Architecture is not for selected few but EVERYONE.

Stevens Addition (Tacoma, WA, USA, AIA Seattle 2014 Award of Honor Winner)


The Stevens are an active couple in their 70s who appreciate good architecture and design.  The husband was a chemistry professor who became a ceramic artist and the wife is a physician assistant involved in medical research.

In the early 1970s they commissioned a prominent woman architect in Washington to design their house.  The house is a modern northwest style tucked into a sloping wooded site adjacent to a state park.

In 2010 the husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  His comprehension and physical abilities have been declining since then.  The Stevens did not want to leave their home and decided to do an addition to their house to accommodate the husband’s need for a bedroom on the lower level as well as an accessible bathroom.

The addition posed two challenges.  The first is to accommodate not only the husband’s basic physical needs but also his neural and psychological needs.  The second is to create an addition that fits the wooded site and also respects the existing modern northwest style house.

The addition has been designed to not only add an accessible bedroom and bathroom but also to feature display spaces for the husband’s ceramic art pieces, a study area and an enclosed deck to help him retain some of his memories and keep him safe.

The existing house has two stories with a steep roof covered entirely with cedar shakes punctuated by a chimney and decks.  The house fits the wooded site because it was designed vertically with the roof representing the form of the fir trees surrounding the house.  The initial idea was to create the new addition as a fallen log connected to the existing house, referencing the “nurse logs” found on the property.  Due to the presence of a natural drainage ditch at the side of the property, the city required a “stream buffer” that prevented the use of the fallen log design for the addition.  Rather than having the addition encroach on the “stream buffer”, the city actually preferred to have more trees cut and removed.  The final design is based on the stump of a cut tree and its branches.  The stump is represented by the concrete basement that supports the main trunk (the bedroom), while the branches are a cantilevered connection to the existing house, a study room, accessible bathroom and enclosed deck.

To stay compatible with the spirit of the original house, the addition has beveled cedar siding that will eventually weather to be the same color as the existing shakes but is different enough to distinguish the addition.  The window frames and metal roof color also match the dark bronze aluminum windows of the existing house, so that the addition blends in with the original house and the surrounding woods.  The cantilevered branches’ ends are full glass windows and a glass guardrail deck creating a contrast with the rest of the exterior palette with glimpses of the white interior mimicking the wood color behind the bark.

Note: All photos by Coral von Zumwalt, published in DWELL July/August 2014, AIA Seattle 2014 Award of Honor Winner, Seattle Magazine October 2015.

Stevens Addition by Architecture for Everyone is a sensitive addition to a single family home that understands the occupant’s basic physical, neural and psychological needs as someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The addition fits the wooded site and respects the existing modern northwest style house that was originally designed by Jane Hastings, FAIA. The design keeps the home as homelike as possible which includes a lot of “familiarity and sensitivity to the landscape and respecting time as an experiential condition”. The jurors were emotionally moved by how the home is “not asking for attention, but asking to be lived in.” – AIA Seattle Honor Awards 2014