On the northeastern shore of Springs, New York, a hamlet in East Hampton, a short dirt road winds between tall pines and brings one to a small 1/2 acre lot that is perched 18' above Gardiner's Bay. It is an arresting experience to exit the tree-covered road and be confronted with an expansive cut of the sky, the bay, and a horizon line that is straddled with Gardiner's Island. On the east and west sides, neighboring houses sit not too far away. These two extremes, complete openness on one axis and enclosure on the other, inform our design and its materiality.
An existing house on the lot, too deteriorated from long exposure to salt and humidity, is to be removed. And many interior wood finishes will be salvaged for re-use in the new house. In its place, a new 3,100 square feet house will include three bedrooms, a study, living spaces and intimate outdoor spaces and courtyards.
The natural beauty of the bay's constantly shifting conditions, its deep variations in color, and the geometric purity of the horizon line, are the remarkable features of this site. Architecture, here, could do no more than to be witness. So our house sits with this phenomenal experience, weaving the line of the horizon through its spaces, slowly unveiling the views, with glimpses through layers and framed transparencies.
The house is split into three pods that are connected with a low-ceiling bridge. This grouping scales down the house in relation to the lot and is reminiscent of older settlements in the area.
Moving through the house one passes under overhangs, through vertical fins and between small courtyards. The effect is one of unveiling, the view is captured and released, culminating in a living space where two 18' tall side-walls hold the horizon, sky, and bay.
A few small-scale inner courtyards, set in the center of the house, create sheltered outdoor spaces, away from northerly winds and allow direct southerly light to enter the living spaces; they also help maintain a level of privacy between the three inhabitants of the house. Nature can be harsh, and these spaces provide necessary relief when facing the bay may prove difficult.
On the east-west axis, the walls are devoid of openings, shielding the interior spaces from neighbors while directing the eye towards the horizon. These walls are made with Structural Insulated Panels and clad with charred cypress boards, prepared using the traditional Japanese Shou-Sugi-Ban technique; the charred wood provides a permanent protective shield against termites (a problem that effected the existing house) and requires nearly no maintenance.
Utilitarian spaces, bathrooms ,and closets are each boxed and stacked against a concrete wall that rises from the basement to the roof - one concrete wall in each pod, dividing the space and providing a sense of stability. Cedar and pine boards, recycled from the demolished house, are used to clad these boxes in an informal and non-luxurious manner. Electrical conduits and plumbing are surface-mounted for ease of access and to reveal the mechanics of the structure.
Special attention is given to the way the roof edge meets the glazed walls below it. The roof tapers down to a 2” edge, almost disappearing from view. We felt the expression of free-standing walls would be akin to masts of a ship, and maybe even in some manner, appear to be touching the sky.