This project takes as its object of study an existing Eliot Noyes residence built in the early 1950s in New Canaan, Connecticut. The Brown residence was part of a larger community of experimental residences that emerged out of the “Harvard Five,” a group of architects who had settled in New York and Connecticut and established a new model for modern single-family residential building. The film, “The Ice Storm,” was filmed here and is loosely animated by this experimental modern landscape and its open, experimental lifestyle. Unfortunately, the same sense of gradual decay and despair evident in the film has beset the residences and the social program in real life.
This project preserves and extends the experimental nature of this original residence by testing different responses to additions/subtractions to the original residence formally, spatially, and programmatically. The key formal and spatial operations are repetition, contrast, and difficulty. We proposed to suspend a simple, clean metallic container directly above the original one-story box (a loosely defined, 9-square grid plan, with subtractions) that mimics the dimensions and proportions horizontally and vertically of the original building. The second key operation and intervention was to produce a sectional cut or negative space through the entire residence along the entry wall. This new sectional void and vertical axis promotes an entirely new spatial experience that never existed in the original design.
This strategy of intentional disjunction and mimicry between original and copy is consistent with the abstract formal precepts of the original design but also extends these ideas into the disjunctive and disorienting perceptual operations deployed by minimalist sculpture, appropriation art, and pop-art in the 60s and 70s. Here we can sense a perverse game of repetition and metonymy where the original generative design principles (abstract formalism) are revisited by their own offspring, their own formal and spatial logics, and result in an entirely new understanding of residence, architecture, and even aesthetics.
Photography by © David Sundberg/Esto