Architect: Bates Masi Architects
Location: Amagansett, NY, USA
Structural Engineer: Steven L. Maresca
Contractor: Sanders Construction
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Christopher Wesnofske
At the first meeting, the clients introduced both their growing family and growing art collection. They were particularly excited about a new artist, Vik Muniz, whose works based on photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis provided a delightful discovery upon closer inspection: paintings of the iconic images rendered in peanut butter and jelly. This moment of discovery and playful deception became the design concept of the house.
Approaching the house by the winding driveway, the gabled form, massive chimney, and shingled siding are all reminiscent of traditional houses on eastern Long Island. Looking closely, the shingles are, in fact, a woven screen of oak surveyors stakes, similar to those that dotted the steeply wooded lot when the clients first saw it. Similarly, the massive chimney that anchors the house to the site isn’t solid at all, but is actually made of thin concrete panels.
Expectations were also subverted in the structural system of the house to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency. Behind the stake siding and interior gypsum board are walls comprised of precast concrete panels typically used in foundation construction. These durable and low maintenance panels are double insulated for efficiency and are a perfect scale for hanging large art. By staggering the walls slightly, tall, narrow windows admit indirect light and allow glimpses of the landscape.
By subverting expectations, this house encourages multiple readings that change, depending on time and perception. It turns this house into something more: an exploration of perception.