Designed and constructed by Architect Chan-li Lin of Rafael Vinoly Architects on a 3.25 acre site, Located in a fabulous woodland clearing the ‘Waccabuc House’ is a dynamic example of a contemporary forest home. This minimalist home is in a small hamlet in Westchester County, New York. Architect Chan li lin was instantly inspired when he visited the site.
A teardown on a small hill 50 miles north of the city in Waccabuc, New York, hit the mark. When Lin saw the view into the woods from the roof of the existing house, he decided that living spaces should be at that level, where abundant trees would provide privacy. The couple razed the old structure but saved the foundation for the new 2,170-square-foot house. The second floor, a rectangular volume, cantilevers dramatically 20 feet from each end of the house. These cantilevers, supported by two steel trusses integrated within a two-by-six wood frame, extend from a pedestal-like base to shelter a carport at the east and a porch at the west.
“I was keen on developing something whose characteristics were determined by a structure,” says Lin.
The natural elements of rocks and trees directed the orientation and structure of ‘Waccabuc House’. The site had been occupied by a single story building dating from the 1950’s. When climbing onto the roof of this, Chan li Lin was amazed at the marvelous views from this elevated positioned and this directed his decision to position the main living rooms of the minimalist home on the upper storey.
The site is very remote and due to its large size extremely private and peaceful, a fabulous location to escape from the world and immerse oneself in nature at its most magnificent. This contact with the forest surrounding was a major consideration in the design process. The contemporary forest home had to offer the occupants maximum potential for enjoying their woodland environment.
The minimalist home is composed of two simple cuboid blocks placed one on top of the other. The dramatic aspect of the construction is achieved as the top block is cantilevered so massive sections overhang the lower storey, creating a seemingly impossible balancing act. The apparent weightlessness of this suspended volume adds a dynamic quality to the contemporary forest home. It also has a practical use in expanding the usable living space on the upper level. In addition these overhanging sections provide welcome shade and protection from the elements on the ground floor.
No trees were removed during the construction of this contemporary forest home, the architects have designed responsibly and with total respect for the natural environment. The lower sections of the minimalist home ‘nestle’ into the rocky outcrop, thus creating unity between nature and ‘Waccabuc House’. This is symbolic of the harmony that the architects wanted to extend to the family who chose to live in this forest clearing.
The numerous windows have been carefully positioned to ensure that maximum advantage is made of daylight and the fabulous filtered colors from the forest. These are enjoyed throughout the bright airy interior of the minimalist home as are the fabulous views of the forest which embrace the house.
The architect has likened this fabulous woodland home to a ‘modern day tree house’. Suggesting that it is a hidden hideaway and a place to play and totally relax.
Chan-Li Lin, Rafael Viñoly Architects:
The rocks and trees on the 3.25-acre site were the inspiration for this house, located on the top of a hill at the end of a 1,000 foot-long dirt road. The house replaced an abandoned one-story structure whose origins dated to 1954. Being able to climb onto the roof of that structure is what convinced the architects that the majority of living spaces should float one-story above the ground. A veritable tree-house, it enjoys the best of what the site has to offer—trees, views, and light.
Building within the small footprint of the original structure and elevating and cantilevering the larger second floor proved advantageous, minimizing both the site disturbance as well as the development costs. No trees were removed and the existing drive, site walls, well and septic systems were reused. The second floor structure is a pair of lightweight floor-height steel trusses supported on six columns pinned to the rock ledge below. The cantilevered ends extend twenty feet beyond the supports, forming a carport to the east and a covered porch to the west. The first floor is nestled into the existing rock outcroppings and site contours and was constructed using conventional 2×6 wood framing.
The house is situated east-west, with most living spaces enjoying maximum daylight via strategically placed ventilating aluminum windows and south, east and west-oriented aluminum window walls, providing a variety of exposures and views. The second-floor cantilevers provide shade for the first floor. Horizontal brows and shade trees to the west protect the second-floor window walls from rain and summer solar-gain, but allow the lower winter sun to penetrate deep into the house in the winter. Artificial lighting is indirect, emphasizing the structure: the white stucco soffits of the cantilevers and entrance canopy and the sloped wood ceiling of the main living space.
The polished concrete floors on both floors have radiant heat pipes embedded in the structure, providing the primary source of heat. Energy-efficient heat pumps provide supplemental heat and air-conditioning on rare occasions. Spray-foam insulation was used on all perimeter walls, at the roof and between the first and second floors to maximize the thermal efficiency of the structure.
Project name: Waccabuc House
Location: Waccabuc, New York, United States
- Type By Characteristic: Architects House, Contemporary House
- Type By Site: Forest House
- Type By Size: Big House – (451 sqm – 650 sqm)
- Type By Structural: Wood House
Structural: Steel and wood frame, Concrete floors
Site Area: 3.25 acre
Gross floor Area: 2,170 sq.ft
Project Year: 2010
Completion Year: July 2011
Client / Owner / Developer: Chan-li Lin, Denise Ferris
Architects: Chan-li Lin & Denise Ferris – Rafael Viñoly Architects – P.O.Box 103, Waccabuc, NY 10597, United States
Structural Engineer: Yoshinori Nito Engineering & Design PC
Mechanical Engineer: JMV Engineering
Lighting Consultant: LAM Partners
Construction Manager: Atlantic State Development Corp.
Text Description: © Courtesy of Chan-li Lin & Denise Ferris, archrecord.construction, minimalisti
Images: © Brad Feinknopf, Chan-li Lin & Denise Ferris