12.3.2015

Red Rock House, New York

Located in a small Berkshires township on a densely wooded, 16-acre property, this site afforded no views and little sun penetration, its topography defined by a steep slope, a vertical rock ledge, and a creek prone to seasonal flooding.

The project embraces a “machine in the garden” design approach, where contemporary vocabulary and minimal form underscore the relationship between built work and natural landscape. The initial design strategy focused on manipulating the site to preserve as much of its natural topography as possible. A 200-foot long board-formed concrete retaining wall runs north—south along the site’s east edge, exposing new plateaus for buildings, garden, and meadow. Clinging to this wall, the guesthouse anchors the building assembly in the steep hillside, while the main house and deck project out from the landform into the treetops. A linear bluestone path connects guesthouse and main house, and leads to the west balcony in the treetops, looking out over the creek below.

A minimal materials palette evokes both rusticity and precision, reflecting the juxtaposed orders of landscape and architecture. Buildings are clad in a high performance rainscreen of knotty western red cedar, milled with multiple profiles to generate a pattern that changes with the sun’s movement. The boards are organized within vertical bays delineated by aluminum T-sections, producing a textured rhythm that accommodates openings, fenestration, and screens. Lattice volumes created with aluminum L-sections indicate primary entrance and screen interior spaces from southern exposure. Interiors are entirely white, emphasizing the play of light, the client’s collection of art, and views of the landscape.

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Underground house Plan B project concept

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