House in the Truro Hills
House in the Truro Hills
Brian Vanden Brink
A quick glance at a road map quickly gives away the town of Truro’s topological character. The words hill, valley, ridge, hollow, high, overlook and watch are used at least 30 times, about once per square mile. More than any other town on Cape Cod, Truro has a rolling landscape of hills and valleys. Since the Pilgrim’s landed and “borrowed” the Indian’s stash at Corn Hill on the bayside, this landscape has been more than just topography; it has defined character, image and myth.
Unlike the rest of the region, the Outer Cape has a concentration of contemporary houses to compliment the weather beaten vernacular Capes and simple Greek Revival houses. The older homes often were tucked into the valleys to let storms roll over them. When Modernist summer houses began to be built in the mid-20th century, however, for some capturing views was more important. Land with hill/valley and ocean/bay views became highly desirable. Our clients have such a piece of land and their goal was to take full advantage of the view. The design locates every room in the house, except for the TV room, to capture water views. The living room and master bedroom have views of the ocean, the bay, several hills and valleys, and Provincetown in the distance. From these spaces the owners can watch both the sun rise and sunset. The connection to the land, sea and sky is nearly magical. It is no wonder the Truro landscape has engendered passionate feelings throughout history.
The house’s form also responds to the natural context. The land is on a ridge-top that is one of the highest points on Cape Cod. The main living spaces are on the second floor to maximize view and take advantage of higher ceiling space. The second floor footprint is bigger than the first floor and cantilevers over it. Whimsical “wave” brackets appear to support the overhanging portions of the building. The brackets and roof shape above direct attention side-to-side and accentuate the horizontal span of the house as it parallels the ridge.
The entry drive cuts through the woods, and more woods blanket the hillside and valley below the house. Combining influences from the traditional vernacular and contemporary houses of Truro with the hilly woodland topography and ocean-side context led to a rustic contemporary design that is ordinary enough to be familiar, but unique enough to be special. On the interior, the living spaces are open to one another and culminate in a stone chimney by Eastham mason, Kenneth Higgins. The stair, a very important circulation space, especially in an “upside-down” house where living spaces are on the second floor, is centrally located, open to the spaces around it and designed to combine naturalistic and nautical forms in a unique, dynamic and playful event within the house. Its wave-top newel posts relate to the bracket forms of the exterior.