The Heads House is a vacation home for a retired couple located on a beautiful 2-acre wooded site in Goshen, Arkansas. The country home sits nestled amongst hundred-foot trees on the top of a ridgeline between two converging creek and tree filled ravines, creating a sanctuary-like atmosphere.
The Heads House derives its name from a series of sculptural heads created by the client’s father, Richard Staples Dodge, who was a painter and sculptor. Many of these cardboard heads, with their playful, often triangulated shapes, have adorned the client’s houses over the past 50 years. Richard Dodge passed away before his grandchildren were able to get to know him, and so these heads, along with the other art he created, became a physical embodiment of the man himself. These were not only a reminder of him, but they became a way to think about him for the family – a way to get to know him. They were, and are, deeply personal reminders of a creative life well lived; connections to an important personal past.
We were compelled by our client’s story and so created a house which acts as a memory device by making abstractions of these sculptural heads in built form. We think of the Heads House as an abstraction of Dodge’s sculptures scaled up to be inhabitable. Though the reference to the sculptural forms and their resonance is the core part of this house and its namesake, there are many other important family forms tucked within the dwelling as well. The two-story saltbox, for instance, is a reminder of our client’s childhood spent in rural Connecticut. The red is the red of barns in this pastoral landscape. The house’s massive roof is the stitch that binds these archetypal sculptural forms together. In short, the house is a memory device where the client can enjoy their present lives, while being tucked away in the figural remnants of their past.
One enters this house through a tight porch carved between the main living cottage and the saltbox barn form. Two walls of the entry vestibule are entirely glass which affords uninterrupted views to the southeastern ravine. Large swaths of glass are positioned at acute angles throughout the interior, opening the space to the nuanced characteristics of the site differently depending upon where and how one is inhabiting the space. The siting, combined with the living area’s floor-to-ceiling panoramic view along the south façade, make the main living space and kitchen feel like a large porch. Here one can peacefully sit and enjoy the mesmerizing sights and sounds of the breeze rustling through the backlit leaves and the musicality of birds. The main bedroom is on the first level, separated from the living area by a short, glazed hallway that looks toward the rural neighborhood on the north; a way of staying connected to the public context of the site.
A small upstairs sitting area and two smaller bedrooms are located remotely in the upstairs of the saltbox barn form. These spaces open primarily to the east and north and act as a reorienting mechanism, a spatial divorce that allows one to grasp the connective and open space of the first floor anew each time they enter.
The Heads House is an experiment in the power of form to connect people to meaningful experiences of their past. This house is invokes these past forms with a living significance in the present.
Looking from the north one of the abstracted heads is clearly seen in saltbox barn form in the foreground.
One enters through a slight separation between the saltbox barn form and the main cottage. The entry is full glass on two sides allowing clear views to the ravine beyond.
The roof migrates to become wall, stitching the free flowing red folding planes together and indicating the rhythm of spaces one will experience upon entry.
Windows are staggered throughout creating unique views to the environment depending on where you are in the space. There are always views in multiple directions simultaneously.
Located on a 2-acre wooded site between two ravines, the Heads House forms a northern boundary, creating the feeling of a sanctuary for the southern portion of the site.
As you enter, glazing on multiple facades gives you an understanding of the continuity of the site and the gradually cascading topography.
The main living spaces are completely open to one another. The change in ceiling profile is the only indication of spatial change. The materials are intentionally muted so as not to compete with the beautiful surroundings and the artwork within the house.
Every new space you enter has a unique formal quality derived from the form of the abstracted heads on the exterior.
These diagrams show the sculptural heads created by Richard Staples Dodge and how the houses form (and name) found its inspiration.
The southern facade of the house is predominantly open and looks upon both ravines and the gently sloping terrain.
At night the roof planes begin to feel as though they hover over the migrating red forms - as the tone of the red makes it disappear into darkness.