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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Buried Treasure - Low maintenance modern country home

Some minimalist architects boast that given enough money, they can make their architecture almost disappear. Although that claim seems to go against normal expectations about what so many architects really like to do, it often tempts those faced with a large program and a sensitive site.

Peter Gluck, for example, argues that creating an “experience” rather than building a visibly defined object should be an architect's supreme goal. With his recently completed Lakeside Retreat in New York's Adirondack Mountains, Gluck was able to prove his point—practically embedding in the earth 21,700 square feet of residential spaces for living and recreational uses. Conceptually and programmatically, the two buried buildings—a family house and a recreation building with an interior courtyard, amphitheater, gallery, and indoor pool—are essential pieces of a compound on a steeply sloped 21-acre site. The entire grouping, with two guest houses and abundant walking trails, and culminating in a 2,200-square-foot boathouse and dock, fulfills the same purpose as the nearby Adirondack great camps that cropped up in the mid- to late 19th century. The difference here in designing this family getaway, says Gluck, is that this project is done “without recreating the specific iconography of that period.” Indeed, other than the use of local materials, the buildings share no physical resemblance to their log-and-stone Swiss Chalet–style predecessors.

Visitors arrive first at a 4,800-square-foot gatehouse garage removed from the compound, where they swap vehicles for electric golf carts. Then they proceed along descending paths that lead to two 1,600-square-foot, one-bedroom guest houses—complete with small kitchens and composed of stacked and rotated boxlike volumes.

Heading on toward the lake, visitors catch glimpses of angular main buildings that appear and disappear in the topography of the sloping site. Foundations and floor slabs and walls are concrete with requisite waterproofing and underground drainage. By placing so much living and recreational space underground, the architect reduced energy loads with passive geothermal heating and cooling. Rainwater is retained via the green roof areas.

In the recreational building, dappled light from wood-screened windows and a skylight illuminate the lap pool. The family house with its master suite is more private, but it connects to nature with, for example, sleeping porches. “The entire project can be understood only by experiencing it sequentially,” Gluck says.

Ecofriendly modern homes are the rage.  They can be low maintenance and energy efficient - make sense if they are sitting empty for several months of the year. The only lawn you will be mowing is on your roof. -Ecomata