Commissioned to do a small home in upstate New York with views to the Catskill Mountains, architect Thomas Phifer knew that he didn’t need to spoil the pure setting. “There was this sloping subject that was remarkably heroic and simply valuable,” he recalled. “From some angles it virtually appears to be like like Eire.”
Paradoxical although it could appear, Phifer and his studio preserved the location’s integrity by reducing away at it. They embedded the house—a collection of discrete pavilions, threaded collectively by low, vaulted passages—into the excavated earth and subsequently restored the grounds to their former pitch and standing. In elevation, the hill seems to wend its means by means of the tar-black constructing volumes. It’s an indelible picture that betrays a crafty grasp of scenography.
The inspiration for the plan, which arranges interconnected rooms like ants-on-a-log, was coincidental. At some point, whereas mulling over potential spatial configurations, Phifer reached for a worn copy of Constantinos Doxiadis’s 1972 monograph, Architectural House in Historic Greece. Via a comparative evaluation of temples, Doxiadis presupposed to uncover the “secret of the system of architectural spacing” that “had the impact of satisfying man [sic] and uplifting his spirit as he entered a public house.” Diagrams lay naked the geometric ideas sundering solids from voids.