The Conway House emerges from a single three-dimensional tile and the chain of relationships its specific geometry prescribes. The tile is a generic Conway biprism, a polyhedron that can be apprehended as a discrete unit but more rewardingly understood as indicative of a vast tessellated array that fills the universe without gaps or overlaps. The space-filling qualities of the tile create a totalizing environment in which house and context are so inextricably entangled as to make the distinction between them largely irrelevant.

The house and immediate site occupy the intersection of three parallel layers of biprismatic tiles. Within each layer, the biprisms assemble in a regular pattern like a waffle, but the successive stacking layers are forced to interlock with each other at non-repetitive angles. In order to fit into the neighboring layer of tiles, each ‘waffle’ rotates an irrational angle. As a result, the tiling is aperiodic, and the biprisms are necessarily embedded in infinitely many distinct ways.

The house proper consists of ten total biprisms – a 2 x 3 array on the lower level, and an inverted and rotated 2 x 2 array above. The prototypical biprism is designed to provide a level ground plane throughout most of the main floor of the house. Because of the aperiodicity of the tiling system, this totally level condition will never again repeat, even with an infinite extension of waffles up and down. In simple terms, the house can be thought of as two stacked layers of biprisms; however, a critical tension arises between the larger ordering system of the stacking planes and the level ground necessary for occupation.

The overall field of tessellated space is striated, but each layer privileges a local order. This is evidenced within the house, insofar as the point of reference shifts from level to level. The house thematizes a model of non-uniform space in which local symmetries exist, but are incorporated within a pervasive complexity.

The house is thus situated within a particular vision of universal space, one in which all space is full space insofar as it is exhaustively tiled. Perfect close packing admits no leftover space – everywhere is something, all space is accountable. Within that framework, space can assume properties and is thick with potential secondary descriptions. The spatial paradigm embodied in the project gestures beyond distinctions of solid and void, matter and nothingness, and posits instead a universal condition of fullness and latency.

Designed for minimal impact on the existing site, the structure was manufactured off-site, and trucked to location in four loads (three containers composing the structure proper and one extra container for additional smaller parts). The on-site fabrication was limited to the assembly of these primary components and the following three pieces: access path, deck, and a foundation system of twelve 3 ½" diameter helical piers. Since the temporary exhibition space is made of shipping containers, the structural integrity of the existing containers provides most of the structural support within the space. Reinforced with minimal additional steel framing, the major components are bolted for assembly and disassembly. 100% daylit during normal operating hours, a photovoltaic array mounted on the roofs of the containers supplies the project’s low-energy electrical needs. All additional elements on the site - access paths to negotiate site grades, a deck and outdoor benches, are constructed using reclaimed materials from the Presidio.

LOCATION: Princeton, New Jersey

PROGRAM: 5,300 sf house

X. Rihan (ed.), Dream Architecture, Edition Axel Menges, Stuttgart, 2010, pp. 570-585
Futagawa, Yoshio (Editor), GA Houses 98: Project 2007, March 2007.

Structural, Buro Happold
Daylighting, Coolshadow