Private Parts A strategically placed folding door system opens this urban home to views and light.
Credit: Courtesy Kaplan Thompson Architects
The city is a desirable place to live because it offers access to amenities—transportation, night life, museums—but a home in a dense urban environment often lacks privacy. Finding a way to provide it usually becomes a design priority.
Portland, Maine–based Kaplan Thompson Architects faced such a challenge when it was designing its Arlington, Va., project Metro Green. “The urban location of this home required carefully considered treatments of its openings in order to achieve some semblance of privacy while at the same time taking advantage of its primary access from the south,” says architect Phil Kaplan.
A folding patio door from Dorchester, Wis.–based Parrett Window & Door brings in light and connects the indoors with the outdoors. It’s “essentially an open wall, which allows the compact upper floor to become part of the exterior deck, blurring the boundaries of inside and out,” Kaplan explains. “It allows a huge chunk of wall to disappear on command,” he adds. “The ability to manipulate space with such ease becomes a powerful architectural tool.”
To achieve privacy from the street, however, the firm used Polygal polycarbonate panels as fixed windows. A favorite among architects, Polygal sheets weigh one-sixth as much as glass, but they permit light while maintaining privacy. Polygal has the opposite effect of glass, Kaplan says, “tempering the views from passersby into the primary, exposed living spaces below while at the same time allowing in a cozy, natural light.”