The Texas Creek Ranch House

The Texas Creek Ranch House design was originally conceived as an off the grid lodge in California. Peter Macapia, the architect, scaled down the size of his design to 1500 sq.ft. in order to suit a single occupant. Although this house has not been built yet, it shows the potential of taking the idea of environmental conservation and consideration to a new level. It does not merely conserve water with a roof catchment system, but handles water in the way nature would; the way a terraced rice paddy sends water down in a zigzag and a water course carves patterns in the dirt.The hill above and behind the house filters water into storage under the house, from rock and gravel swales and rivulet shapes. The Ranch House concept connects site issues of climate, topography and visual impacts on the shrub steppe of the Methow. The swales deal with snow loading in winter, rapid snowmelt in spring and lack of water in summer.The rock swale and gravel habitat around the house allows the previous animal occupants to continue to use the land. The house is bermed quietly into the hill, with its front held lightly above the ground. One effect of this design is to give occupants a close and intimate relationship with the land they inhabit.

Peter is interested the study of fluid dynamics to help understand how to look at architectural challenges in a new way. He does not just look at the surface design of a building. He is interested in “systems as an essential demand of architecture”. By studying the physical interactions of natural systems, i.e., water, air, and light, he is looking at building design from a completely different approach. On this house, for example, he is looking at the area of land needed to collect water flowing naturally down the hillside and the rate of its flow and how this information can drive the design. By “inventing the problem” he is finding new ways to deal with planetary environmental challenges. The modest building size is an intelligent way to survive our crowded future. And he designed the house with an artist’s keen sense of beauty.

Some thoughts on the Texas Creek Ranch House:

•The house might use a combination of geothermal and surface water.

•The pillars might store water for passive heating.

•The shell roof could be made from ready made barn frame systems or steel.

•Light would be brought in through the roof in unexpected and delightful ways.

•Water conservation would be designed into the house functioning.

•The house would connect you to the four seasons.

•The house would challenge and delight you in the same way as a good movie or piece of art.

•It would be modern and practical.

•The house would connect the various natural systems of water, air, light and energy in synergy with the architecture.

•Price is not a barrier to building this house.

Peter Macapia is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, the director of the Graduate Thesis program at Pratt Institute, and the director of Design Office for Research and Architecture,