The L-Stack House bridges city, nature, and home.
Architects & Firms
With one of his recent and, to date, most personal projects, Marlon Blackwell, AIA, brings new meaning to the term “starter house.” Having sworn he would never own a house he did not design, the architect became a first-time homeowner at the age of 50 when he built a place for himself and his family on a quiet street in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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In 1992, before they were married, Blackwell and Meryati Johari-Blackwell, who trained as an architect, decided to call Fayetteville home when Blackwell was offered a position at the University of Arkansas. “There are too many architects on the road these days,” he told record in 2001, “and it shows up in their work. I realized I couldn’t just keep on moving. I had to get to know a place and allow it to shape what I do.”
Fayetteville, a midsize college town in northwestern Arkansas, has gradually been sprawling into the surrounding farmland and pastoral foothills of the Ozark Mountains. But the Blackwells wanted to remain in the central city, within walking distance of the university, the local elementary school, and the architect’s office. With a little luck, they found a 9,500-square-foot lot in an established neighborhood of mostly single-story houses down the street from a bucolic city park. But the property came with quirks: Trapezoid in shape and bisected by a spring-fed creek, it was not for the faint of heart.
Blackwell and Johari-Blackwell, who works in his office, collaborated on the home—which they call the L-Stack House—for themselves and their two young children, with Blackwell handling the exteriors, Johari-Blackwell the interiors. “Where they overlap,” she says, “you argue.” Blackwell was not interested in filling in the creek, so instead, he designed the house as a bridge over it, planting two concrete abutments on either bank, and spanning them with the house’s 18-foot-wide, bar-shaped lower level. Preserving the creek lends a living, moving, constantly changing element to the site, and also provides endless amusement for the children, who splash about in the water and catch crawfish in the warmer months. In deference to the modestly scaled surrounding properties, and in an attempt to create the perception of a one-story house from the street, the architect stacked a second 18-foot-wide bar on top in an L configuration (with an 8-foot cantilever in front), rendering a massive overhang in the back that shelters a spacious outdoor living area. The ground floor of the 2,500-square-foot house, which has a steel superstructure with wood studs in between the columns and beams, contains a living/dining/kitchen area, and the upper level holds the bedrooms. A glass-enclosed stair, the sole connecting point between the volumes, serves as a linchpin and, soaring above the creek, creates a dramatic pause between private and public zones.
Marlon Blackwell and Meryati Johari Blackwell
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2”x8” “blanco” ceramic tiles by Sonoma Tilemakers (on walls in masterbath and powder room)
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