This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of ARCHITECT.
The Heights Historic District, located just north of downtown Tulsa, Okla., has experienced a revival in recent decades. Formerly known as Brady Heights, the neighborhood is named after W. Tate Brady, founding father of Tulsa in 1898 and a successful businessman and politician. Many residents, however, believed that his membership in both the neo-Confederate group Sons of the Confederacy and the white supremacist organization Ku Klux Klan outweighed his industrious heritage, and the neighborhood association voted to change the name. of his community in 2021.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, The Heights and many of its homes reflect the varied tastes of the original owners, setting an architectural standard for middle and upper class developments. Over the years, the community has come together through the renovation of its eclectic residences, encompassing architectural styles such as Queen Anne, Victorian, Georgian Revival and Craftsman. A new addition, a 3,550 square foot adobe house by local firm 1Architecture, continues the community’s eclectic tradition, adding Prairie School influences to the mix and deepening the conversation around sustainable home building.
Nick Denison, Assoc. AIA, a director of 1Architecture, was approached by a friend in 2017 to design a residence at The Heights. As a designated historic district, The Heights has a number of restrictions and policies for newly built homes, including architectural styles. Encouraged by the sloping profile of the site, 1Architecture suggested a Prairie school-style design, emphasizing the horizontal rather than the vertical through bands of windows, ridged exterior walls and “hipped roofs with low slopes that help to highlight the [exterior walls]”Denison says.
But the project, eventually dubbed Terra Heights, has another defining feature: the house is built of rammed earth, a material that Terra Heights clients were interested in because of its low embodied energy and durability. In the end, more than 90% of the project’s mass came from within 100 miles of the construction site; the residence also has efficient operational systems and, in conjunction with its materials, is designed to last for generations.
The project, completed in 2019, welcomes visitors with a vast cantilevered roof, spanning a depth of 13 feet. While the extension originally planned for a steel frame, the design was simplified for timber construction. The interior includes a two-level ground floor and a partial second floor. The kitchen and dining room, located towards the back of the house, are raised to adapt to the slope of the site. Neutral, earthy tones of white finishes, wood accents, and concrete floors accentuate the construction. Denison chose this palette because “everything works in tandem with the texture and color” of the adobe walls.
Terra Heights is one of four structures designed to accommodate a multi-generational family. Adjacent to the site is a craft residence for the owner’s parents, with each property containing an adjoining garage suite. The two houses are connected by adjoining courtyards, providing an opportunity for public interactions between families; however, each residence hosts private spaces for intimate moments. The gathering space features a rammed earth fireplace and an open rustic steel pergola, extending the interior earthy tones outward. Concrete walls in the form of panels help in the division of spaces and further emphasize the horizontality of the overall design. Yard walls also help protect against hot summers and high winds.
Although 1Architecture doesn’t typically design residential homes, Denison enjoyed working on a project that was “more human-sized.” The scale, aesthetic and design of Terra Heights functions as an admirable contemporary residence in The Heights Historic District.
Project: Terra Heights, Tulsa, Okla.
Client/Owner: Jacob and Meghan Johnson
Architect: 1Architecture, Tulsa, Okla. Shelby Navarro (Principal Founder, CEO), Nick Denison, AIA (Principal)
Structural engineer: 360 Engineering Group, Elli Johannsson
Construction Manager: Aussie Built, Mick Gower
General Contractor: Aussie Built, Mick Gower
Landscape architect: Naked Gardener, Nance Hawkinson
Area: 3,550 square feet
MATERIALS AND SOURCES
Appliances: Fisher Paykel built-in energy-efficient refrigerator, Bertazzoni Professional 48″ Italian range with commercial hood
Cabinets: Laminate, custom designed and fabricated cabinets, custom bar area with integrated wine storage and refrigeration, soft close doors and drawers on all cabinets Ceilings:
Exterior Wall Systems: Rammed Earth – The Prairie House’s exterior construction method is stabilized rammed earth by master carpenter Mick Gower of Aussie Built, Inc. Although rare in the Midwest, rammed earth construction is widely used in countries with strict building codes and requirements. such as Australia and Switzerland and is gaining popularity in the United States. It is hailed for its energy saving properties, wind and fire resistance, low maintenance, extreme durability, indoor air purity and substantial look and feel. In terms of performance and method of construction, it is most closely related to formed concrete structures. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6539055/
Flooring: Polished concrete floors on the lower level with wood on the upper level. Custom tile + shower in upstairs bathroom. Oversized fully tiled shower in master bathroom Furniture: custom millwork includes white oak shelving
HVAC: At a SEER rating of 45, Terra Heights uses the most efficient system in the world
triple variable geothermal system
Hydronic radiant floor heating system
Water-to-air forced air heating and cooling system
Geothermal domestic hot water
The entire slab is a fully insulated floating concrete system with pex hydronic
tubing divided into 8 independent zones
The chalet’s HVAC and hot water systems are fully independent inverters
mini-split and hot water on demand to ensure redundancy.
Kitchen accessories: All pendants are from West Elm
Lighting Control Systems: Implementing a Voice-Controlled Smart Home
Lighting: All pendants are from West Elm or Ikea, 4″ Gimbal fixtures with museum quality LED bulbs throughout
Roof: Fortified Silver Roof Certification
As one of Oklahoma’s first Fortified Silver certified homes, the structure was designed and reinforced to withstand high winds and hail, bringing significant insurance savings and longevity to the home.
Reinforced sheathing everywhere
Completely sealed roof terrace
All glass openings, entrances and garage doors are protected
Reinforced sprockets and overhang
Site and landscaping products: dirt yard with cement copings including fire pit and fountain, steel beam trellis, tile pavers + concrete steps, anodized aluminum gutter system
Windows and Doors: High quality solid core craftsman style interior doors throughout, 18″ deep concrete window sills.