Bruce Nagel + Partners Architects

Livery Casa


Bruce D. Nagel Architect

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Completed in 1984, the Baeza House is a year-round residence located in East Hampton, New York.

In this modest house, a large program - living, dining, kitchen and three bedrooms with baths plus a guest area/TV loft in 1800 square feet - is squeezed comfortably into a small area using two simple strategies: efficient rooms on double-loaded circulation combined with a pavilion living space in which the functions of several rooms - living, dining, kitchen and foyer - overlap and borrow from each other.

The central feature of the house, the two story living hall, punctuates a one story bedroom and service bar. The interplay between volumes, this vertical accent to the horizontal and the back-and-forth shift of masses against the circulation spine, gives the house both its sense of anchorage on the site and its animation within it.

The double-loaded circulation forms a spine penetrating the central core of the house, the two-story living hall. As the circulation climbs to the second story loft, it becomes an eroded screen expressing this layering of core and circulation, much as the functions of the hall overlap.

The loft is a tree house within the house, a little aerie which functions, despite its inside containment, like a greeting balcony and a widows walk. Perched in this nest, one peers out through the treetops and the "hall-top" to the entrance drive, pool deck and garden beyond, nearly all the way around the house.

The internal layering of the hall at the loft stair, the manner in which the fireplace chimney is thrust beyond the hall wall into the garden, the erosion of the entrances front and back, and the glazing that expresses the circulation and punctuates the views all combine to make a small, simple house enriched and complex and thus larger.

Within the hall, the dining area sits on a balustrade, raised plinth that is a stage to and a balcony above the living area - itself virtually an inglenook spread out to make a living room. In this manner, the privacy and scale of each part of the living space are both defined and challenged.

This theme, in which living rooms interact with each other and reverse their roles, is carried to the exterior, where the outside dining - screened from the nearby houses and enframed thereby with a wall ending in a loggia - both overlooks and is looked upon from the pool deck, since it too is at the raised level of the dining area inside the hall.

Precise and efficient, the Baeza House is both a stage for living within and a little Modernist machine in the garden without. White and linear, it is a horizontal counterpoint to the trees in and around the perimeter of its wooded clearing. Devoid of any natural material signature, an attitude which is carried into the interior selection of materials, the house sits in marked contrast to the natural verdure of the green lawn and the clumps of columnar trees. And at its very door, it marks entry with the furnace flue, which, much as the fireplace chimney, is a simplecelebration of the presence and meaning of Modernist mechanics as ornamentation.