evenings. The modular design means the whole house itself is also flexible. Multiple units can be connected or stacked with plug-in stairs and entryways to create two-, three- or four- bedroom houses to adapt to the owners’ changing life circumstances.
As a net-zero energy house employing active and passive systems, it generates more power than it uses over the course of a year. It achieves its positive energy balance by incorporating a contemporary reinterpretation of the architectural shutter and screen with innovative technology.