The distinction between lighting and architecture is, in a sense, a nonsensical one–we undeniably experience architecture via lighting, and lighting via architecture. Pushing this concept, the designer framed this project as a lantern–architecture as lighting. A circular, domed skylight creates an anchoring center, offering connection to Halo's surroundings from five sides, bringing in natural light during the day, and sending a warm, haloed glow into the trees at night. A warm beacon, Halo explores architecture and light as primal, grounding forces in alignment with the natural world.
Halo is a playful but restrained architectural project on the shores of one of Washington State's San Juan Islands. The site was originally home to an old Sears kit house, which was beyond salvage. Strict parameters maintained by the zoning code were reimagined as opportunities to be creative and maximize the existing unique, small footprint. The site holds tremendous familial value to the owners, and a central goal became clear: to replace the structure with a space that felt both meaningful and useful.
Halo was initially conceived of as a home office, but gradually became a personal retreat. For the homeowner, this meant a slower pace and an openness to more reflection, a spiritual work space that is monastic without being religious. Halo became an anchor for that transformation. Reaching the fork in the road between additive and reductive design, the team put the emphasis on thoughtful, targeted editing, and stripping away what felt distracting or superfluous. The small space attempts to maximize the experience–not of itself, but of the place: the nature, the light, the water. In this way, the building responds to the practice of its use; as a point of reflection. Honoring the site, the design responds directly to the landscape, creating a sense that Halo has been there for a long time.
Emphasizing glass, wood, and steel, Halo avoids composite materials, keeping the textures honest both to the eye and to the touch. Leather-clad, built-in benches, linear light fixtures, and a minimal Bulthaup kitchen offer only what is needed, as an effort to edit for comfort and presence rather than luxury. Surrounding landscaping welcomes and touches Halo, reaching up to the edges of the steel and glass. A waterfront property, Halo gently extends over the edge of the site, reaching out to the water and inviting it inside. Exploring the interplay between form and light, Halo blurs the lines between building and nature, indoor and outdoor.
The practice of seeking solitude and immersion in nature is a fundamentally human one, but the ability to find time for and comfort in solitude is one of privilege. Halo was built to care for the client the way all thoughtful architecture aims to–humbly and aptly.
Design Imperative For Graypants founder Seth Grizzle, architecture and lighting are intrinsically connected in a responsive relationship–architecture and light not only need each other, they amplify one another in concert. Pushing this concept, the designer framed his debut architectural project, The Garage, as a lantern–architecture as lighting. Continuing his exploration of the interplay between form and light, Halo takes this concept one step further, blurring the lines between building and nature, indoor and outdoor. As mentioned above, Halo explores architecture and light as primal, grounding forces in alignment with the natural world.
Graypants is well-known for their sustainable lighting products called Scraplights, in which components are made from post-consumer recycled cardboard and assembled by hand in their Seattle studio. The Scraplights project started as a whimsical endeavor, harvesting cardboard from local businesses and creating an unseen, unexpected product. This creative optimism runs through Graypants' work today, and is evidenced in Halo–the team thrived within the challenges of a small, restricted site and evolving brief, since this opened both the team and the client to wide exploration and continuous (re)iteration.
What is this place? The finished project continues to ask this question–redirected to the homeowner, their family, and visitors. Halo calls attention to the place it lives in–the nature, the water, the moment–as a reflective surface for the question to never be answered in full. In the absence of clear direction (sleep here, sit here, look here), interaction with the space is highly personal, highly immediate and, perhaps–much like the first time one sits down to meditate– even a little uncomfortable.
Throughout the design process, the team was very closely connected to the client, who had strong intentions to realize a space that would feel connected to nature and limit the impact to the natural environment. Nature, too, isn't necessarily comfortable–it can be a comfort to us, but it is not inherently luxurious. It is honest, available, and transparent. As a result, these are the values the project of creating Halo began to share. The team prompted a landscape design that invites native plants to grow freely, without disruption or curation, coming up to touch the structure and embrace it as part of the natural network. Framed in glass on five sides, experiencing Halo means standing among the natural vegetation, the natural light, and natural texture. A window wall system opens up to remove two sides of the structure entirely, bringing in more and more senses; the sound of the waves and the vegetation, the touch of the wind, the smell of the salt water. Halo speaks to what occupants might need in their most elegant, elemental form–a modest kitchen, simple leather-clad benches, and an abundance of interpretive floor space, warmed by the light. Halo is a comfort, but not luxurious. Halo's materials are honest (rather than composite), available (open on all sides) and transparent (a structure creating a barely-there feel).
The San Juan Islands' native woods have a long, dense, and robust history captured in the heritage of the Six Central Coast Salish Tribes–the woods span generations, and have offered decades of joy and resources to those inside them. Respecting and acknowledging this tradition, Halo was built to offer the family's future generations an enduring access point to the natural world. The structure's cor-ten steel and glass come together to create a time-proof structure meant to last many seasons. Over time, the steel facade rusts and changes patina. Similar to the tree barks surrounding Halo, the patina is the finish–Halo was created without paints, finishes, chemicals. Time does not require our touch; it just keeps coming.