When designing a large home (6000 sq.ft. in fact) in a natural habitat surrounded by a forest of oak, fir spruce and a few birches, and animals such as hawks, turkeys, fox, deer and bear, it is always tricky to create a structure that does not overpower the natural beauty that surrounds it. Jay Bargmann at Rafael Vinoly Architects went nontraditional with his industrial design to make the Shokan House do just that, blend into the landscape harmoniously. He used wood, steel, concrete and lots of reflective glass, and the result is a home that speaks of rock, shadows and reflections and even though the house is huge, it sits unpretentiously amidst the flora and fauna.
Located on the edge of the Ashokan reservoir, just below the Catskill mountain summit, the large expanses of glazings on all four sides of Shokan House allow the home to blend into the surrounding landscape, but the glazings also allow the expansive vistas to fill the interior zones, creating a fascinating foil for the exposed industrial elements used throughout.
The house has views that extend south as far as the eye can see and with its remote location access is via a half mile gravel road that curves around a grass banked pond before arriving at the western elevation.
The gravel road continues around the long and linear home, creating a gravel circle as it finally comes to a stop at the southern elevation.
Since Shokan house is visible from the sky via a cleared swath of land, Jay Bargmann designed the home to be as beautiful from the air as it is from the ground.
With the driveway encompassing both the east and west sides of the home, entrance both on foot and by car is available on both sides of the 1-storey concrete foundation.
The foundation extends out from the hillside in a stepped fashion allowing both volumes to be at ground level at specific elevations.
The concrete garage has huge doors with no pillar supports so that when left open it appears to be beneath an open bridge rather than in a closed structure.
This same principle was applied to the foyer, but here the opening is completely square.
The foyer is entered from the east or west and is completely clad in book-matched walnut millwork, except of course for the fireplace.
A second fireplace is positioned directly behind the foyer fireplace in the living room. This is a double volume space with a stairwell leading to the dining area above the foyer.
The double volume space features 2-storey’s of windows with views overlooking the treetops and onward to the reservoir and the mountains beyond.
With corrugated steel ceilings and exposed steel structural elements, Shokan House is an ode to industrial design.
The steel, glass, concrete, wood and ceramic tiles are purposely left exposed as the design details as a way of story telling and this visual recording of the home’s history was an important and integral design decision to establish the essence of the house.
The stairwell is a continuous stainless steel perforated tread while the balustrade is made from a steel framing and stainless steel tension cables.
Upstairs the downstairs fireplace flu makes a dramatic statement.
Aside from the dining area, this level also holds the kitchen, a library and two bedrooms (there is a third bedroom off of the foyer downstairs).
Keeping the views front and center, the kitchen, library and bedrooms are all contained in island volumes.
The dining table is a mammoth custom made stainless steel design that sits up to 14.
The table in the library is also custom with a stainless steel tabletop and walnut millwork below.
The windows are fitted with perforated glare reducing blinds that blocks the sunlight without blocking the view.
A back to back stainless steel vanity is built in next to the library in a steel void.
Next to the vanities is a separate washroom enclosure.
Behind the library and next to the vanity and washroom is a quiet room with a Murphy bed built into the floor to ceiling cabinets making this a dual-purpose space.
When the Murphy bed is closed the only thing that gives it away is the horizontal hand pull.
The master bedroom is in the back of the building where the 2nd storey is at ground level.
Outside the master suite is a concrete terrace fitted with a large table and bench seats.
Below the master suite is where the downstairs guest room is located, with land on two sides and the garage behind it; this room has only one small window.
The downstairs guest room has everything a guest could want, a bed, TV viewing, a place to sit and work or eat and plenty of storage.
The concrete foundation sits on rock and the large expanses of glazing is fitted into Steel T sections, that are bolted into the foundation and support the open web joists that are spaced at 4ft intervals.
The ceramic tiles used on the main floor where installed to allow access to the services below which can then be serviced, reconfigured or extended.
Photography by Brad Feinknopf
Combining glass, concrete and exposed steel elements is an awesome way of using structural elements as major design features.