A vacation house is turned on its side and its parts stacked up to access the view. The main living space is cantilevered above in the forest canopy—up in the trees.
A luxury eco retreat in upstate New York, designed by architect Thomas Gluck. Called the Tower House, it offers elevated living and uninterrupted mountain views of the Catskills. Not only is it a gorgeous work of art, it’s designed to be sustainable and energy efficient.
The Tower House sits on a small plateau above the rest of the property and relies on a combination of wood platform construction and steel. Covering the armature is a skin that includes olive-green fritted glass, as part of a rainscreen cladding system, and insulated vision glass.
This slick envelope simultaneously emphasizes the structure as a man-made object and acts as camouflage, reflecting the house’s environs and altering its appearance over the course of a day, with the passage of seasons, and in changing atmospheric conditions. “We were trying to make a building about the experience of being in the woods without having the materials be natural,” explains Thomas Gluck.
- The Tower House resembles the offspring of a Modernist skyscraper and a tree house.
- The entirely glass-clad structure comprises a four-story tower containing a stair, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen, and a primary living space cantilevered 30 feet off the ground.
- Although the kitchen is only about 175 square feet, it is open at each of its corners to the main living area or the stair, with its yellow risers and treads. Since the kitchen is part of the thermal core — the only portion of the building heated during cold periods when the house is unoccupied — it includes insulated pocket doors that the owners close before leaving at the end of winter weekends.
- The south-facing stair plays an important role in keeping the house comfortable during the summer. The sun heats the air within its glass enclosure, creating a pressure differential that draws outdoor air into the house through gill-like casement and awning windows. The air is vented through a hatch at the top of the stair.
- Through its ribbonlike windows, which include both fixed and operable insulated units, the main living space offers views of the Tower House’s immediate environs and of the Catskill Mountains.
- In order to enhance the sensation that the main living area is a volume lifted into the trees, the wood floor and gypsum-board walls have been painted white, except for the floor in the part of the space directly below the roof deck, which is light gray.
GLUCK+ (Peter Gluck and Partners):
This small vacation house is designed as a stairway to the treetops. Keeping the footprint to a minimum so as not to disturb the wooded site, each of the first three floors has only one small bedroom and bath, each a tiny private suite. The top floor, which contains the living spaces, spreads out from the tower like the surrounding forest canopy, providing views of the lake and mountains in the distance, virtually the entire Catskill mountain range. The glass-enclosed stair also highlights the procession from forest floor to treetop aerie, while the dark green, back-painted glass exterior camouflages the house by reflecting the surrounding woods, de-materializing its form.
Tower House is used during a few weekends in the winter and most weekends in the summer. The design imperative was to develop a sustainable, energy efficient solution with minimal operating costs and maintenance for a house occupied part-time. While the house is heated conventionally, by compressing and stacking all of the wet zones of the house into an insulated central core, much of the house can be “turned off” in the winter when not in use. In the summertime, the house is comfortable without air conditioning. Cool air is drawn in and through the house using the stack effect. South-facing glass throughout the stairwell creates a solar chimney and as the heated air rises, it is exhausted out the top and fresh air enters the house from the cooler north side.
Project name: Tower House
Location: Ulster County, New York, United States
- Type By Characteristic: Architects House, Holiday House, Tower House, Tree House
- Type By Site: Countryside / Suburb House
- Type By Size: Large House – (more than 650 sqm)
- Type By Materials: Steel House
Floor count: 4
Project Area: 2,545 sq.ft
Project Year: 2010-2012
Completion Year: June 2012
Client / Owner / Developer: Thomas Gluck and Anne Langston
Architects: GLUCK+ (Peter Gluck and Partners)
Address: 423 West 127th Street 6th Floor New York, NY 10027, United States
Project Team: Peter L. Gluck, Thomas Gluck, David Hecht, Marisa Kolodny, A.B. Moburg-Davis
Interior Designer: Insight Environmental Design
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates P.C.
Mechanical Engineer: IBC Engineering Services Inc.
Environmental Engineer: IBC Engineering Services Inc.
Landscape Architect: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects
Lighting Consultant: Lux Populi
Facade Consultant: Forst Consulting Co., Inc.
General Contractor: Gluck+ Construction
Text Description: © Courtesy of GLUCK+, archrecord.construction
Images: © Paul Warchol, GLUCK+