It all began with a letter. A couple who own a steep-sloped, seven-acre site in the foothills of Friendsville, Tennessee sent a query to the dean of the architecture school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville seeking his advice to find the right architect for their future residence. In the letter, the couple explained they wanted an architect who would make efforts to integrate the house into the landscape. "The dean knew that the topic was of much interest to me and that is how this job came my way," explains architect Dean Almy III of Atelier Hines Almy who, at the time, was an associate professor at UT.
The empty-nest couple was clear about their needs. They handed Almy and his partner Kelly Hines a seven-page document of requirements for their future home. This list took into account various aspects that ranged from spaces for their interests-including photography and canning-to other practical matters such as a low-maintenance exterior, handicap-accessible areas, and a pool for hydrotherapy. Almy says, "Essentially, the clients said to us 'Here are all the things we want.' But as the architects, you tell us what it should look like."
The result is a T-shaped residence built at the apex of a 700-foot forested hillside with views of both the Smoky and Cumberland Mountains. The program of the house clearly separates the private and public. The private areas consist of the master bedroom and porch/outdoor room on the main level and a guest wing tucked below. "The guest apartment is cut into the hill and easily accommodates visiting children and grandchildren," says Almy, "The space can be shut off when the couple is alone." The public areas, also on the main level-the kitchen, dining and living rooms, and pool-are placed horizontally and linearly to these private spaces.
Capturing natural light and making use of passive solar energy were key elements in the design of the home. The architect says, "There is a clear relationship between the roof and the angle of the sun. The cantilevered roof lets in light and heat in the winter and shades during the summer." The western portion of the roof lacks the overhang since protection from the glare is less of an issue with the setting sun. Hines and Almy used polygonal panels in this area for enclosing the indoor pool.
Attention to other aspects of sustainability, both in materials and practice, were also important to the owners and architects. Hines was fastidious in the research of materials for the house, from the white cedar exterior to the bamboo floors to the birch ceiling. Seven scuppers in the roof deposit rainwater directly into the koi pond and from there is channeled into the landscaped gardens.