Sculptural South River Home
One of the most striking features of this home is its sculptural, serpentine staircase leading to an oval cupola with 360-degree views. This stair is about celebrating flow and movement. When a person enters the home, they want to put their hand on the curved handrail and see where it goes. The home’s design evolved from this staircase and tower – the curved elements of the stair contrast with the square or rectilinear forms of other spaces.
We chose to make the cupola an ellipse, so we could manipulate the oval’s formal properties. An oval is a powerful form because it has two centers, two foci. It is much more complex to work with an oval form, rather than a sphere. As you descend from the cupola and travel down the stairs, the oval begins to elongate. It widens at the second floor, flowing out into the bedrooms, and by the time you reach the first floor, it has almost disintegrated. The first floor is the loosest form of the oval. The reverse happens as you climb the stairs. On the first floor, the oval is only partially defined and as the staircase ascends to the cupola, we have that pure oval form.
There is a strong element of play in our architecture which is especially evident in this home. In order for play to be successful in architecture, every element has to do more than one thing. Otherwise the architecture is not successful, people are bored with it, because it does not reach the complexity of life experience. For example, in this home the front door is not just the front door, it’s also the anchor for one facet of the cupola.