Sarah Corbitt-Intern Architect LEED AP BD+C

Posts Tagged ‘Calvert Vaux’

Delight: Manitoga

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Jumping into the 20th century, the designer Russel Wright had the same impulse as Frederic Church for a large wooded compound nestled in the trees. His wife passed away, so he raised his daughter at Manitoga on his own (OK, with some hired help). Inspired by that other Wright (apparently no relation), his house is of a piece with Modern houses of that era, nestled into the landscape above a small pool. Wright crafted the gardens, including a ‘cool tub’ which could be let out back into the main pool, a moss room, and a ‘cup garden’ outside his studio window. The house is charming, with a massive central fireplace, sunken conversation pit and an even more sunken kitchen and dining area. Wright experimented with material contrast, siting polystyrene insulation next to wooden timbers, encasing ferns in early plexiglass, and smearing his ceilings with stucco mixed with Hemlock tufts. The landscaping is as important as the architecture. Somehow I didn’t take any photos of anything, so these will have to do. They don’t really, as the property has a great procession to it, with arrival scenes carefully framed by plantings and remnants from the former quarry there. It’s a house all about personal experience, bringing to mind the first room: a bonfire around which people are gathered (like the house’s conversation pit) and find need to wander off from to search out their own mysteries in the woods.

The two houses above were recommended to me by Charleston architect Johnny Tucker.

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Delight: Olana near Hudson, New York

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Recent adventures took me close to the town of Hudson, New York, where Frederic Church established a house for his family, with studios for painting. Olana is the name of said encampment, and he was inspired for its design by trips to Arabia (see: painting of Petra). This house is stunning not only for the architectural work of Calvert Vaux but also for its grand collection of original Church artworks and other paintings he collected. The dining room is amazing on its own, with gallery hung walls and high north-facing windows along one wall only. The house has a fortress-like entrance along the eastern side. Visits can include (for a small fee), easel rental and other art supplies so that you, too, can paint a view of the famous bend in the Hudson River below. The house and its wide vistas have been used as arguments for conservation of the Valley, including the defeat of a nuclear power plant to be sited nearby.

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