Bruce D. Nagel Architect
Original architect - Gwathmey Siegel Architects
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The Spielberg residence is located on the edge of a saltwater pond on a six-acre field in East Hampton, New York. The owners’ desire for a house that peacefully coexisted with the landscape and a home scaled for comfort and privacy, harmonized with local restrictions on the development of the pond’s shoreline. The challenge was to design a structure that retained the feeling of summer bungalows and the converted farms of the area, without becoming an imitation
The eighteenth century Pennsylvania Dutch barn that forms the underlying structure of the house provided an unorthodox solution to the dilemma, and led to a building that is unique in the firm’s oeuvre. Dismantled and moved from a site that was slated to become an office park, the barn was approached not as a historical type to be preserved—that is, restored to its original condition—but as a “found object” to be transformed. The exterior becomes an abstract volume, punctured by deep-set wood frame windows and clad in cedar shingles that recall the vernacular architecture of the area without distorting the barn’s iconic shape. The 52 foot by 52 foot frame and original oak siding are revealed inside, preserving two centuries of weathering in the ceiling and perimeter walls. Partitions between rooms are finished in a smooth plaster that creates an inverted half-timbered appearance while emphasizing the distinction between the original structure and the interventions.
Both architecture and landscape are revealed as a series of fragments, beginning with arrival in the auto court, which affords a glimpse of the pond, and culminating in expansive views of the dunes and the ocean from the upstairs windows. A carriage house screens the main building from the auto court and forms the gate to a pear-tree courtyard whose dimensions echo the footprint of the barn. The main axis of arrival leads to a shingled entrance porch; a cross-axial path leads west to the swimming pool terrace overlooking the pond.