Situated north of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains, the New Hampshire Retreat is composed as a series of autonomous rooms— each operating as a frame to capture the view of surrounding mountaintops. Programs of the retreat unfold in a linear sequence, from guest suites on one end, to spa areas on the other. The mission of the NH Retreat is to nurture its visitors by offering an outlet to nature, rural sports, and even therapeutic arts.
SITE AND FORM
The New Hampshire Mountains have long been a retreat for Bostonians and Northeasterners at large looking for relaxation, artistic exploration and athleticism throughout the year; but is especially well known for its winter diversions. Designed as simple orthogonal volumes, the rooms of the house pivot around an elliptical plan; each rotation is calibrated for a specific view. Inverting the logic of the panopticon, the retreat looks both into its voided core, and out towards the landscape. In turn, the circulation is lined along the inner length of the ellipse, producing a promenade that captures both the domestic scene of the court on one side and the sublime silhouette of the Presidential Range on the other. The resulting spaces between rotated volumes become shared exterior patios extending programs of the interior to the outdoors. The architectural challenge of this project is in how to invent a building type that simultaneously accommodates the local and the global conditions of the building. While the orthogonal logic of each room offers a structural simplicity, the ellipse creates a powerful figure that is larger than the sum of the architectural parts, bowing to the sublime panorama as a series of distinct frames.
ENTRY, ENVELOPE, AND RESPONSIBLE DESIGN
The entry to the house is the most important figural moment. A structural vault is formed in conformance to the slope of a stair that ascends to the roof. The vault is created by the “un-ruling” of the northern façade to create a canopy for the entry of the building: a deep threshold between the vehicular drop-off, the courtyard, and the main living area. The house is to be sited in a temperate climate that is subject to wide temperature variation throughout the year, with a pronounced heating season. As a result, a properly sealed and insulated envelope is paramount: insulation values of R40 are achieved behind a ventilated façade of locally sourced cedar planks, with values of R70 at the roof. Operable triple-glazed, thermally-broken windows and doors allow for natural ventilation during the warmer months. Deep overhangs protect windows from solar heat gain in the summer, but allow lower winter sun to heat the thermal mass of the interior concrete floor slabs. The floors contain radiant hydronic heating loops, which serve as the primary mechanical system for the house. Low-grade warm and cool water supplied to the radiant floors is exchanged with a geothermal ground-source loop. All stormwater and snowmelt accumulating on the elliptical roof is captured via integral gutters, and stored in a cistern for indoor and outdoor non-potable uses.
The material development of the building—its tectonics—further articulates the dialogue between its jointed and disjointed parts. A vertical cladding of white cedar tongue-in-groove siding is construed as the basis of a tectonic system that is then further elaborated with vertical fencing, louvers and board & batten system, each articulating a differentiated part of the building under the banner of a unified system. Doors are camouflaged by board-and-batten siding, the inner court is fenced in by a vertical wood stud system, and the cladding rotates to become louvers in the outdoor shower—all as a way of giving cohesion to varied functional parts. In the context of the main entry vault, the cladding system is radicalized by rotating the siding from a vertical to horizontal orientation one slat at a time—hence a ruled surface: a continuous field of striated wood slats that create the developable surface. Thus, the figural elements of the building are brought into alignment with the tectonic units of assembly; our bias in creating an organic relationship between the part and whole of the building is respected by adhering to the material logic of assembly on the one hand, and using the means and method of assembly as a constraint for spatial and formal manipulation.
The completed circuit of rooms encloses an interior courtyard. This private outdoor space—a natural sanctuary—is a foil to the rugged landscape of the New Hampshire forests just outside the envelope. From this space, the entire context is visible through the deepened threshold of the very rooms that define the house; protected from harsh winds, the space offers a respite to the meteorological extremities of the Northeast. The landscape of the courtyard is minimal in approach to give accent to its salient features. An elliptical patio made of local slate is laid out in a Voronoi pattern which sets the stage for the main view beyond. A monumental fire pit serves as a focal point for use in both summer and winter months. A dense bosk of birch trees is located to the northeast within the court, protecting the space from winds; tall local grasses are planted at their base to filter views from the driveway. A field of river-rocks serves as the surface of the court, and is raked to reinforce the elliptical plan of the outdoor room. Finally, a strip of moss is left to develop on the shaded side of the court to amplify the horticultural composition of the space.
The function of the retreat is to serve as both residences and research space for medical scholarship. Developed privately by a leader in the bio-medical field, the retreat is to be used for short fellowships that require scholarship in the context of introspection, focus and inquiry. Modeled after the MacDowell Colony, but on a smaller scale, the retreat hosts a few scholars at a time, and concurrently gives access to a vast array of outdoor activities that the region offers.
NADAAA is a Boston and New York-based architecture and urban design firm led by principal designer Nader Tehrani, in collaboration with partners Katherine Faulkner and Daniel Gallagher. NADAAA is a platform for design investigation at a large scale and with a great geographic reach. NADAAA's projects range in scale from furniture to architecture and urban design, with a focus on craft, construction, and digital fabrication. NADAAA'S staff of twenty designers brings expertise from academia, graphic design, construction, and business. The firm has received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award, the Harleston Parker Award, the Hobson Award, numerous AIA AWARDS, and 16 Progressive Architecture awards. Since 2013, NADAAA has been ranked among the Top 3 Design Firms in the U.S. in Architect Magazine's Top 50 Firms List.