Douglas House

An iconic modern residence dramatically sited on a pristine site establishes a profound dialogue between architecture and nature.

The Douglas House is situated on an isolated, heavily wooded site in Harbor Springs, Michigan where the land dramatically slopes down to meet the waters of Lake Michigan. One of the best-known modernist houses in America, the Douglas House turns normal expectations of domestic architecture inside out. To enter the house is, paradoxically, to be transported outside, hovering over the lake and among the trees and enjoying a totally unique architectural experience.

The east side of the house, facing the road, is transformed into a private zone by a taut white membrane pierced by square apertures and horizontal strip windows. A roof-level bridge accentuates the unimpeded flow of space between this wall and the hillside, drawing you into the entry vestibule. There, views open to the west, down to both the living and dining levels, and out to a large roof deck overlooking Lake Michigan. Horizontal circulation moves along four open corridors, stacked one above the other behind a screen wall. Internal and external staircases provide vertical passage at the corners, while a skylight running nearly the full length of the roof-deck focuses sunlight into the living room, which virtually hovers in the landscape within three glass walls.

The Douglas House is famous for its striking relationship to the dramatic topography of the site. The entry is at roof level via a flying bridge that seems to have been sheared off the top plane of the house. The fall of the land from the road to the lakeshore is so steep that the house appears to have been notched into a cliff, a machined object perched in a natural world.