Thomas Phifer: Salt Point House

Thomas Phifer,

Scott Frances,

New York, USA,

Housing, Residences,




Thomas Phifer’s Salt Point House is an open space organised around a closed-in core containing utility areas and technical installations to leave the glass walls entirely free to provide shelter without blocking the view of the landscape.

Thomas Phifer: Salt Point House Thomas Phifer’s Salt Point house is a contemporary “glass house”, a homage to all the glass houses that were proposed over the course of the twentieth century, particularly in the United States. Admiring this residential “cell” in the heart of the Hudson Valley in the state of New York, one cannot help agreeing with the ideas of some of the greatest architects of the Modernist movement regarding elimination of visual and perceptive barriers between the inside and outside in the home, but also in buildings of other types. Such as Philip Johnson’s Glass House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House or Charles and Ray Eames’ Case study house no. 8, to mention only a few of the best-known projects. Salt Point House is also a study in integrating people’s practical needs, such as the need for privacy, lighting and organisation of the objects we use in everyday life, with guidance of their visual perceptions toward the home’s surroundings. In this case, the surroundings are the lovely landscape of the Hudson Valley, part of a project for recovery and preservation of the natural heritage of the state of New York as a resource of value not only for the environment but for the promotion of tourism, famous for its pathways as well as for its vineyards.
The house is located in a green clearing overlooking a private pond which even has its own little waterfall. The architects make this landscape the centre of the home, constructing a building that is permeable to light and to images of its surroundings: the structure, with its simple rectangular geometry, has two end walls made entirely out of glass, while the other two are made of maple plywood with windows cut into the ground floor offering views of the park. These two walls are covered with perforated corrugated stainless steel panelling which insulates the main structure of the home from the elements and the sun, extending beyond its bounds in a design that further dematerialises the home so that it is hardly visible to someone looking at the home from the park. As in the Eames’ home, here too a steel cage gives a regular rhythm to both the solid walls and those made entirely of glass, restoring a superior order evoking the home’s illustrious predecessors. From the outside the monolithic presence of the Salt Point House is broken up as the grid of perforated steel panels seems to disappear when we look at it from a different spot or when the light changes, so that all we see is the few essential items of furniture inside the home.
The home’s two-storey floor plan represents a return to the single open space of glass houses open onto the landscape. The living area is organised on the ground floor, arranged around a closed core containing utility areas and technical installations for the kitchen, with a staircase leading to the upper floor overlooking the western side of the home, where the back door is. The technical core of the house continues on to the upper floor, where it provides privacy for the bedrooms, which have glass walls facing east and solid walls facing west, while the two side walls have balconies overlooking the park.
The presence of skylights in the corridor on the first floor and the two storey high back entrance, in combination with the home’s orientation and appropriate placing of windows ensures natural ventilation for the home.
The model of the glass home seeks to achieve a synthesis between shelter and openness onto the landscape, subverting the model of the circumscribed, introspective wrapper and maximising use of natural light for a more sustainable home.

by Mara Corradi

Design: Thomas Phifer and Greg Reaves
Assistants: Joseph Sevene, ChristophTimm, Jonathan Benner, Katie Bennett, Kerim Kemirkan, Ina Ko, Matthew Jull
Client: Cristina Grajales and Isabelle Kirshner
Location: Salt Point, New York (Usa)
Builder: Kevin Beck
Structural design: Weidlinger Associates
Lighting and furniture:  LaMar Lighting
Glass walls, wooden window and door frames and doors: Marvin Windows and Doors
Built surface area: 204 m2
Construction: 2007
Maple plywood frame
Perforated corrugated stainless steel panelling on two sides
Photographs: Scott Frances, Karin Kohlberg


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