Text description provided by the architects. The clients of this new home had been living in a house built in the 1960’s designed by a disciple of Marcel Breuer, one of the “modernist masters”. The site is situated along the shore of a coastal lagoon, and became a victim of the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. Distraught by the destruction of their home, the clients sought to rebuild in an effort to restore the strong emotional connection they had to the previous dwelling.
Through research and a careful examination of the previous structure, the qualities the clients admired were carefully considered. First and foremost was the simplicity and truthfulness of the former architecture. It was evident in its exposed steel frame connections and the use of contemporary technologies of the day. To build on these virtues, the new house similarly uses a steel frame to support a roof comprised entirely of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels. This new building system provided an ideal solution, as the panels provide long free spans, can be prefabricated, and bring a warm character to the residence when left exposed. To further celebrate their application, additional building systems are integrated into these prefabricated panels: lights are set into milled recesses, skylights cut through them reveal the solid nature of their construction, and active shading systems are unified with the large roof overhangs. By manufacturing these components offsite, a large portion of the home was delivered and assembled like a kit of parts.
The transverse layering and honesty of assembly exhibited by the CLT panels are further reflected in the detailing in the home. Steel columns in the walls are meticulously revealed to highlight the structural tectonics at play. The cabinets are constructed of a bamboo plywood that shares a similar lamination technique, mirroring the architecture of the roof at a smaller scale. This commonality is evident when observing the grain direction on the deliberately exposed edges and eased finger pulls. Additional materials seek to heighten the sense of warmth in the home, including large cypress boards that coalesce interior and exterior space, and a burnished bronze fireplace that anchors the central public zone.
To comply with new flood zone requirements for the site, the house is elevated above the previous floor level. This elevation change is softened on the approach side by a series of terraces. On the water side however, the foundation is recessed in the shadows so the house appears to float above the ground, celebrating its height. The interior spaces are arranged on several clear axes, which expand views to the water, and provide perspectives through the architecture to the landscape beyond. These gestures ground the home in the landscape, and reinforce the client’s connection to the natural features of their property.
The architecture’s recognition of history allows the new home to become a familiar part of the couple’s lives, a child of the previous home. Drawing from the client’s memories, the new home becomes meaningful to them, restoring and strengthening their sense of place.