Designed by TsAO & McKOWN Architects. This beautiful rural retreat is located in Wainscot, New York, United States. The primary challenge was to design for the needs of a yet-to-be-determined client. Another significant question was how to root the house to the earth; the nearly flat site in a young growth forest offered no footing. We responded by reshaping the topography, establishing the first level slightly below grade and sculpting the surrounding terrain into a gentle rise. In addition to anchoring the house, this also allowed the visible volume to be reduced, and enabled the creation of indoor/outdoor spaces that are at once secluded, yet very open to their surroundings.
The house functions (physically and psychologically) on multiple levels – as much an intimate retreat for two (or one) as an accommodating host to an extended family (or numerous guests) – thus promoting multiple, overlapping narratives. Above, the public face; contained, controlled, consistent. Below, the private sphere; free-wheeling and spontaneous. We chose to embrace, rather than deny, this inherent ambivalence – a duality that is universal to the human condition.