Blog: The "Houses at Sagaponack"...
By Kirsten Kiser, Editor-In-Chief, arcspace.com
Both my last letter and this letter deal with projects that deserve more than one feature article, I therefore decided to introduce the projects in my letter and follow-up with separate features on each of the buildings as they progress.
In my last letter I told you about Bo01, a housing development in Sweden with an International cast of architects, and in this letter I am introducing you to another major architectural initiative, with a very impressive list of architects, reminiscent of the late 1950's John Entenza's Arts & Architecture magazine "Case Study House" program in Southern California.
This project launched by the Brown Companies, a real estate investment company in Manhattan, has made a brilliant move by involving Richard Meier as creative advisor.
The "Houses at Sagaponack" is a new development on 100 acres in
Sagaponack, New York, at the midpoint of the Hamptons beach
communities on Long Island. The wooded community is located three
miles from the ocean and surrounded by several hundred acres of
protected land with nature trails.
The 1,800 to 3,500 FT2 houses will be built on sites ranging from 1.5 to 3 acres with price tags from $700,000 to $2,200,000. A modest size and price for the fashionable Hamptons.
Richard Meier has collaborated with Harry Joe (Coco) Brown,
President of the Brown Companies, on the selection of the thirty
four architects who will each design a house for the project.
"At first, I thought I'd invite young architects to participate, but then I felt it would be nice to include some friends of mine," Meier says. "It's become as much of a mix as we could possibly find, a diverse, creative group of excellent designers."
In the senior group are Internationally known architects like
Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Steven Holl, Richard Gluckman, Eric
Owen Moss, Craig Hodgetts and Hsin Ming Fung and Richard Rogers.
Meier, who designed two houses in the Hamptons in the late 1960's,
will also design one of the houses.
Richard Meier's primary involvement as creative advisor to the initiative is to introduce a wave of new talent that is coming of age and deserves attention and approval. Among the younger firms are Marwan Al-Sayed, Jessie Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, Stephen Kanner, Hariri & Hariri and Annabelle Selldorf. For several of the younger architects it will be the first commission to build a free-standing house.
In the guidelines presented to the architects Brown encouraged creativity but stressed that budgets, size limitations and local building codes be respected. Brown wants livable houses that harmonize with the environment and will have final approval of the designs; "If we feel a design is not workable, or not good, we are not going to built it" he says. Construction of the first Houses at Sagaponack will begin in summer 2001.
Coco Brown has been a friend of mine for many years and I know this is a dream that began in the mid 1970's when he owned a large piece of property in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately there were too many neighbors against the development so he lost interest and sold the land. I applaud this new initiative and the fact that he is investing his own money without having a first client.
arcspace will feature each house separately but I decided to contact the architects to see if they had any designs ready for publication....They did and you are getting a short introduction to the first eleven before anyone else......
The flatness of the land acts as a datum on which the house is balanced.
A grass platform edged in rusted steel plate rises subtly from the garden and is penetrated by two crystalline glass enclosures.Trees, the surrounding landscape, and the play of sky and clouds are reflected on the surface of these shimmering glass enclosures throughout the day. The larger glass structure, defining a central courtyard, captures light and air and reflect them into the heart of the house below. The other diaphanous glass enclosure contains a stairway providing access to the protected living space.
The "transformable" house is functionally a summer house that
can "open up" and "close down" when the family comes and
Philosophically the cubic form of the project is intended to make the simplest and most minimal statement; a quiet reflection of the wooded grove it sits within. It is also meant to reflect in materiality and scale its surroundings albeit in a highly abstract way.
The exterior is pure in its formal geometry and is contrasted by a complex interior with split-levels, high ceilings and a sinuous circulation system. As one moves into the home, the complexity of the interior volumes become apparent. The space can only be revealed when one enters and opens up the cube - it's like unwrapping a gift - a surprise within.
This house is a 3500 FT2 "Vacation Home" on a 2.7 acres of wooded land in the middle of "potato fields" between the fashionable South and East Hampton area of Long Island, New York. The "Sagaponack House" takes the form of a minimalist structure placed on a platform within the untouched natural landscape. Inspired by "Donald Judd's" concrete frames, the architecture becomes the abstraction of the landscape itself. Two large opening within the building "frame" the private life in the house and the pool beyond. These openings appear and disappear via a system of metal shutters mounted on the exterior walls, investigating the cultural definition of the domestic enclosure. Here the boundary between private and public, display and being displayed is blurred.
"I thought long and hard about the use of this as a second
vacation home for urban dwellers, whose primary experiences in the
City involve movements along lines (elevators, subways, roads and
eventually highway or train to the site).
With this design, my hope is to extenuate that line along the long driveway and into the site, then down a narrow path and finally, releasing and arriving at this clearing ... a clearing that signifies arrival at a place, a quality of light particular to that condition.
Although the house plan is still very preliminary my hope is that this"first" act of clearing the site creates the spatial and aesthetic conditions for the house to evolve in a way that the inhabitants will occupy the site in such a way that they are connected to forces larger than their immediate surroundings. Simply put, my goal is to put people in touch with what Georges Bataille called "the glorious incandescence of the sun..."
The house is essentially a single story square with the major
spaces arranged around an atrium. Approximately one half of the
perimeter wall is of floor to ceiling glass, and the other half is
of vertical wood siding.
A major objective of mine is to have an extremely open spatial experience upon entry. One would enter and immediately be presented a view through the glazed court, through the living dining area to the landscape beyond.
One experiences a succession of containment and enclosure, as opposed to expanse and release as one proceeds through a variety of spatial conditions. From the long perspective as one sees the corner of the house coming down the drive to the closed condition created by the house and garage in the entry court, to the even more compressed and contained condition at the entry, to the release as one enters and is allowed the vista through the house. As one proceeds through the house one is again offered a condition of repose in the contained area between the house and the master bedroom. From here one can enjoy the contrast of the pure geometry of the formalized planted and paved plinth with the natural untouched virgin forest adjacent but slightly removed.
The design proposal for The Sagaponack Project incorporates a series of related interior and exterior spaces into the context of a larger landscaped environment. A nondescript suburban plot is transformed through careful placement of a series of landscape features ranging from unstructured planting of wild grasses and other local vegetation to highly structured elements such as stone walls, terraced pool, manicured lawn, formal garden, and orchard.
This strategy extends the spatial experience of a modest courtyard house by defining exterior spaces within the envelope of the house and by allowing interior spaces to merge with various landscape elements. The interior courtyard, glazed on three sides, is an exterior room shared by dining and living spaces. The study and guest bedroom open directly onto the sunken formal garden. A sleeping porch upstairs overlooks the manicured lawn below. The house and its surroundings are intended to define and complement one another.
In the spirit of a weekend retreat, Sagaponack House optimizes the relationship between interior and exterior. Within the simple box envelope, modest interior living spaces are wrapped by a generous porch at the southwest corner of both floors. The east, south, and west elevations are clad with wooden slats configured to modulate the summer sun and breezes. On the second floor the slats are fixed louvers detailed according to solar exposure, and on the first floor sliding panels of slats can be moved as needed to shade different interior spaces or the swimming pool. Volumes were pulled out of the box to form site elements that are proportionally related to the main house. Trellises for storage and guest parking link back to the stair and entry. The pool mirrors the living room in plan and reflects noontime sun onto its ceiling.
Our is a simple volume with an active roof and an interlocking plan that brings outdoor spaces inside. The skin is vertical wooden battens that filter the light and cast shadows on the walls. A distinctive, but not showy house - its makes a place for itself within the limited constraints of the site, working creatively with what is available.
Interlock of natural and manmade: fold the site into the house Results in spiral site organization
Relationships (not objects); Active Voids
Results in simple volumes with interlocking solids and voids inside and out
Material and detail Strategies:
Skins as filters; Permeable boundaries
Natural materials in modern relationships - vernacular without nostalgia
"We are exploring the intersection of paradigm, paradox and paradise as a window to understanding the nature of home as opposed to house"
Located on a two acre wooded site within a subdivision, the house design addresses the synthesis of two potentially antagonistic conditions: The modernist model of the house as a desecrate pavilion and a formal an organizational strategy which promotes no clear boundary between building and landscape, inside and outside. We employ a topology which operates at two scales in the project: A surface organization which allows continuity between landscape and building and a fine scale striation that both integrates and articulates geometry and material as they shift from the intensive space of the interior to the extensive space of the exterior.
Site and Program:
The house consist of a main block with a double height living space, mezzanine, master bedroom and a wrap around circulation stair, which seems to be squeezing the main block. Adjoined is a secondary block; one story with garage, storage, suite and kitchen. An exterior patio area for gathering and a water element; possibly for swimming.
The main block frame consist of three steel columns and beams; located by a triangle in plan, a secondary steel frame for the stair. The wrap around stair will provide floor to ceiling glazing continuously from ground level to the top.
Walls of the main block are made with ribs to provide the exterior curve and interior planar surfaces for ease of construction. The space between the walls can be used for mechanical systems, insulation, etc.
Walls of the secondary block are typical wood frame construction.
The living room is a double height space with faceted walls. The mezzanine has a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. It could be used as a library/ study with shelving. Fireplaces are locate in the living room and the master bedroom.
Typical operable window types are located in rooms for light and air.
Exterior wood shingles are proposed for the roof and walls to homogenizes the house and ease of construction.
P.S. You can view some of the Case Study Houses, photographed by Julius Shulman, in our "The Camera" archive.
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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