Gypsy Trail ResidenceBack to Projects list
- 2003 Program
3,000 sf residence
Upstate New York
Principal in Charge
Sebastian St. Jean
Windows, railings and zinc roof
UAD, Brooklyn, NY
Buro Happold Consulting Engineers
Stanislav Slutsky, P.E.
Exterior Wall & Roofing Consultant
Israel Berger & Associates
At Croton Reservoir in upstate New York, the hills tumble right into the lake. Simultaneously soft and hard, rolling and jagged, the lakefront alternates green patches with craggy, rocky formations. And built into this landscape of leaf and rock and water will be a house--The Gypsy Trail residence. Its ground floor, to be constructed of rough stone collected on site, will be partially recessed into the hillside. Perched above the stone base will be the cantilevered second floor. This box of steel, wood, and glass is twisted at an angle to procure a direct view of the lake and to capture maximum sunlight. The overruling concept was to create an intelligent structure and to design the house “from the inside out”.
The house's structural center resides in a GENERATIVE CORE that, although originating in the ground floor, achieves its full form and function in the second floor. This core, the ARMATURE, is a centrally located "smart structure" integrating kitchen, bathrooms, fireplace, heating and cooling systems, and a central music system. The morphing of the armature's programmatic elements produces a segmented, ORGANIC SHAPE. Yet the armature functions not only as an infra-structural unit, but also as a circulatory and generative element, directing interior movement and molding the surfaces connected to it. Its organic shape distorts the geometry of the house as “pure box”; the roof above the armature warps to conform to its segmentation. As the structure's hard exterior surface responds to the generative force of the armature, the box softens, tilts, and fragments. Architecture becomes a responsive medium--responsive to the organic shapes and human forms and functions it houses. Where the roof bends to meet the armature, glass planes take the place of the zinc roof in the form of a continuous skylight. The sun's rays are re-directed through glass ceiling planes integrated into a continuous wall-to-roof surface. Where the glass bends over to become wall at the end of the armature, a transparent shower room is suspended between the trees. As the sun completes its arc through the sky, the armature collects the sun's rays and channels them into various areas of the house. Here, architecture proves itself responsive to both environmental regulators (cooling, heating) and natural environments.
The design concept, the generative armature provides a critique of the traditional domestic structure of hallways and rooms. In contrast to this more traditional setting, hallways are eliminated and a set of overlapping zones smoothly follow the folds of the armature at once engaging and intruding it. Going up the entry stair, one enters the slightly raised main floor, where the gaze is directed through a series of slots in the armature’s walls to the lake beyond. Here one finds the living- and dining room, a sunroom, the master bedroom, and an office. Descending the interior stairs along the folded armature walls one finds a gymnasium, guest quarters, and a garage. The lower floor has direct access to the lake via a recessed, hidden path with a retaining wall built of site rocks, one finds here an outdoor shower and a “hot tub” built in the rocks.
The architecture of the Gypsy House exemplifies the concepts of interdependent layers (wall-glass-roof-glass-armature), efficiency of use (armature as infra-structural core), and negotiation of means (interior/exterior, source of sunlight).