In the late ’80s, Robert Oshatz, an Oregon-based architect specializing in organic design, wanted to experiment with feelings. “A design is an emotional or spiritual element, which is a way one perceives space and feels about different things,” he says in the newest episode of Unique Spaces, a YouTube series for AD.
“Emotionally, I wanted a structure that felt like it was soaring out into space, almost defying gravity in a sense,” he explains of his vision. But he also wanted the home to feel reserved and tied to the land where it would be built. What came of these musings is Oshatz’s Elk Road Residence, a 3,500-square-foot funnel-shaped home jutting out above Lake Oswego, just south of Portland. In the latest Unique Spaces, Oshatz gives AD an intimate tour of the soaring home he designed, built, and owns.
When he bought the plot, it was reportedly classified as unbuildable land, but as an architect, Oshatz wasn’t convinced this was true. “I know what you can and can’t do,” he explains. “Every land is buildable if you look at it in a creative way.” Even though Oshatz was certainly proved right, the home still looks like it could slide down the rocks at any minute. However, there’s a large concrete counterweight at the bottom of the property that keeps it from doing so.
The home is three stories high, though each one is a split level, meaning each distinct section is only half-flight away from the next. The lowest level holds Oshatz’s studio, followed by children’s rooms on the next, the living space a level above that, and the primary bedroom at the very top.
In the same way the home is incorporated into the surrounding land, a lot of the furniture—which is mostly composed of Oshatz originals—is also built into the property. A curved, freestanding sofa anchors the main living area, but many desks, beds, and tables are intrinsic to the house. “One of the reasons I do the built-ins is because I’m thinking of all of these elements as I’m designing the structure,” Oshatz explains. He would be working on the kitchen, when an image of a family or group of friends comes to mind: Some will be preparing food while others sit nearby, talking and laughing. “As you’re thinking about these things, all of the sudden they become part of the design. They become part of the lines of the house.”
For Oshatz, one of the most important things an architect can do is design a structure that’s at peace with its environment and people feel at peace within it, a perspective clearly exhibited in the Elk Road Residence. To get a unique look into the home, and to hear more about Oshatz’s process when designing it, be sure to check out the most recent episode of Unique Spaces.