Built as a home for both our client and their parents as well as studio and meeting spaces for their business, this house combines lessons learned from rural Connecticut modernism with concepts borrowed from traditional Japanese design. Encircled by a stone wall inspired by New England agrarian buildings, the overall configuration of the house and its courtyards and gardens was conceived in collaboration with a feng shui master, with a ceremonial gate that opens onto the garden to the north, and a door for everyday use to the southeast, adjacent to the bulk of the house’s program. A carport to the northwest allows clients to visit the studio work space independently of the rest of the house. Critical to the house’s organization is that nearly every room look onto the main courtyard, with its carefully composed array of trees and plants, creating an environment entirely apart from the urban residential neighborhood just beyond the meticulously laid stone wall.
Within the perimeter wall, a secondary stone wall passes through the main family space, uniting disparate interior, courtyard, and garden conditions and blurring the boundary between inside and out. Two dark gabled bar volumes—one for each generation of the family—hover above the living and working spaces and the stone walls which weave through them, bridged by a glazed meeting space for visitors. Upstairs, sliding panels inspired by centuries-old Japanese building tradition allow the bedrooms and hallways to be subdivided and reconfigured in numerous ways. Calm, whitewashed hinoki cypress wall surfaces stand in stark contrast to the earthy stone walls and garden views below. Windows are placed selectively, providing views to important landscape features in the distance, but screened from the urban streetscape by deep louvers for privacy.
Little Harbor HouseResidentialGuilford, CT/16
A multi-generational family heirloom; neighbors who became both client and general contractor; a modest mid-century home turned contemporary gem. Nestled into a wooded cove with views over a small harbor toward the Long Island Sound, this house was designed by Carleton Granbery, whose work we have had the opportunity to reinterpret on several occasions, and built in the late 1950s by our client’s grandparents. 60 years later, our client, and her husband, approached us seeking an update to her childhood home. She was the third generation to have lived in house and wanted to renovate and update it for her own young family.
Striving at once to retain some of the organizational logic and informal spatial qualities of Granbery’s original design, and to reinvigorate it with 21st century simplicity, elegance, and performance, the house was reimagined from the ground up, keeping intact the existing carport. The building’s minimally abstract volume, articulated by an undulating, folded roofscape, is anchored atop granite outcroppings quintessential to the Connecticut coastline. To the southwest, the massing erodes, revealing expansive glazing and terraces which offer dramatic views over the added pool to the harbor and beyond, shielded by large, louvered screens for privacy.
Beyond the glazing lie the living, dining, and kitchen areas, which are tall and celebratory, yet open and relaxed. The kitchen and bathroom core, a vestige of Granbery’s design, is flanked along the northwest perimeter by bedrooms and a family room, made more intimate in relationship to the roof above by a shift in section. Several skylights, placed carefully around the house’s deep interior spaces, wash wall surfaces with daylight.
The Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials InnovationEducationFayetteville, AR/11
WT/GO Architecture, a joint international venture between Gray Organschi Architecture and Waugh Thistleton Architects, was selected as a finalist to present a concept design for the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The international competition seeks a progressive, modern design that demonstrates creative approaches to sustainability and will be a vibrant contributor to the broader campus of the University of Arkansas and its emerging Windgate Art and Design District. The building will serve as the epicentre for the Fay Jones School of Architecture’s multiple timber and wood initiatives as well as house the school’s design-build program and digital fabrication laboratories. Other shortlisted teams include Dorte Mandrup A/S, Grafton Architects, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, LEVER Architecture, and Shigeru Ban Architects. The final result of the competition will be announced in May 2020.
Renderings by Brick Visual.
Nauset Beach HouseResidentialOrleans, MA/16
Our clients approached us to help them reimagine a house that one of them had built two decades ago on land owned by his grandfather. It was important to both clients that the new house speak in a language familiar to Cape Cod – weathered shingles, deep roofs – and also establish a new, contemporary vocabulary of Cape modernism. This architectural language skips white trim and overhanging eaves in favor of a minimalism that highlights the house’s form set against the Cape sky and in relation to sweeping Atlantic views. The couple both work in the design world – one leads design for a major global retail brand and the other manages design for a prominent exercise company – and their collaboration with Gray Organschi Architecture throughout the project was thoughtful and insightful. The result is a project that housed their family – the couple, their son and daughter, and an old Ridgeback – during the pandemic and will become part of the family’s legacy on the Cape.
Gray Organschi Architecture took the original house down to its foundation, saving only the floor deck, a portion of the roof ridge, and the chimney. The chimney was updated with white plaster parging on its interior surfaces and the new exterior form of the chimney is now clad in Atlantic white cedar shingles with stainless trim. Most rooms are on the main floor: the children’s rooms sit within a new deep roof to the north, a guest house at the west is connected to the main house by an outdoor passageway, and all public rooms are arrayed north-south, with long views towards the Atlantic. The interior is clad in maple hardwood with hickory floors. Only the master suite occupies the upper floor, giving it privacy and pride of place; the bedroom and bath look due east through large sliding glass doors.
The new pool is created by a board-formed retaining wall at the north that establishes the pool edge and a garden plinth to the east of the house. The family has spent much time on the east deck that hangs off the pool edge, in colder months gathering around the fire pit that centers the seating area. Sheltered by scrub pines and affording majestic views across the ocean, this small outdoor space captures the magic of connecting with the Cape which was the guiding goal of the project from the outset.
South Shore Little League StadiumRecreationStaten Island, NY/9
A vibrant community institution, the South Shore Little League has served thousands of children since its inception in 1954. The construction of new stadium seating at the southwestern-most field, which will be named the Joseph A. Verdino Jr. Grandstand in honor and memory of a young player in the League, and other improvements that will allow the South Shore Little League to host Little League sanctioned tournaments in an inspiring and functional new grandstand.
The grandstand is envisioned as a series of glue-laminated wood “bents” forming the structure for seating and roof. Super-graphic signage on the perforated metal screen along the back of the grandstand, addressing visitors approaching from the street and parking lot, giving a clear sense of identity for the League. The new grandstands provide elevated seating for 275 fans, covered accessible seating and spectator standing areas along first and third base lines; a press box elevated above home plate; a conference room; trophy display, seating areas, and storage under the grandstand; recessed dugouts for the home and away players; a relocated memorial statue of Joseph A. Verdino Jr., and new more energy-efficient lights.
Candlewood HouseResidentialSherman, CT/22
Our clients tasked us with renovating a mid-century ranch to optimize its views of Candlewood Lake, provide more living space for the family, and create an addition with three bedrooms, a bunk room, and a guest suite. The goal of the project was to modernize, reorganize, and upgrade the existing house and also preserve its more desirable spatial qualities, such as the vaulted ceiling in the main living space and a double fireplace.
Inspired by the local vernacular shed roof addition to gabled barns, we created a modern interpretation of this roof typology that opened up space for a second-floor master suite situated with long views down the length of Candlewood Lake. The result is a series of vignettes: intimate passages and cozy spaces that open onto sweeping lake views. Warm wood tones contrast against lush evergreens and existing stone walls newly painted a deep black.
Nolo RestaurantCommercialNew Haven, CT/4
This Italian restaurant, bar, and pizza kitchen occupies a mid-century steel frame structure that once housed a dry cleaning business. The local restaurateurs wanted to preserve the building's historic character while retrofitting it into an upscale dining destination with a built-in microbrewery. Making minimal modifications to the original glazing scheme, the new plan maximizes natural light and the ability of the building to act as a "lantern" at night while maintaining privacy for the seating areas from the busy street. The bar wraps around two massive wood fire pizza ovens, which serve as the spiritual and operational center of the building. Above the ovens, a mezzanine provides semi-private seating, with booths nestled in between the steel structural roof trusses.
Ecological Living ModuleHousingNew York, NY/24
Today, one billion people live in informal settlements, often without reliable electricity, water, sanitation, or food. Meanwhile, the housing sector consumes 40% of the planet’s total resources and contributes more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Designed for UN Environment and UN Habitat and installed at the UN Headquarters, the ELM is a 230 ft² home that is adaptable, efficient, and fully off-grid, while making use of sustainable materials, simple construction techniques, and next-generation green technology. It is equipped with sleeping and living spaces for four people, a full kitchen, and a bathroom with shower and composting toilet. By building with renewable, biogenic materials and incorporating systems for on-site energy, water, air and waste management, we sought to limit the energy and resources required to produce and operate the ELM over its entire life cycle.
The building’s form and orientation are optimized to reduce unwanted solar heat gain, promote passive stack effect ventilation, provide ample natural light, and maximize sun exposure for its PV and Integrated Concentrating Solar Façade (HeliOptix) systems. The HeliOptix system produces greater power output per area than traditional solar while using less than 1% of the semiconductor material and transmitting diffuse daylight into the interior. These solar systems provide 100% of the building’s energy needs. All water needs are met through on-site systems, with 80% of rainwater from the roof captured, stored, and filtered for potable water. During the humid summer months, a de-humidifier system supplements the rainwater supply with moisture captured from the air. Meanwhile, greywater is recycled to irrigate food crops integrated into the micro-farming wall on the west façade. A building-integrated Active Modular Phytoremediation System (FABS)—an aero-hydroponic green wall planted in a probiotic growing substrate—utilizes plants’ root systems to filter airborne VOCs, particulates, and pathogens, increase indoor microbiome diversity, and reduce fresh air intake requirements.
The ELM is prefabricated at an off-site production facility and transported via truck to the building site, arriving as a compact 8’ x 8’ x 22’ container. Once the ELM is set onto its lightweight foundations, the roof assembly pivots on a steel hinge to create a 16 ft double-height interior space with a built-in sleeping loft. Prefabricated wall panels are then set in place by hand. For this iteration, the ELM was prefabricated in just four weeks and installed in three days by our team of 16 people. If put into large-scale industrial production, the ELM could be prefabricated at under $50,000 per unit.
The ELM's reduced carbon footprint and off-grid systems address a number of issues critical to global sustainable development goals: reduced energy needs limit the financial resources necessary to produce housing; renewable bio-based materials preserve rural landscapes and finite resources; and if aggregated at a global scale, low-carbon residential development has the potential to dramatically reduce the effects of climate change.
American Eagle OutfittersCommercialSan Francisco, CA
Woodshed / Watershed NeighborhoodHousingBentonville, AR/8
This design for the Housing Northwest Arkansas competition seeks to create attainable housing—with its requisite affordability and simplicity of construction—that possesses the spirit-sustaining attributes of home and neighborhood—light-filled domestic spaces; architectural interest and specificity; attractive, healthy materials; well-scaled public places; a vibrant mix of public amenities, connectivity to greenways, cultural offerings and downtown.
Our approach also underpins a larger concept of sustainable development and economic stimulus for the region. Our structural and construction system align with the concept of building production within the circular economy, which aims to diminish the building sector’s contributions to the waste stream and use the building sector as a means to jump-start moribund economies. This design proposes replicable housing solutions, which are part of a larger story of energizing regional synergies between business and industry, institutions of higher learning and research, private foundations and government, to serve urban and rural populations in Arkansas and to serve as a model of the environmental, economic and social potential of these important collaborations to the rest of the country.
We propose a series of north-south bands of housing, each broken into smaller segments, each with a ridge that is skewed slightly in plan. The long gabled buildings take lessons from Bentonville’s historical barns, in a reference to the areas’ agricultural past. The barn typology provides a useful model for historically large buildings in keeping with the character of the place; the simple move of the skewed ridge affords a great variety of spatial and massing experiences, both within the units themselves and along the length of the buildings, creating the specificity, variety and sense of place that characterizes individual homes, and that too often is missing in affordable multi-unit housing.
A system of communal gardens interspersed between the barn forms serve as recreation space and provide a natural storm-water management system culminating in the constructed park and wetland spaces to the south.
Washington Art AssociationCommunityWashington, CT/12
Eddy LineLandscapeWillimantic, CT/7
A competition entry developed with Höweler + Yoon Architecture for the Land Art Generator Initiative. In hydrological terms, the eddy line is the shear plane between two directions of water, a place rife with kinetic hydroenergy. We felt that this natural phenomenon serves as an apt metaphor that captures Willimantic Whitewater Partnership’s passionate advocacy for the river, the Land Art Generator Initiative’s goals for urban renewable energy, and amidst this synergy, the community’s concern for building upon a sense of place in Willimantic.
The centrepiece of this proposal is a vertical sculpture that captures the visual similarity of water currents and the movement of threads in historic textile processes. The tower’s gentle, turning form mimics divergent streams of water as it unfurls and extends across the site, inscribing a series of directional flows in the process. These “eddies” link the three main components of the design while embodying the movement of natural and human energy across the site. This approach sets up a site development strategy that ensures all components of the design will always create a sculptural whole. The height of the vertical sculpture at 35 feet guarantees that the installation will be prominently visible from the Willimantic Courthouse and beyond.
Clad on the south face with 1250 sq ft. array of flexible, thin-film solar panels, the sculpture will be capable of generating up to 94 MWh of energy annually. Some of this energy will be harnessed to animate a series of LED panels on the reverse side of the tower. The LED panels will provide a visual manifestation of the energy being harvested by the tower as well as function as an environmental signalling device. The signalling device will generate various color codes programmed to communicate environmental site conditions such as a weather forecast, the energy tower KWh output, wind speeds, whitewater course data and other site indicators.
As visitors enter the park and past the tower, they will approach an amphitheatre weaved into the riverbank and a river overlook that emerges from the existing mounded topography of the site. Situated within the amphitheatre and the overlook, visitors are invited to experience the raw energy of the Willimantic by walking up and over it, sitting close to the riverbank or even entering the river through a kayak launch area to the west.
Sanctuary SkylightCommunityGreenwich, CT/6
Green 208HousingNew Paltz, NY/5
Flagship StoreCommercialLas Vegas, NV/3
Mill River Park Carousel PavilionRecreationStamford, CT/15
Through an open ideas competition we were awarded the commission to design a threshold between the restored riparian wetland of the Mill River and the city that surrounds it. Working within the strict parameters of a park master plan developed by Olin Partnership, the program called for two distinct elements: a pavilion to house a large wooden carousel at the entry to the park and an urban “porch” that would serve as a marker and shading canopy along the river’s edge. For both buildings, we explored applications of structural engineered timber to find unexpected and playful forms and spaces for the park’s visitors. The Carousel Pavilion is the first to be completed.
This translucent polycarbonate and timber shed will house a large wooden merry-go-round donated to the city by Mill River Park benefactors. Standing at the park’s northwest entrance at the corner of Mill River and Broad Streets, the pavilion’s deep entry porch offers visitors a celebratory view of the carousel. The interior space of the pavilion is lined by a series of canted structural timber columns whose geometry gives the building both its architectural character and its structural rigidity. Large bifold awning doors open to the south to views of the park, its legacy cherry grove, and the river beyond. In addition to the carousel, the interior provides enough space and seating for riders’ respite and more organized events served by a small kitchen that doubles as a casual snack bar and a caterers’ work area for weddings and parties.
Above the whirling carousel, we designed an enormous sculptural dome and cupola, carved from the deep timber roof plane as an inverted topography from layers of cross laminated timber. The complex geometries of the skylight rectify the triangular plan of the building, the circular footprint of the merry-go-round, and the radial motion of its riders. For any who choose to look up, the open canopy of the carousel will reveal to its riders a constantly changing surface of timber, sculpted by sunlight and brought to life by their own movement.
MaderaMXHousingPuente de Ixtla, Mexico/7
Project MaderaMX proposes a regenerative forest-product supply chain that links mass timber manufacturing and construction technology to the growing demand in Mexico for workforce housing while promoting a new environmental synergy between healthy, bio-diverse forests and dense convivial urban development built in wood. From a global perspective, Madera MX seeks to make carbon a structural asset, banking it in dense timber towns and cities as well as in the self-regenerating woody biomass of Mexican forests. By substituting the carbon sequestration capacity and relatively low processing emissions of structural timber for the CO2 intensive manufacture of concrete and steel, the environmental impact of Mexican housing production will be dramatically reduced.
Due to its light weight and stiffness, the panel/module construction system of the MaderaMX can be easily expanded and aggregated in several ways. On larger sites, small cantilevered storage- work- or bedrooms can be added in the locations of existing windows. For more compact or urban sites, the primary volume can be easily raised and infilled below, creating areas for parking, work or retail space or additional living area. Advanced iterations with minor structural modification can be stacked to three stories to provide denser urban environments, or to two stories in order to provide courtyard housing of various configurations.
Spartan GymRecreationMiami Beach, FL/7
Chilmark HouseResidentialChilmark, MA/18
Chilmark’s long agrarian history on the windswept southern edge of Martha’s Vineyard underpins the design approach to this house and studio for a multi-generational family. The site, a former sheep grazing field, overlooks Chilmark pond, with long views to the Atlantic, and is edged by a series of Chilmark’s massive, meandering stone fences. In deference to the field’s history, and to the simple New England forms that shape the area’s architectural heritage, we developed the house and studio as a pair of barns with low pitched roofs that sit quietly in the landscape. Two buildings form a series of courtyards and outdoor spaces, with varying degrees of privacy and views. In a nod to New England’s bank barns, the long barn is set into the hillside, diminishing its scale from the north and creating direct connections to the outside from both upper and lower levels.
At the heart of this design process lies a mentorship and evolving collaboration. Five years ago, Alan Organschi was approached by his student, Aaron Schiller, whom he had taught during Yale’s first year building project. Aaron asked Gray Organschi to share the firm’s long experience with house design and to work collaboratively on the project. Aaron, whose family had spent decades in Chilmark and had outgrown their beloved A-frame, led the family quest for a new piece of land that would accommodate a family compound and, after years of searching, he found this rare piece of land.
The simple, dark buildings are approached via a farm road that winds through Chilmark’s dense thicket of scrub oak. A broad stair links a large south-facing porch back to the farm road and provides pedestrian access through the field to the beaches beyond. Based in a shared love of the dense aggregation of New England’s farm complexes, we sited the studio and the house barns tightly together, creating a charged outdoor space between them, which provides the approach to the house’s entrance. The sweeping Atlantic views are only experienced after a visitor enters the house; the northwest entry courtyard is edged by a mute, charred cedar wall with screened apertures, creating a private courtyard with views west over the rolling fields and stone fences. Inside the dark buildings, bleached ash lines all surfaces. The ceilings in the public rooms lift to the high ridges, with dropped areas to create a children’s sleeping loft high in the roof. The lower level creates a series of bedrooms with shared spaces between that look into light wells, landscaped with local rocks and moss.
The family felt strongly that the house should meld Chilmark’s traditions of simple agrarian forms with its equally compelling history of progressivism and openness. The barn complex sits quietly within the old landscape, while the buildings’ open plan reaches outward to the light and views beyond, providing warm, convivial space for family and friends.
Firehouse 12CommercialNew Haven, CT/29
This project is the result of a long and deep collaboration with our visionary client, a jazz pianist and music producer. The work has been performed in two phases. Phase One included the painstaking refurbishment and stabilization of a historic 1905 fire station, a brick shell that had been abandoned for decades, into which were inserted a live room/recording studio that doubles as a performance space, a green room, offices, a bar and small kitchen, and an apartment. Phase Two includes the addition of a musician’s hostel on top of the brick structure, a prefabricated cross-laminated timber box that was placed atop the firehouse to accommodate musicians residing in the building during recording.
The 85 seat proscenium performance space doubles as an acoustically isolated soundstage with full technical infrastructure of isolation booths and control room. A particular design challenge lay in the dual purpose of the “live room” and its conflicting acoustical requirements: for recording, the space must be acoustically dead, while for performance, the room’s reverberant character is important. Using prototypes of material and assembly systems produced in our workshop, we developed a continuous plywood shell that transforms along its surface to create opposing acoustic conditions keyed to specific areas: at the back of the proscenium stage, the plywood shell splits and distorts to act as a diffuser; above the primary recording area at the center of the room, it undulates to refract high frequency sound. From the lobby, the plywood shell forms the exterior of the auditorium, providing a kind of internal “marquee” for the theater that wraps down to create the ceiling of the basement bar.
Within the relatively small volume of the former firehouse, a series of public and private spaces weave throughout the building and around the central sound space. An entrance lobby at the street opens down into a public cafe and bar amid the firehouse’s stone foundations below, where a new massive board formed concrete stair structure and carved buttresses resist the heavy vehicular loads from the street above. At the back of the recording studio are a “green room” for performers and an office for the owner and studio manager. Above the sound space, under the restored six foot deep structural timber roof trusses, we added a 2nd floor two-bedroom apartment and roof terrace. The curving birch plywood shells that snake through the building’s multiple levels function alternately as spatial dividers and light and sound reflectors, giving the interiors lightness and warmth to contrast the dark brick walls of the original building and providing architectural continuity and a transformed identity for the building.
Our client’s recent request to add bedrooms and spaces for more musicians presented a unique challenge. Lacking sufficient space in the existing building shell, the design team proposed a 650 square foot rooftop addition constructed from structural mass timber. Taking advantage of timber’s high strength to weight ratio and the possibility to fabricate large panels off-site in New Hampshire, the design team developed an innovative, prefabricated structural assembly anchored to the existing masonry building via a horizontal steel truss. Thanks to prefabrication and careful coordination, carpenters assembled the structural timber components on-site in less than 12 hours, reducing the addition’s overall construction time.
Completed in 2016, this is one of the first buildings in the United States to utilize cross-laminated timber throughout the building structure, featuring exposed structural timber in the interior spaces. Wood’s natural hygroscopic characteristics help regulate interior humidity and create acoustically live spaces for the musicians to practice between recording sessions.
Common Ground High SchoolEducationNew Haven, CT/18
This environmental charter school in New Haven, Connecticut combines urban agriculture and sustainable land-management practice in an innovative curriculum that serves New Haven area teenagers during the day and younger children and adults through extensive after-school programs in the afternoons and evenings. The project brief challenged us to weave the new building and its exterior spaces into the fabric of farm buildings, agricultural fields, upland forests, and wetland habitat that lie at the city’s edge and serve as the school’s working landscape and outdoor classroom. A primary objective was a pedagogical one; that the building itself would be an environmental exemplar that integrated new ecological concepts and building technologies in a clearly legible and potentially instructive way.
In addition to its on-site energy production and storm water treatment, natural illumination, and passive ventilation, the new building at Common Ground exploits the structural capacities and ecological benefits of wood fiber. It is one of the first buildings in the United States to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) as its primary structure. Black spruce CLT panels act as the tension surface (and final ceiling finish) in a system of prefabricated stressed skin assemblies that span the upper classrooms and circulation spaces. Vertical CLT panels form bearing and shear walls throughout the building while glue-laminated rafters and heavy timber trusses span its large ground floor multi-purpose space. A treated glue laminated bridge deck on laminated timber piers provides access from the upper campus. Dense cellulose batts super-insulate its air-tight enclosure. One notable benefit of this aggregation of construction biomass is that the carbon sequestered in the building’s structural system offsets the annual emissions of 107 cars, making the building carbon neutral in its first decade of operation. This integrated use of renewable material and low-impact construction technique enhances the health and ecological function of the immediate site. It also protects more distant productive landscapes, optimizing their biological and hydrological processes so that they may continue to provide valuable environmental services such as clean air and water (and a steady supply of renewable building material) to our cities and more specifically, to important emerging institutions like Common Ground High School and its forward-thinking students, teachers, and administrators.
Retail PrototypeCommercialPittsburgh, PA/5
Old Quarry HouseResidentialGuilford, CT/25
Reconstructed, refitted, reprogrammed… phoenix-like in its new life as a home for a family with college age children, this house occupies a glorious coastal site, a long-abandoned granite quarry overlooking a series of contiguous inlets, salt marshes and a small harbor on the Connecticut shoreline. Originally built in the seventies and despite suffering from an array of technical woes, we felt that the basic spatial relationships of house and site were good, the theatrical unfolding of its entry sequence to spectacular views elegant, and its massing and low-slung roof line appropriately modest in their near invisibility from the water.
Working as both architect and general contractor for the project, we lifted northern corners of once flat roof planes, introducing clerestory windows at critical points to reduce glare and balance light contrast. We salvaged all existing wood (and steel) framing, reusing it to restructure and extend roof and floor cantilevers. We charred new cypress siding boards (using the traditional Japanese method of shou sugi ban) to give character and additional resistance to fungal rot and weathering. Those same boards sheath a large bi-fold garage door, turning a familiar suburban fixture into a simple panel of wood, complementing the hues in adjacent stone walls.
Court Street ResidenceResidentialNew Haven, CT/4
Adirondacks HouseResidentialKeene, NY/21
A property in upstate New York’s mountainous Adirondack region has served as a vacation retreat for two families since the late 18th century. During the 1980s, the families built an addition to the original 1950s house in an attempt to accommodate an ever-expanding circle of family and friends, but by 2012 the home was unable to accommodate the 25 people who regularly visit the property.
Forming a committee to represent both families’ interests, the clients developed a project brief that included sleeping spaces for 14 people, a communal kitchen and dining area, and universally accessible bedrooms and public spaces to ensure that visitors of all ages and abilities would be able to enjoy the home equally. Additionally, the clients adamantly desired a cost-efficient architectural solution that would meet their modest construction budget, minimally impact the site, maintain the natural woodland environment, utilize sustainable construction methods, and occupy a small footprint.
Given the budgetary and spatial constraints, the design team developed an efficient 3,000 square foot plan nestled amongst the boulders and trees of the site. Designed as a series of two-story towers that define a common, central living area, the house has six bedrooms, four of which are located on the second level of the towers and are connected by a landscaped green roof. The large, open living spaces on the ground level are organized around a central wooden staircase that brings light into the center of the home. Adjacent to the stair, the design team developed a large, ramping floor to negotiate the site’s uneven ground conditions, connecting to a series of exterior decks that encircle the first floor.
Completed in 2015, the home’s exterior is clad in locally-sourced tamarack, a weather-resistant species of larch that recurs in the house’s interior to wrap a feature wall in the kitchen. The interior floors and walls are ash, another local wood, some of which was harvested from the trees that had been uprooted to make room for the house’s footprint. In order to connect the home’s interior spaces to the surrounding forest, the design team integrated large, energy-efficient sliding windows. Additional sustainable design features include a heavily insulated building envelope, extensive roof overhangs on the home’s south side to shield the interiors from summer heat gain, a green roof planted with local vegetation that filters rainwater and provides additional insulation, and sloping roofs oriented to accommodate photovoltaic panels.
Woodland HouseResidentialHamden, CT/10
This house for an academic couple perches on a ledge outcropping, overlooking a dramatic wetland ravine. Located on 25 forested acres in the midst of an otherwise typical suburban development, the home’s design reflects the desire of the client to inhabit a peaceful, compact forest retreat that blends into the boulders, creeks, and deciduous trees that abound on the property. Despite the generous size of the property, the architects were challenged to site the home on a relatively small building area, reckoning with steeply sloping topography and extensive wetlands in order to create a sustainably designed, low-impact 2,000 square foot home on a modest construction budget. The home’s design, organized by a compact L-shaped plan, embraces a small clearing in the forest and maximizes opportunities for views in all directions.
Designed as a monolithic, sloping volume, the design team selectively subtracted volumes from the facade to create both the main entrance and a large garden porch. Partially protected from the elements, these outdoor spaces increase the livable area of the home by 50%. The center of the home features an open living, dining, and cooking space that can be fully opened to the exterior via large sliding glass doors. In contrast, bedrooms anchor either end of the single-story plan, creating three, separated private retreats with views into the forest beyond. Cantilevered from an exposed rock outcropping, the master bedroom extends into the forest and offers the clients a private, sheltered porch.
Further embodying the clients’ sustainable ethos, the home features energy-efficient radiant floor heating, a spray-in closed-cell foam insulated exterior envelope, abundant natural lighting, large operable windows designed to maximize cross-ventilation, a custom-designed cypress screen to reduce heat gain along a glazed, polycarbonate entry wall, a fully-planted green roof to reduce run-off and provide additional thermal mass, and an intentionally minimal landscaping strategy that is largely maintenance-free and creates space for a small vegetable garden. Efficient, sustainably designed, and built to sit lightly on the land, this home is designed to complement and preserve its natural surroundings.
Henry David Thoreau FootbridgeLandscapeWashington, CT/12
The Henry David Thoreau Footbridge, named in tribute to an original American environmentalist, is a cable-stayed, mass timber suspension bridge across the Shepaug River in Northwestern Connecticut. This new bridge provides disabled visitors access to the preserve’s previously inaccessible trail systems along the river’s northern bank. The structure exploits the structural economy of glue-lamination and the durability of large treated timbers joined monolithically to avoid the moment connections and vulnerability of timber lattice structures. The bridge deck spans 134 feet, rising clear of the 500 year flood level and then sweeps 90 degrees as it gently ramps down to the north bank Quotes from Thoreau’s seminal work, Walden, inscribed by water jet into a bench at the cliff base and along the bridge’s steel handrails, offer moments for reflection. Opened in September 2015 and already in heavy use, the bridge provides an identifying landmark and a comfortable conduit to those—disabled and able-bodied alike—seeking the natural beauty of Steep Rock’s Hidden Valley.
Barnum Landing Ferry TerminalCommunityBridgeport, CT/4
Preliminary design of a new passenger and automobile ferry terminal in a former industrial zone of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Our client, the historic Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamship Company, operates a large contemporary ferry service that provides a critical marine link between the Interstate-95 highway corridor and Long Island. Working in partnership with the City of Bridgeport, the State of Connecticut, transportation architects Gregg, Wies, and Gardner and the landscape architecture firm of Starr Whitehouse, we developed a comprehensive plan for the development of this transit hub which includes a new terminal building with loading and staging infrastructure, buildings for BPJSC operations headquarters, and overnight residences for crew.
As a comprehensive approach to the repair and remediation of damaged and polluted waterfront sites, our design team integrated bio-remediation systems for the adjacent tidal wetlands and the ecological treatment of storm water from the site, a public greenway that connects the city’s fragmented waterfront, and the development of small commercial uses to provide amenities for visitors and for the struggling neighborhood of East Bridgeport. The design addresses the complex logistical operations in an interface between pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks, and large marine vessels, while providing critical environmental systems to protect delicate wetlands and public health and to provide self-sustaining energy systems for the terminal.
Mill River Park PorchLandscapeStamford, CT/8
The Mill River Porch is a new form of civic infrastructure providing a threshold between a restored riverbank and the urban edge of Stamford, Connecticut. The porch design draws architectural richness and complexity from the inventive use of simple materials and assemblies. Intense design exploration at many scales allowed us to test the capacity of the architecture to simultaneously address the city and the body through the varied experience of a singular element. By studying the logics of fabrication and erection and using readily available materials and off-the-shelf fastening systems as constraints, we have developed an inherently responsive and economical set of components which can adapt to variable site conditions.
We propose an urban porch for the city, a soaring timber lattice flowing along the edge of the river, providing a continuous space for strolling or sitting. The space below the porch is dappled by a lattice formed from the simplest wood beams and propped by gangs of steel columns arranged in self-supporting tripods. Deep slender joists of dimensional lumber are pulled taut to create an expanded grid of wood, the upward pressure of the timber tripods forcing the trellis to undulate slightly, a torsion fostered by the longitudinal geometries and connection system of the continuous timber frame. Beneath it, a simple banding of concrete planks, interrupted regularly by broad joints of reinforced thyme or grass, provides a steady surface for chairs and tables.
While parametric architectures have thrived in the digital era, custom fabrication costs remain extraordinarily high when compared to conventional products of mass production. In order to remain ambitious under economic constraints, the Mill River Porch utilizes three, off-the shelf technologies readily available to any contemporary practice: standard dimensional materials (lumber), the personal computer and parametric software. Parametric frameworks can enrich projects of any scope or budget. This project combines emerging tools and methods with mass produced components in order to generate a rich, integrated form from a set of simple components and connections.
Material research informs a formal logic and assembly system based on the bending capacity of dimensional lumber. Our analysis began with the fundamental unit of the porch lattice: the 4X4 member of Douglas Fir. While most wood harvesting and finishing technologies attempt to produce a stable finished product, we were more fascinated with imperfections and failures: undulations in geometry. Understanding that the members of the wood lattice could maintain their structural integrity under some bending stress, we explored the various radii that continuous wood members could be bent to before failing. This information was then translated into a parametric model as a constraint, allowing us to explore a series of formal scenarios with material intelligence. By limiting the maximum distortion of each member, we created a final geometry with 88 components that are only custom in their length.
The porch flows along the river's edge, expanding and contracting to accommodate a host of activities. At the intersection with the existing spine path, the porch drops to provide a threshold into the park. Loungers line the south edge of the pavement with maximum exposure to light and views of the river. A wave-field of earth mounds organizes around a bend in the porch, where an informal performance space is generated. Benches are scattered throughout the pavement to provide moments of rest and reflection. The world below the porch is a continuous flow with episodic, programmed moments interspersed throughout.
Private CampResidentialKent, CT/5
Storrs HouseResidentialStorrs, CT/2
Nelson Island CampResidentialNelson Island, BC/4
Catholic University School of ArchitectureEducationWashington, CT/6
73rd Street ApartmentResidentialNew York, NY/3
Sachem's Head HouseResidentialGuilford, CT/19
This house, overlooking the Thimble Islands, provides a summer base for a family of six. The owners asked us to rebuild and improve an existing residence, built in the late 70’s; we were ultimately able to retain only part of the foundation, but the original forms reappear in the house’s new incarnation. The first floor is a series of overlapping spaces that open to each other and face the sea; a two-storey bridge provides dramatic dining on the first floor, with a family hang-out space above. Enormous sliding glass panels open the public rooms to the outside and capture breezes during the hot summer months. The house is clad inside and out with bleached cedar.
Seaside HouseResidentialShelter Island, NY/20
Our clients, a pair of creative and talented designers, asked us to provide a small private enclave overlooking the site’s dunes, facing the sea. The house creates a series of courtyards that shape the exterior space; a long dark cedar wall edges the driving court and separates cars from the entry court at the front door; a bamboo hedge screens the pool, contained on its long sides by house and pavilion, from the road; a covered porch creates an intimate, sheltered outdoor space from which to contemplate the ocean. The courtyards and interior spaces step gently down with the grade, modulating the experience of arriving, entering and encountering the vista beyond; the small changes in level also separate private and public space within a compact plan. The owners’ artistic interior design enhances the material and spatial richness of the architecture, while maintaining a clear sense of rustic modernism.
Depot HouseResidentialWashington, CT/22
The Shepaug River Valley Railroad, which ran along the Bantam River in the late 19th century, stopped at this location, once the site of a tiny local train depot. We saved and reinforced the existing 19th century rubble foundation, using it as the base for this new house. Two simple gable structures, oriented perpendicularly to each other, create space for a large open plan between them and refer, through their forms, to neighboring barns and to the region’s agricultural heritage. The house interior is lined with bleached pine; kitchen, dining, living and family rooms overlap each other and create a rich series of spatial experiences that accommodate relaxed weekend living. The living spaces open onto a lap pool which is edged in stone-lined gabion baskets and is surrounded by a cedar deck. Outdoor spaces provide views across the meadow to the Bantam River.
18th Street LoftResidentialNew York, NY/6
A series of subtly colored boxes sit within an open plan, making distinct spaces for living, dining, cooking and sleeping. Glass planes and lacquered walls form the minimalist language for the architecture and create a serene background for the owners’ extensive and changing art collection.
Yale Urban Ecology and Design LaboratoryEducationNew Haven, CT/3
Fairfield Jesuit Community CenterCommunityFairfield, CT/19
The Jesuits at Fairfield University asked us to design a home for their community and a center for their religious mission and to provide an architecture that would reflect their commitment to simplicity, spirituality and intellectualism. Aware of their special role as teachers and spiritual guides, the Jesuits sought a building that would not only provide for their own immediate needs, but might serve as an exemplar of ecological architecture.
Working with the Jesuit Community and University planners, we developed a 20,000 square foot residence and apostolic center at the heart of the campus. The building houses resident Jesuit priests and their Jesuit and lay guests, administrative offices, a chapel, community dining room, great room, and library, providing not only a home to the Jesuit men but a base for the regional Jesuit community and a symbol of the Jesuits’ historical presence on the Fairfield campus. The site is prominent and lovely, a steeply sloping hillside bounded to the south by enormous mature European beech trees which frame distant views to Long Island Sound.
The Center sits on the shoulder of the slope, its community spaces organized beneath the low plane of a garden roof, visible from the Graduation lawn above it, and uninterrupted except by the large monitor that lights the chapel, the spiritual heart of the building. To the eastern campus side, the building’s elevation presents a simple expression of the community, a public entry porch, the altar wall of the chapel, and the large windows of the community great room. To the less trafficked western side, the men’s rooms gain privacy and southerly views, while enclosing a courtyard garden shared by the men and their guests.
The design promotes the smooth function of a combined social center, religious sanctuary, and home and also optimizes the building’s environmental performance. Operable windows promote natural cross ventilation and reduce mechanical equipment loads. Large glazed panels admit winter sunlight onto dark polished concrete floors that absorb solar energy and evenly radiate its warmth throughout the building’s interiors. Natural daylight floods communal spaces, offices, and bedrooms, dramatically reducing the need for electric illumination. Recycled or renewable materials line the building’s surfaces. Our innovative exterior wall system maximizes insulation, reduces thermal conductivity and heat loss through structural members, and ensures the durability of the building envelope through condensation and moisture control. The building overhangs its foundations, protecting the root systems of the giant beech trees that surround it and shade its southerly windows during hot summer months.
In addition to these time-tested practices for minimizing energy consumption, maximizing the comfort of the building’s inhabitants and enhancing their connection to the outdoors, new technologies increase the building’s performance. A garden roof above the community spaces controls and filters storm water, reduces heat loss, and increases the durability of the roof membrane beneath it. A closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system, fed by fifteen wells beneath the parking area, provides energy to the building without fossil fuels.
Working in close collaboration with landscape architect Gary Hilderbrand, we developed the design of a group of garden pavilions with operable shade canopy for a garden in suburban Connecticut. We conceived of these structures as simple sculptural volumes that would change in form and program with the season: during warm-weather months, the small buildings open to create enormous roofed sofas beneath a pleated and folded cloth canopy strung on a high-tension aircraft cable trellis; in the winter, screens made from a lattice of white cedar laminated with an internal layer of translucent polycarbonate enclose the containers for the storage of garden furniture. Lit from within, the boxes transform into lanterns in the winter landscape, austere free-standing lamps that echo their function in warmer weather and the promise of summer months to come.
A foreshortened and demanding schedule combined with a congested site in which excavation, concrete work, and final landscape installation were to be undertaken in tight sequence left little room for a conventional design and construction process with its methodical sequence of proposal and review. Instead, working closely with landscape contractor Christiansen Landscaping, Gray Organschi Architecture and in-house fabrication firm JIG designbuild developed a compressed and overlapping process of design, detailing, fabrication and installation of the major architectural components of the garden: four prefabricated enclosures which doubled as large lounge furniture and light boxes. Before ground was broken on the project, the construction of finished modules was underway in our workshop. In shuffling the typically linear sequence of construction, we relied on the careful tracking of interdependent components that we developed and produced separately but simultaneously. Team members were in constant contact to verify assumptions, test tolerances, and double-check fit.
In the main shop, we fabricated the “C”-shaped moment frames that provided structure for each box and then sheathed them in Atlantic White Cedar. The dimension of these “boxes” we derived from maximum allowable trucking dimensions on interstate highways, without needing to obtain oversize freight permits. At the same time, in a ground floor workspace adjacent to our shop, we set up jigs to mass-produce the cedar screens that would enclose the light-boxes during the winter, a network of fine cedar slats, put under tension and warped by spacers placed in alternating positions throughout the system to create a taut but flexible surface. Using electric drills with special chucks, we spun a series of nylon micro-threaded rods through the system of spacers and slats, connecting them to the welded aluminum frames that border each panel. We kept the light gauge aluminum angles from buckling under load by requiring a translucent backup panel of extruded polycarbonate to do double duty: to serve as a light-emitting weatherproofing layer and to keep the undersized aluminum angles true and in plane.
We developed this pre-tensioned system from previous experiments with open flexible wooden screens in a project for a beach side changing room (see Cabana) and from our structural experiments with a timber “net” in our design for the Mill River Park Porch. By working on a similar structural and methodological problem at vastly different scales, we found that the principles of wood bending, post-tensioning, and repetitive assembly could be applied to similar problems in varying contexts.
We installed the garden enclosures and screens on an “as-needed” basis, placing them as the final landscape finishes of bluestone paving and sod were unrolled across the site. The tight construction sequence we were able to develop relied on steady communication with trusted collaborators in the landscaping, plumbing, and electrical trades, enabling us to back out of the site with the project substantially complete and operational in a little more than three months.
Guilford Center for ChildrenEducationGuilford, CT/8
The Center for Children is a daycare facility serving 60 preschool children in Guilford, Connecticut. The project site lies within the town’s Historic District and contains two previously abandoned antique barns, a vestige of a former farm and a reminder of Guilford’s agrarian history. In accordance with Guilford’s commitment to developing transit-oriented sustainable projects to serve the public, the Center for Children, a beloved Guilford institution for over 30 years, adapts these important old buildings for a new generation of Guilford residents.
The design salvages the barn framing and enclosure, placing four classrooms on the ground floor of the larger barn with an accessible activity area and art studio on the floor above. Occupying both floors of the western barn, administration, teacher and parent resource rooms overlook a double-height breakfast and lunch room for the children. Parking, service and entry are separated from the spaces occupied by the children, making the Center for Children a secure and highly functional building.
The adaptive re-use of beloved existing structures has strengthened community relations with residents and reinforced the Center’s principles of environmental sustainability. In all the building’s communal spaces, the character of the antique barns is on full display, providing children and parents with a direct experience of Guilford’s past.
Northeast Harbor HouseResidentialNortheast Harbor, ME/2
This small guest house stands in an upland meadow dotted with large oaks and granite outcroppings, a new addition to an enclave of house, garage, and barn overlooking Long Island Sound and the Thimble Islands. Our clients sought a tranquil retreat for guests and, as they aged, future accessible living quarters for themselves. As longtime residents of the property, our clients were especially sensitive to any changes to the land's character . But they were as committed to architectural exploration and the principles of ecological building practice as they were to the protection of the site. They requested that the building optimize the visual and environmental qualities of the place, that it incorporate renewable materials and energy sources, and that it provide an experience of solitude and privacy while reinforcing the connections to other buildings on the site.
The project brief was modest: a combined living and dining room with a small kitchen, a single accessible bedroom and bath and an upper story room that would double as additional sleeping or recreational space. Due to its proximity to the primary residence, the building was considered by the local zoning codes as an “accessory building,” strictly limited in both ground plan and height, allowing barely enough headroom for legal occupation of an upper story. Our simple plan incorporates a bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette within an enclosed volume with communal living and dining spaces surrounding it. The sedum-covered shed roof, a steeply pitched plane lifted by the “pressure” of the spaces beneath it, is another planted surface in the garden that spills excess water into the landscape. Our glazing details are intended to dematerialize the building’s seams: eaves come apart from the walls, corners detach, the roof tears open to connect the light bamboo-lined interior to the expanse and beauty of the site; long views, the canopies of oaks, and the ever-changing coastal sky encompass the small building.
Storage BarnUtilityWashington, CT/14
This workshop and storage facility for a landscaping contractor lies within a watershed conservancy area. Conservation regulations limit allowable building coverage, and our client sought to reduce the sprawl of soil stockpiles and material pallets strewn around the surface of the site. The building serves as a dimensionally economical and energy efficient storage rack for heavy materials, in which tightly packed and palletized stone and wood are stored in a flexible external shelving system that allows access to any pallet in any position on the rack without disturbing others around it. As an integral part of the structural steel frame, we developed a series of cantilevered shelf standards and based the building’s organization on the dimension and weight of a pallet of stone and on the wheelbase, turning radius, and reach of an articulated loader.
The exterior expression of the barn, a rough and changing mosaic of wood and stone, contrasts with the barn’s bright, smooth internal surfaces. Behind the steel pallet racks, a double-layered sheath of extruded polycarbonate panels, whose translucency admits daylight to the building interior wherever pallet racks are left unfilled, forms the enclosure of the building. This natural illumination provided by the wall assembly is part of a comprehensive strategy for the building’s energy conservation. The building is entirely heated and cooled geo-thermally and its ground-source heat pumps and electric worklights are powered by a rooftop array of translucent photovoltaic panels that also serve as skylights to further supplement natural interior illumination. By extending the translucent roof canopy, we created a covered but evenly day-lit work space and weather-protected storage area for stockpiles of loose sand and loam, while providing expanded area for additional photovoltaic panels. The building currently produces more electrical energy than it consumes, acting as a small private generating plant that allows its owner to sell the surplus electricity back to the regional utility company.
Westport HouseResidentialWestport, CT/8
We provided interior architecture and furnishings for this family home. The heart of the house is a large open living, dining and kitchen space, oriented on a simple woodstove and the garden framed by windows beyond it. The clients asked us to express their joy in the play of materials, textures and art; a warm birch ceiling unifies the plan and is edged by a curvilinear soffit which provides mounting surface for the window treatments at the perimeter of the room.
A three-story staircase of bamboo treads and mesh and steel railing components, with a warm mahogany handrail, rises through the house, connecting living spaces, bedrooms and offices.
Yale Medical SchoolEducationNew Haven, CT/4
Coliseum ReconsideredCommunityNew Haven, CT/6
Church HouseResidentialGreenwich, CT/6
Our client asked us to transform the dilapidated shell of a 19th century Baptist church into a home for himself and his wife. After carefully stabilizing the structure and repairing its exterior finishes, we developed a series of spaces that include a kitchen, dining, and living room space, and guest and master bedroom suites. To preserve the lovely proportions of the former congregation space, we added the upper-story volume that holds the master suite as an independent structure of curved laminated birch, free of the interior volume of the main room. A back stair leads up into a guest bedroom behind what was once the pulpit and is now a large fireplace surrounded by panels of rosewood veneer. We clad the main door in deeply scalloped white cedar shingles to signal its change of use but still to celebrate the arrival of guests.
Barcelona Wine BarCommercialNew Haven, CT/3
Working in an empty concrete bunker that had most recently housed a police substation, adjacent to the Omni Hotel, we developed a series of overlapping spaces with distinct characters, creating intimate dining and wine-tasting environments, some available for private rental. The entire space is unified by a simple stained plywood ceiling treatment, which masks steel bar joists and creates an expansive experience in what had been an oppressively low ceilinged-space. Central to Barcelona New Haven are the 20’ walnut dining table and decorative wall-mounted walnut flitch, both made in our workshop and divided by a “screen” we invented using economical terra cotta flue liners, stacked and grouted to create a custom wall. The distinctive walnut-lined entry tube, open kitchen, window wall wine cellar, and 40’ marble bar create a lively, hip dining experience that has become a magnet among New Haven’s many fine restaurants.
Calvin Hill DaycareEducationNew Haven, CT/7
This nationally renowned daycare and nursery school program asked for the addition of first and second floor ateliers to their current home, a 19th century brick firehouse, in order to expand their project-based curriculum by creating space for children to pursue sustained art projects. Acting both as architect and construction manager for the project, we worked closely with school administrators, teachers, and Yale University’s Planning Department, to craft a building that could be produced within an extremely constrained site, budget, and construction schedule.
The design introduces a two-story addition to the converted firehouse, maximizing square footage and available daylight along a narrow side yard on the eastern exposure of the building, and providing well-lit rooms with exquisite views to the playing fields of an adjacent school with New Haven’s landmark East Rock as a backdrop. The simple volume also provides an entry canopy and covered outdoor play area. Although the design of the art rooms is highly integrated with the space and function of the existing teaching areas, we used construction-staging strategies to isolate construction and minimize its interface with the existing building, dramatically reducing the impact of new construction on school activities, which continued to serve sixty children throughout the construction period.
Seal Cove HouseResidentialSeal Cove, ME/11
This small house occupies a shelf of land on a steeply sloping site overlooking Seal Cove, a narrow inlet along Maine's North Atlantic Coast. Our clients wanted to build their summer home in this extraordinary place, while making every effort to minimize the impact of the building on the character and ecology of the land. Working closely with excavating contractors and riggers, we developed a prefabricated frame and panel assembly system to be lowered into position once the foundation walls needed to retain the steep bank above the house were complete.
Formed by twelve glue-laminated southern yellow pine arches and enclosed by cedar and pine-clad structural insulated panels, the barn-like volume contains a continuous common space of living, dining, and kitchen areas, a master bedroom at the north end of the house and two loft bedrooms for the clients' teenage sons. Using minimal excavation, we saved large trees near the building by protecting their roots from damage. As a result, our clients step directly from the house into the unmanaged ecology of their site, while those natural root systems minimize the potential for the erosion normally created by building construction.
Sited just inside the tree-line at the edge of a lake, this wooden structure contains two changing rooms and boat racks for a nearby beach. Shoulder high enclosures of bent laminated aircraft plywood provide privacy for bathers as they change behind an open wooden screen made of loosely-fitted cypress boards suspended on threaded rods and held in place by compression springs to accommodate the seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood. At the center of the building, flanked by the changing rooms, the open wood screen becomes an access door to a storage compartment, its continuous hinge formed by one of the steel rods that stabilizes the louvered wall.
Hillside FollyRecreationWashington, CT/5
Basalt talus, collected from the site, surrounds this small enclosure for a lavatory and water closet near a remote scenic overlook. The building stands on a ledge surrounded by laurels; access to it is through a narrow bracket of tall stone outcroppings. The interior is sheathed in smooth finished cypress wood that contrasts with the rough stone enclosure. A narrow joint at the top of the stone parapet allows daylight to rake across the wood ceiling and illuminate the interior. A single window affords visitors a spectacular view to distant hillsides
Foundry HouseResidentialGuilford, CT/2
Old Quarry BarnUtilityWashington, CT/2
Guilford Town Center SouthCommunityGuilford, CT/2
Gray Organschi Architecture StudioCommercialNew Haven, CT/15
Our studio in New Haven occupies an early 20th century warehouse in the city’s historic 9th Square. A once-thriving industrial district left to neglect and disrepair, the neighborhood’s stock of masonry and cast iron factory and warehouse buildings are lately finding new lives and uses. By the time we moved to 35 Crown Street, the building had undergone numerous mid-century alterations. Its original storefront had been replaced with an aluminum and masonite panel vitrine. Its basic structure of brick party walls, heavy timber framing and decking were intact but buried under successive decaying layers of plaster, drywall, and pressboard paneling.
Our design of our workspace had three goals: to remove the extraneous layers that had been added to warehouse’s open space and thereby expose the beauty and simplicity of the original structural elements; to add a minimum of enclosed, discrete program elements that are independent of the building’s brick surfaces; to draw daylight deep into the interior of the long narrow space.
The new storefront provides views to an exhibition space, while access for deliveries to our workshop takes place via a large overhead door, often left open during good weather. Architects’ workstations and the library occupy the upper floors. We cut open a section of the third floor deck and the roof above it, adding clerestory windows to bathe the spaces below with diffuse light. We usually work without electric lighting, thanks to the even daylight that washes the office. All work areas open to this central space, providing a very direct means of communication throughout the office. The new section of roof, its underside sheathed in maple boards, forms a hyperbolic paraboloid surface that reflects light as it washes across the belly of the curve.
Quarry HouseResidentialWashington, CT/6
This weekend house occupies the site of a former gravel quarry; the house creates a sunlit courtyard between two steeply sloping banks, against which we formed a pair of parallel concrete retaining walls that hold two wooden volumes containing public rooms and bedrooms. The main space, a large living and dining area with porches and terraces to east and west, stretches between the kitchen and breakfast rooms, which open to a kitchen garden, and the 3-story bedroom wing, which is nestled into the hillside.
The house provides open, airy spaces that connect directly to the outdoors for family gatherings and a series of private rooms for the family and their guests. The warmth of wood construction acts as a counterpoint to the concrete that shapes the landscape. The structural timber frame creates the floors and roofs of the house, cantilevering these planes to create soffits and overhangs that shield the interior from summer sunlight and form sheltered exterior spaces while helping to mitigate the height of the house against the steepness of the grade.
JIG Design Build, our fabrication shop, designed and built the dining table, the porch table, interior millwork and the custom exterior doors.
Our client wished to cross to his property on the far bank of a ravine and brook and asked us to insert a path and bridge into this delicate ecosystem of wetland and second growth forest. The difficult topography, limited access, and environmental sensitivity of the site led us to a solution for a bridge that would minimize its impact on the landscape during construction and into the future.
We conceived of the bridge as a continuation of the narrow access path that switchbacks across the steep grade from the client’s house and lawn. The bridge is a slender, curving, 70-foot long plank of glue- and bolt-laminated southern yellow pine that spans from a natural gate formed by a large double tulip tree and an outcropping of ledge on the near bank. A pair of stainless steel pipes on pin connections spring from available exposed ledge to create two mid-span supports as the bridge weaves to avoid existing trees on the stream’s banks. The bridge deck lands on a beam that cantilevers from deep footings in the soft soil of the far bank, providing an overlook to views down the gorge to the south. By raising the height and extending the length of the bridge, we kept the structure above high water levels and the abutments well back from the streambed. The bridge is designed as a structurally monolithic slab, prefabricated off-site in six parallel glue-laminated S- shaped lengths of pressure treated timber, craned into position on temporary shoring and then clamped together by pre-drilled threaded rods. In designing the bridge and planning its construction, we worked to minimize its environmental impact, avoiding the invasive excavation of forming and pouring concrete footings and piers and instead taking advantage of the ledge exposed by the erosion of the streambed to create structural foundations for the bridge.
The offsite prefabrication of nearly all components and their careful installation from staging areas outside of the wetland areas dramatically reduced assembly time and the heavy foot or machine traffic associated with more typical site-built projects. Additionally, by confining the use of epoxy resin glues to assembly in the shop, employing low-V.O.C.-producing structural glues when working on site, and specifying arsenic- and chromium-free wood preservatives, we minimized the toxicity of the materials and products that would make up the bridge. Our assembly plan mitigated the high labor costs of protracted work within a regulated wetland area: the skilled crew, well-versed in the assembly procedure, was able to deliver, install, and stabilize the bridge deck in one day.
Kent HouseResidentialKent, CT/6
This house for two university professors and their teenage children reflects their desire for spatial informality and material rusticity. Family life is centered on the heart of the house, a large wood-lined open-plan room for cooking, eating and living that embraces the forest surrounding the building. A balcony overlook provides one work space, while another writer’s nook is tucked under the catwalk that edges the tall room. Guests are afforded privacy in their own wing, with its own terrace. A screened porch flows from the house out to the decking that weaves into existing boulders. Second floor bedrooms are small, simple and, nestled into the sheltering boughs of mature trees, give an impression of being in a tree house.
The property is a typical contemporary Southern New England phenomenon: a rural, heavily wooded subdivision, strewn with ledge and laced with wetlands - a site that would have been avoided historically as a place in which to build. It is the kind of place that is lovely in its natural state and therefore heavily restricted as a building lot. The general lay of the land pitches to the north; potential views and access to a nearby lake lie to the west. The demands and restrictions of the site shaped the house. The building's circulation path weaves through trees, around fern blanketed bogs, finally hewing as interior space to the topographic contour line of a significant piece of ledge. The surfaces of the large interior common space open, shift, and distort to optimize daylight, natural ventilation and views.
Tennis HouseResidentialWashington, CT/17
This small guesthouse and tennis court draws its inspiration from the site’s history as an earthwork and its new life as a meadow. Sited within a protected watershed, the tiny pavilion, containing overlook space, changing rooms and a washroom, perches above the court. The playing surface is surrounded by board-formed concrete retaining walls whose tops rise and fall with the grade of the hillside, obscuring the court from view except from inside the little building. The basin that now houses the project was formerly a gravel quarry, a raw terrain covered in weeds and wild flowers with a spring-fed pond at its center; it has now been restored to a pristine natural state.
Deep roof overhangs protect the pavilion’s southern and western exposures from solar heat gain in summer months. Covered in the wild grasses, flowering weeds, and sedums that flourish in the quick draining soils of the surrounding landscape, the roof plane of grass is punctuated by the chimney and a skylight which illuminates the windowless changing rooms below. The building is heated and cooled entirely by a ground source heat pump that uses the water of the quarry pond as a thermal mass. Providing significant reductions in the use of fossil fuels, the system eliminates oil and gas deliveries, thereby freeing the land from the kind of heavy vehicular traffic that until recently had given the landscape its form and character.
Traditional Acupuncture InstituteEducationLaurel, MD/5
12th Street LoftResidentialNew York, NY
Vehicular BridgeLandscapeWashington, CT/8
An access road winds down a steep forested hillside to a valley below. At the valley floor is a stream and its broad flood plain. At the narrowest point of the streambed, we placed a bridge to carry construction vehicles and maintenance machinery across this delicate wetland.
Three pairs of 10¾” thick curved planks of glue-laminated southern yellow pine, placed by crane from the lower bank of the stream, structure the bridge’s 75’ by 11’ deck. Each pair of planks spans 25’ between board-formed concrete piers and abutments. The piers taper to reduce the surface area of their upstream edges so that, like the narrow but dense profile of the bridge deck, they resist the scouring effects of rushing high water and deflect the blows of waterborne debris during the annual floods that engorge the stream each spring.
Two bolt-laminated wooden rails form flexible and shock absorbent wheel curbs that trace the deck’s curved edge and harness the bridge to stone anchors at each abutment.
Hillside HouseResidentialWashington, CT/30
Our clients requested a large house that would offer warm gathering spaces for extended family and friends, while also acting as a comfortably-scaled home when occupied only by a couple. The house nestles into the sensitive site, a steeply sloping woodland hillside, and breaks into wings that minimize the scale of the building and its impact in the landscape. The house’s main entrance lies along a woodland path that connects a number of small buildings on the property. By creating a grass courtyard within a natural forested landscape, we limited the demands of landscape maintenance--only the interior court is tended as a garden. Non-invasive, native plants, installed along the building’s perimeter, blend into the natural meadows and second growth forests that surround the house.
The house contains a variety of program elements, including squash court, indoor pool, sauna, bedrooms and the owners’ studies, as well as a large living room, the heart of the house; the extent and interplay of interior spaces cannot be perceived from the house’s exterior and is revealed only as people move through the building.
We provided both architectural and construction management services and approached the design as a series of components that could be fabricated off-site and phased in their on-site construction, affording a clockwise installation sequence to limit site time. Concrete subcontractors, framers, and finishers worked simultaneously on separate wings, consolidating the areas of construction staging and material storage. The construction “footprint” of this large project was contained within a limited area, thereby protecting the surrounding forest and avoiding the remediation that construction “creep” too often causes.
We designed and built the dining, breakfast room and covered porch tables and provided interior design for the house.
Guilford Train StationCommunityGuilford, CT/2
Yale BoathouseRecreationDerby, CT/6
The challenge of designing a new home to one of Yale's proudest traditions, women's and men's rowing, is to meet the needs of a vibrant and expanding program, within a very confined site. The building must solve a variety of functional requirements: to provide a state-of-the-art facility for storing and maintaining equipment; to facilitate efficient movement of crews through the building and onto the water, and away to the buses at the end of limited practice time; to welcome visitors and spectators on race days and provide a public space for team and alumni gatherings.
The centerpiece of our scheme is a large courtyard at the shell bay level, which would be lit with afternoon light during daily rows. The courtyard provides the gathering space missing from the current boathouse, the apron found in so many older boathouses, the place to work on boats, have team meetings, stretch, watch races. We have split the program into its logical pieces: the northern wing of the Boathouse houses the athletes' locker rooms and exercise area at street level, with three bays for women, lightweights and heavyweights below; the southern wing contains the Alumni Room, a large ceremonial space with exposed roof trusses and skylights against which hung oars and shells would be silhouetted. The two shell bays below accommodate the Community Rowing Program and the rigger's shop, with a shop bay at rear which can be sealed for dust-free work.
Caretaker's HouseResidentialWashington, CT/8
This complex of small buildings includes a house, workshop, greenhouse and machinery garages. It serves both as a home and work facility for a caretaker and as the entrance to a 200 acre woodland property. The buildings form an abstracted gate and create a courtyard, offset from the entry route to provide a private exterior space for the caretaker's family.
The material language for the buildings derives from the landscape wall that lines the long entry drive. The perimeter walls of the building complex are of fieldstone, laid tightly with deeply recessed joints. From these masonry walls spring glue-laminated southern yellow pine timber frames which are in turn enclosed by cypress-sided prefabricated wall panels. The wood surfaces warm and soften the interior of the courtyard. Lead-coated copper sheaths the simple shed roofs.
Yale University Art Gallery Museum StoreCommercialNew Haven, CT
Litchfield HouseResidentialLitchfield, CT/9
We sited this house 400 feet off a public road, just inside the tree line at the bottom of a southerly sloping hayfield. An abandoned farm track bisects the meadow, passing through the house and forming an open breezeway and pedestrian entrance. We intend that both the building’s austerity and its alignment with the evident order of stone walls and meadows in the landscape might serve as an antidote to the probable subdivision and development of nearby farmland.
The house was conceived and constructed as an endo-skeleton of ash wood bents composed of bolt-laminated arches and ganged columns and beams. An insulating shell of stress-skin panels sheaths the un-braced frame, supporting it against wind shear and allowing the structure to be articulated on the building’s interior. The structural frame of the house was designed, engineered, and produced in our studio.