Jokes about people who live in glass houses aside, the glass-filled new home that architect Dale Parks designed for the CEO of a company that creates glazed-glass elements for buildings around the globe is an architectural tour de force.
The owner is Ian Collins, CEO of Novum Structures, the Sarasota-based design-build company that has engineered hundreds of unique glass structures for public and commercial buildings all over the world. The 75-foot-tall tear-shaped glass dome that wraps around the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg is his company’s work, as are the soaring curved and cantilevered glass canopy over the entry of the MGM City Center in Las Vegas, the giant ball made of glass and steel that is the entry to the Palladium Shopping Mall in Istanbul, and the spoon-shaped glass roof of a mixed-use complex in Shanghai.
The contemporary new home Parks designed for Collins and his wife slips nicely into its well-established West of Trail neighborhood; at 2,800 square feet of air-conditioned living space set just six feet above grade (plus garage and 500 square feet of outdoor decking), it doesn’t overwhelm the surrounding homes. That was important to Parks, who says, “You don’t want to decimate an established neighborhood with a gargantuan house.” And it was important to the homeowner, too. “I didn’t want a big, big place,” he says. “I didn’t want to insult any of the things around it.”
The showstopper is a 14-foot-square dining pavilion. Its south and east sides are made entirely of nearly inch-thick glass, the better to take advantage of views of lush outdoor greenery all around it. Translucent glass sunshades nearly three feet wide create a dappled effect inside the room, depending on the time of day.
Collins says the glass box was not an engineering challenge compared to Novum’s other projects; an independent exterior steel column holds up the roof. But working with so much glass with so little supporting it was a first for Parks. “There are not many companies around that do that kind of specialized work,” he says. “It was exciting for me, and I’d like to do more.”
The architect and homeowner met while working on the downtown Sarasota SCAT bus station and on the now closed G.WIZ Science Museum, for which Novum created a dramatic geometric glass and steel skylight. Parks says this project was highly collaborative as well.
“[Collins] had a pretty good idea of the organization for the house, and being an engineer he’d sketched out rough studies for us to look at—where he wanted the dining room in relation to the living room, the bedrooms in relation to the rest of the house,” Parks says. “He looks at it with an engineer’s eye. I looked at it through the eyes of turning it into something beautiful.”
Cost sensitivity demanded that the initial design, with the entire first floor elevated over a garage and storage spaces, be scrapped in favor of a smaller, split-level footprint. Now the main living level—an open floor plan living room-dining pavilion-kitchen—is just above flood elevation, and the bedroom wing is on a second floor over the garage. Parks says he and Collins agree that the second iteration “is better than the first design-wise; it was a tenuous process, but in the end it paid off.”
The west-facing wall in the main living space is made of nine-foot-tall sliding glass windows that open onto the back terrace. And the second-floor office that connects the two sections of the bedroom wing (one section is the master suite; the other contains two modestly sized bedrooms, a bath and a laundry area) is also glass, with a built-in desk that overlooks the window wall area and other sections of the house. “It reminds me of the captain’s bridge on Star Trek,” says Parks.
“I wanted the house to be light and airy and open to the outside—minimal but not too clinical or austere,” says Collins. “It’s living the way we hoped and anticipated.”