On a steeply sloping 10-acre property in West Austin, a young family commissioned a rural residential compound and artist retreat. Inspired by the shapes and curled edges of falling oak leaves, Bercy Chen Studio incorporated this imagery as a design motif for a series of sheltering pavilion roofs.
In contrast to the other typically suburban lots in the neighborhood, this parcel is an untouched wilderness corridor of cedars, oaks, mule deer, and the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. The house is positioned in the far corner of the site on the edge of limestone cliffs above a bend in the stream. Like a deconstructed belvedere,the house nestles into the into the landscape below: three glass pavilions informally splayed around the rimrock, stepping down the plateau with the topography. A bold slice in the hillside creates the building pad and is left exposed to mimic the sheltering grottos along the creek below. The slope of the roofs mediates this cut to continue the grade of the land while also directing views to the creek below.
A meandering drive traces gently across the topography to preserve the majority of the site as dedicated nature habitat. Upon arriving at a carport, the pavilions of the Falling Leaves House delicately unfold below as a series cascading hyperbolic paraboloid roofs supported by undulating rows of exposed glulam rafters. Each pavilion has its own character and orientation: the living wing, set perpendicular to the cliff face, cantilevers into the canopy of trees to float above the stream below; the bedroom wing incorporates an opaque circulation spine to contrast with the expansive glass walls of the bedrooms; and in the pool house, a linear lap pool is perched on the cliff precipice above a series of cascading rapids.
Finally, at the nexus of all 3 pavilions sits an outdoor courtyard and fire pit centered around an existing limestone boulder. Here, the family can experience the four elements of nature binding the home together: the earth’s embrace the wind rustling through the trees, the water flowing below, and the warmth of the fire at the hearth.