The T(EA) House is sited in New England along southern Long Island Sound. The property is a long, linear lot that connects two streets and reaches out toward views of Long Island Sound. It is part of a historic neighborhood of summer homes dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century that has slowly transformed into a private neighborhood of single-family residences (see site plan).
A long, processional pathway defines the house entry from both the east and west streets. This connection and axis also helps form the basic plan parti of the house. The domestic indoor program and activities are organized along the north side of the property while the outdoor gardens are organized along the south side (see model). The intersection of the north/south and east/west axes at the center of the property produces the “T” form house plan and establishes the location of the central stair element that rises up three stories to the rooftop gardens and studio (see plans & photos.) From the rooftop studio and gardens there is a panoramic, 270-degree view of Long Island Sound and the New York City skyline beyond.
One of the key interests and concerns of the owners was to conceive the property as an engaging dialogue between indoor/outdoor family life and activities with garden spaces of various types and scales. The vision was an ecosystem architecture that did not distinguish between architecture and landscape and would be both environmentally and ecologically sensitive and responsible, with indoor/outdoor spaces that are well proportioned, quiet, and bounded, i.e. a kind of “secluded sanctuary.”
To achieve this cohabitation between house and garden, the design is engineered to the standards and guidelines of the Passive House Institute with a high performance/low carbon-building envelope. The gardens, from the rooftop to the tiered water retention areas, are designed to recycle and reuse storm water to cycle back into the landscape. Working closely with the landscape architects and the environmental engineers the project developed a complex and sophisticated network of passive solar and fresh air ventilation strategies, plantings and water retention devices that link the house and gardens into a small microclimate and ecosystem.
The gardens are bounded by a series of board-formed concrete site walls and planters (see photos.) The gardens are elevated 4 feet in response to coastal flood and rising tides, to create a sense of privacy and seclusion, all connected to water views. A broad range of garden typologies including rain, herb, shade, gravel, heather and gravel gardens and courts are deployed throughout the landscape and organized by planked thermal finish bluestone walkways and shaded flower trellises at the house and orchard canopies.
The material strategy for the T(EA) House itself is conceived as three Alaskan yellow cedar lattice “boxes” that are supported above a series of discontinuous concrete, stucco and glass walls at the ground level. These “boxes” above contain the sleeping areas and roof gardens. Below is the floor to ceiling glass curtain wall that defines the open living/dining area and its outdoor covered pergolas and orchard pool garden areas (see photos.)
Photography by © David Sundberg / Esto