Harvey Radler House

Bridgehampton, New York
1983

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This flat one-acre site lies in a small string of residential lots along the south side of a country road dividing the potato fields of Bridgehampton, New York.  Beyond these protected fields to the south, beyond the distant houses, one sees the open sea. As this site - between field and road in the traditional position of all farms in this region - also overlooks the distant ocean, it provides the key elements for its own architectural dialogue.

As a year-round rural retreat for an urban family this house was to have sloped roofs, at the client's insistence, covering a traditional program of living, dining, kitchen, bedroom suites and other important amenities, with the important exception that each bedroom suite was to be both remote from the other suites, and adjacent to the common family rooms.

Such a program, dispersed yet brought together, seemed to call for a diagram of independent clusters surrounding a common core. And this, combined with the architectural "dialogue" suggested by the site, created a fertile field of architectural subject matter. By isolating pieces of the program in independent volumes and composing them on this site, the exterior of the house was made to recall its traditional rural antecedents. By puncturing this composition of independent volumes in sequence north to south with internal, spatially transparent layers, the house was also made to recall its more modern, nearby beachside antecedents.

The master bedroom, placed in its own gabled volume, acts as though it were "farmhouse" attached by an enclosed link to another larger gabled volume. The main living areas, in their turn, create the "barn". Occupying the "loft" of the "barn" is the daughter's suite. And leaning against its north wall as a "shed" is the guest suite. As a free-standing dependency, the garage defines a back yard for the "barn", which becomes the protected space for the pool and for outdoor living.

The entry court, though small and hidden by a wall, is a vestigial reminder of that space which traditionally would have organized both farmhouse and out-buildings. Smaller elements, such as the cylindrical chimney on the fireplace box and the silo-like, circular outdoor shower, elaborate this theme at an ornamental scale.

In contrast, the circulation system is a processional sequence which layers the spatial views and visual axes. Solids interpenetrate at the scale of interior walls, stairs, furniture and other objects. While the north side of the house turns a closed and apparently traditional shingled face to the road, the south side of the house opens a modern stucco and windowed wall to the fields and ocean beyond. The pierced dining room buffet and curving entry surface serve to distinguish the arrival area while directing a procession through the main space to the pool deck and the view beyond.

The living room, dining room and kitchen are equally disconnected and interconnected by a series of low functional dividers—the kitchen island, the serving counter, the stereo cabinet, and the fireplace—which borrow each from the spaces on either side and thereby help to layer and interweave the entire living space across the direction of entry and view. The projection of the daughter's bedroom suite into the upper living room further emphasizes the spatial movement on this complementary cross-axis marked by the chimney.

In the end, the project sets as its goal the "discussion" and reconciliation of these seemingly incompatible precedents and traditions in a way that will allow their simultaneous presence to heighten their meaning.