This holiday home in upstate New York by US firm Gluck+ features an elevated living room that hovers nine metres above the ground (+ slideshow).
As the weekend retreat for Thomas Gluck - one of the firm's principals - and his family, Tower House was designed as a four-storey tower with a "treetop aerie", affording mountain views across the nearby Catskill Park.
The house is glazed on every side. In some places Gluck+ has fitted dark green panels behind to camouflage the walls with the surrounding woodland, while other areas remain transparent, revealing a bright yellow staircase that zigzags up behind the southern elevation.
Taut vertical cables form the balustrade for this staircase and are interspersed with small lights, intended to look like fireflies after dark.
One of the main aims of the design was to minimise the impact on the landscape. The architects achieved this by lifting the large living areas off the ground and stacking bedrooms and bathrooms on the three floors beneath, creating a base footprint of just 40 square metres.
This arrangement also allows all of the wet rooms to be arranged in an insulated central core. When the house isn't is use, this core isolates the heating systems, helping to reduce energy consumption.
The three bedrooms are positioned on the north side of the house, where they can benefit from the most consistent daylight, and contain yellow furniture to match the colour of the staircase.
The living room above is divided up into four different zones by the arrangement of furniture and features a 12-metre-long window seat that spans the entire space. There's also a secluded roof terrace on the next level up.
New York-based Gluck+ was known until recently as Peter Gluck and Partners. The firm is now run by Peter, his son Thomas, and three other principals.
Photography is by Paul Warchol, apart from where otherwise stated.
Here's a project description from the architects:
This small vacation house is designed as a stairway to the treetops. Keeping the footprint to a minimum so as not to disturb the wooded site, each of the first three floors has only one small bedroom and bath, each a tiny private suite. The top floor, which contains the living spaces, spreads out from the tower like the surrounding forest canopy, providing views of the lake and mountains in the distance. An outdoor roof terrace deck above extends the living space above the treetops, offering a stunning lookout to the long view. The glass-enclosed stair also highlights the procession from forest floor to treetop aerie, while the dark green, back-painted glass exterior camouflages the house by reflecting the surrounding woods, de-materialising its form. At dusk, mini lights dotting the cable rail of the stair mimic local fireflies sparkling in the woods as day turns to dark.
As a vacation home, the Tower House is used during a few weekends in the winter and most weekends in the summer. The design imperative was to develop a sustainable, energy efficient solution with minimal operating costs and maintenance for a house occupied part-time. The stacked north-facing bedrooms take advantage of light and views with floor to ceiling glass. In order to optimise energy savings for heating and cooling in this part-time residence, a two part sustainable strategy was employed to reduce the heating footprint of the house in the winter and to avoid the need for air conditioning in the summer.
While the house is heated conventionally, by compressing and stacking all of the wet zones of the house into an insulated central core, much of the house can be "turned off" in the winter when not in use. When not in use, only 700 square feet of the 2,545 square foot house is heated. By closing the building down to only the insulated core, there is a 49% reduction in energy use. In the summertime, the house feels comfortable without air conditioning. Cool air is drawn in and through the house using the stack effect. South-facing glass throughout the stairwell creates a solar chimney and as the heated air rises, it is exhausted out the top, drawing in fresh air through the house from the cooler north side.
Project: The Tower House
Location: Upstate NY
Area: 2,545 sqft
Year: June 2012
Architecture and Construction: GLUCK+ (Peter L. Gluck, Thomas Gluck, David Hecht, Marisa Kolodny, A.B. Moburg-Davis)
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates P.C.
Mechanical Engineer: Rosini Engineering P.C.
Façade: Bill Young
Environmental Engineer: IBC Engineering
Lighting: Lux Populi