Freeman House

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The Freeman House (1965 – 1966), designed by Gunnar Birkerts (1925 – 2017), is a prime example of the use of diagonal elements in residential architecture.

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Situated on a wooded lot in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the home was designed to blend in with its natural environment, while maximizing privacy.

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Influenced by the Bauhaus school, the structure is minimalist, yet is comfortable and livable.

Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Foyer View To Living Room

The house was designed to play obstruction against transparency to give the structure an intriguing, yet welcoming, appeal.

Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Bedroom Bookshelves

Birkerts adhered strictly to his radial grid when laying out the floor plan.

Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Inverted Pyramid Ceiling 01

All of the design elements originate from a single point and splay outward to create a floor plan replete with diagonal design elements.


Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Bedroom Ceiling


Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Master Bedroom Window


Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Bedroom 01

The most striking element of the design is a truncated pyramid whose apex forms a Living room skylight.

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Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Living Room 03 1

One other unusual design element is the slightly asymmetrical grid from which the house’s design derives. To enhance privacy, the outer kitchen wall is a line of repeating diagonals that alternate between brick and glass. This allows for complete privacy from the street while maximizing light. Door jams follow the diagonals of the radial grid, virtually eliminating right-angled door edges. Deep triangular window sills follow the line of the walls and function as triangular built-in desks.

Gunnar Birkerts Freeman House Dining Nook

For more information about the Freeman House, a comprehensive set of photos, and its architect, visit the Midcentury Michigan website: Midcentry Michigan

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Gunnar Birkerts

Article by Jeff Sedwin and Joel Levinson

All photos: Midcentury Michigan

Additional commentary:  It was the owner’s desire to turn the spaces inward to an atrium.  Birkerts arranged the rooms to radiate from “an eccentric center” beneath the skylight.

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