Pound Ridge House
Pound Ridge house Set within a heavily wooded and rocky Pound Ridge hillside, this residence comprises 5,250 gross square feet over two levels of living space. Designed as three shifting volumes that gently respond to the site’s natural slopes and plateaus, the structure includes a lower garage and entry level anchored in stone to a flat portion of the hillside, while the upper bedroom and living areas move lightly between the massive rock outcroppings of a dramatic glacial ridgeline.
“In 2010, a property in Pound Ridge, New York, presented a unique building site—with steep, uneven terrain defined by forest, exposed rock, and a ridge rising more than a hundred feet from the nearest road. As we began design on a home for this site, our design goals included allowing the geologic history to inform the house’s conceptual design, anchoring the house to the site, and seeking out interior and exterior materials that would have contextual relevance in this rich setting. A research query was undertaken to allow us to better understand the geologic context and history.” – Kieran Timberlake
Highly-insulated SIP wall and roof construction form the building’s upper level, and strategically placed full-height window openings capitalize on both up-close views of the adjacent rock formations and far-off views down the gently sloped forest floor. A thin glass bridge connects the private bedroom areas to the common living spaces and invites passage beneath to walking paths and higher elevations on site. Cladding the upper volumes is a panelized stainless-steel rainscreen, varying between satin and reflective in finish, that both camouflages the building and provides an abstracted reflection of its elemental surroundings.
The owners requested a “house in the woods, of the woods” for their 33-acre property. After exploring the grounds, the site for the structure was chosen for its naturally-outlined “rooms,” which consist of two clearings amongst a series of glacier-formed boulders just beneath the apex of a ridge, which sits 100 feet above a wetland. A small ravine carries water down from the ridge, separating the two “rooms.” And thus the form and function of the land directly informed the design for a two-piece residence connected by a glass bridge.
In keeping with the passive strategy of locating a new building within a nature-determined plot rather than manipulating the landscape, the design of the building itself assures a low-energy impact on its surroundings. By incorporating cladding materials and apertures that help the house gain solar heat that is retained during the winter and cross-ventilated in warmer months, the home’s design acknowledges and respects the entire seasonal spectrum of a life experienced in harmony with nature.
The exterior walls are a matrix of materials that work together to further enhance the interplay with the natural surroundings. As conditions change over the course of the day and throughout the year, tin zinc-coated copper, brushed stainless steel, polished stainless steel, and glass reflect and refract a reverie of unfolding time within the woods.
“Our deeper understanding of site as a result of this inquiry into the geology and the processes that formed it allowed us to design a home that respects and interacts with the natural surroundings. Designed as three shifting volumes that gently respond to the site’s natural slopes and plateaus, the lower entry level is anchored in stone to a flat portion of the hillside, while the upper bedroom and living areas move lightly between the massive rock outcroppings of the dramatic glacial ridgeline.” – Kieran Timberlake
Kieran Timberlake Architects:
The site for this home is a south-facing, boulder-strewn escarpment that rises over a hundred feet, from a wetland to the top of a ridge. The owners were drawn to the almost magical sense of tranquility they felt upon their first visit to this heavily forested land, striped with loose-laid fieldstone farm walls from the nineteenth century. Their mandate to the architectural team was simple but not simplistic: they wanted to live in a “house in the woods, of the woods”—to feel the presence of the forest indoors—and to commune quietly with nature and visit with guests within naturally lit, open, airy, warm rooms.
The first and most important act of design was selecting the place to anchor the home within the steeply sloped glacial terrain. We were immediately drawn to the ridge itself. Just beneath it were two rock-enclosed “rooms”—one positioned below with another space adjoining it above. Separating these was a small ravine, carrying water from a crevice in the ridge to the wetland below.
Within the rock rooms, we placed three shifting volumes that gently respond to the site’s natural slopes and plateaus. The fit of the volumes of the house within these rock enclosures is snug. New stone walls engage the existing stone ledges and boulders in a dialogue that speaks to the forces of nature and man as shapers of place. In response to the dramatic natural scenery, the house itself employs an economy of design that focuses on harmony with the landscape and elemental materiality.
The home is the culmination of a carefully crafted journey ascending the glacial terrain. The journey begins below the house as the entry drive wraps around a small pond that holds and filters water from the ridge above. The drive up to the home moves across the slope in curving arcs that work with the contour of the land. Ruins of farm walls and new stone-lined swales weave through the boulders and projecting bedrock ledges, managing the movement of water.
The interior of the house is very much an extension of this passage. The path continues beyond the front door, through the crevice between the two rock rooms, beneath the glass bridge, and up a break in the escarpment to the ridge above, with water and humans moving in parallel passage.
As the home spatially amplifies the power of physical passage across the terrain, so too do its walls expand and magnify the presence of the spectacular granite outcroppings mingled with the forest. Time of day, season of year, and variations in weather all shift and display in a perpetual dance ornamenting the walls.
Four materials compose the perimeter walls: tin zinc-coated copper, brushed stainless steel, polished stainless steel, and glass. Each of these creates an unfolding reflection of the world beyond and within. The copper receives shadow. The brushed stainless steel abstracts and refracts the general tonality of time of day, weather, and season. The polished stainless steel precisely mirrors form, texture, and color. Lastly, the glass windows are of two worlds. In some conditions, such as in the evening with the lights on, they are transparent and allow views to the interior of the dwelling; at other times, they reflect in a muted way the world outside.
All materials were selected for long-term durability, and to honor both permanence and change, much as the weathered rock and high forest canopy endure yet evolve with day and season.
This is a dwelling simultaneously in, with, and about nature. It seeks both an ethic and an aesthetic of energy responsibility. This begins with masonry walls that engage the earth and tightly constructed Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) enclosures that allow for strategic slices in the envelope, opening up the interior to composed views of the landscape.
The SIP enclosures and narrow detail and construction tolerances allow for a highly insulated envelope and incredibly tight construction. The measured and judicious use of wood-framed triple light glazing minimizes thermal transfer “weak spots” and strategically orients glazing to benefit from seasonal heat rejection or gain. As a result, the house will gain solar heat and retain it very efficiently during the winter. During the warmer months, apertures oriented for cross-ventilation greatly reduce the need for mechanical cooling.
At every turn, Pound Ridge House is about expanding our connection to the natural world. It explores an ethical aesthetic that is both evocative and performative, an aesthetic that aims first and foremost to induce wonder at both the timelessness and flux of the natural environment in which we live.
Project name: Pound Ridge House
Location: Pound Ridge, New York, United States
Coordinates: 41.250551, -73.546482
- Type By Characteristic: Contemporary House,
- Type By Site: Hill House, Forest House
- Type By Size: Big House – (451 sqm – 650 sqm)
- Type By Materials: Glass House
Project Area: 5,250 sq.ft / 472 sqm
Site Area: 33-acre
Completion Year: 2014
Client / Owner / Developer: Private
Architects: Kieran Timberlake Architects – 841 North American Street, Philadelphia PA, 19123 United States
Builder: Prutting & Company, Custom Builders LLC
Text Description: © Courtesy of Kieran Timberlake Architects, Prutting & Company
Images: © Kieran Timberlake Architects, Peter Aaron/Esto