건축가 Preston Scott Cohen에 의해 진행된 이번 프로젝트는 1800년대 초반에 지어진 오두막을 부부와 그 가족을 위한 집으로 개조하는 것이었다. 집으로써의 새로운 기능을 부과해야할 이 집의 위치는 뉴욕 북부에서 두시간 거리인데, 비록 지금은 소들이 자리를 하진 않았지만 예전의 농장이나 헛간들이 그대로 남아 있다.
한때는 헛간이었던 곳을 집으로 바꾸고자 하면서, 이 집이 얼마나 아름다운지 - 높은 천장들과 나무목들이 가득한지 알 수 있었다고 건축가는 설명한다. 비록 낡았지만 나무목 프레임은 사용할 만 했고, 보기에도 최고였다.
집을 개조하는데 가장 큰 어려움은 이 집에서 소위 "예술 작품"이라고 말할 법한 것을 만들어내는 것이었다. "역사적인 것을 바꾸어 새로운 언어를 창조해 내는 것"을 이번 프로젝트의 기본으로 삼고, 외부는 좀 더 모노로 만들고, 그 대신 목재들이 두드러지게 멋지게 만들자는 취지로 작업을 완수하였다.
Architect Preston Scott Cohen resurrected an early 1800s barn as a vacation home for a literary couple and their family, calling to mind both the agrarian spaciousness of the structure’s former life and the vernacular of its new function as a house. Transcending both, Cohen created a piece of architecture that is at once porous and opaque, familiar yet otherworldly.
The skunks may be miserable on Skunks MiseryRoad, but from the look of things, the people are doing just fine. Land values have risen so high along this roadkill-dotted lane, which winds through Pine Plains, a hamlet two hours north of New York City, that the dairy farms that once flourished on the forested, hilly landscape have been converted into estates. The cows have mostly decamped, but the farmhouses and barns remain—suggesting that the affluent fauna now grazing among the mâche pits shares its predecessors’ architectural predilections.
That is, until one turns at the Simon’s Farm mailbox, bumps a mile along a dirt road, and beholds the home of Arnold P. and Elise Simon Goodman. The design, by architect Preston Scott Cohen, takes the peaked-roof gable house—an object so familiar as to seem invisible—and, with a provocative mix of modernity and tradition, a sprinkling of the surreal, and a massive explosion of scale, utterly upends our notions of home.
“The house is not about a lot of little things,” declares Cohen, with an enunciative clarity that converts simple words like “moves”—“mewves”—into events. “It’s one big thing at all times.”
The seed for Cohen’s architectural sequoia was his clients’ desire for a country retreat. “We wanted three things,” says Arnold, who is partnered with his wife in a Manhattan literary agency. “Privacy; a Catskill Mountains view; and a place to swim. But we could never find a house that suited us, so we decided to build.” The couple purchased a 164-acre property, one of the last still-undivided parcels created from a 1706 British land grant. There was a spring-fed spot for a pond, and, after clearing 15 wooded acres west of their building site at the land’s high point, they got the biggest defoliation-related surprise since Mikhail Gorbachev lost his hair: a view, not only of nearly the entire Catskill range, but an Arcadian tableau of valleys, forests, and fields in front of it.
As for the dwelling itself, “we’d rented a barn once that had been converted into a house,” Elise says, “and we discovered how lovely it was to have high ceilings and wood beams.” The idea, Cohen recalls, was to “have a barn disassembled and restored, and reconstructed with a new envelope built around the frame.” The Goodmans were drawn to the traditional Dutch version, with its broad, nave-like central axis with aisles on either side, and massive H-shaped supports. In New York’s Mohawk Valley, the couple found a unique example: a barn dating from the early 1800s that, via the addition of a fifth bay (one more than usual), had a colossal 50-by-60 footprint and soared to a height of 37 feet. “Though the old siding was in typically passable condition,” says Cohen, “the frame was the best they’d seen.”
The greatest challenge, however, was not finding the ideal property or the perfect barn. It was engaging an architect who could provide that unquantifiable something Elise calls “a work of art.” And so, in a manner of speaking, she went to the source: the Museum of Modern Art’s library, where she discovered Cohen’s “breathtaking” Torus House, which had been featured in MoMA’s 1999 exhibition The Un-Private House. “[The Torus] scheme has an airy interior, largely a single open space, connected to the landscape,” Cohen explains. “It was quite similar to the Goodmans’ program.”
For Cohen, the project was a chance to experiment with “transforming historical typologies to produce a new language.” Vernacular structures like barns, he observes, “establish conventions that are rooted in social practices we can understand. Contemporary architecture can elaborate on that, so that the new is brought into a dialogue that has collective values embedded in it.”
In keeping with the Goodmans’ desire to retain the barn frame in “pristine form,” Cohen left the space largely open, locating the master suite, guest accommodations, offices, and baths in a two-story volume tucked into a side aisle. Then he focused on the dialogue between past and present, producing several large gestures that, by reinterpreting elements of the barn, revivify the “collective values” common to domestic architecture.
The first, says Cohen, involves “the irreducible image of a house—the gable form,” which has, through simplification and inflation, been converted into a nearly hyperreal expression of home. “To make the exterior more monolithic and provide a more astonishing contrast with the timbers behind it—a dialectic of the refined and rustic—the exterior is clad in tightly tailored, four-inch-wide cedar planks that look at moments like cast-in-place concrete,” he observes. “It adds to that peculiar overscaled character.”
Inside, the contrast is indeed astonishing. Apart from the timbers’ monumental beauty, Cohen says, “their fascination derives from the return to the pure tectonic experience of architecture. The barn frame confronts one with it in the most profound way—and in a domestic setting, where it normally isn’t offered.”
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