A box volume is deconstructed in the quest for light and nature
Looking out over Copake Lake and snug in dense vegetation, the vacationing home bearing the lake's name ‒ and designed by the Desai Chia Architecture studio ‒ seems to gently rest on the water's surface with a shape given by lines echoing a butterfly. This edifice is sculptural yet almost weightless, made of concrete and cypress wood, framing and capturing the landscape with its broad windows that create continuity between inside and out. Built as a holiday home for a four-member family, Copake Lake House attracts the eye precisely through its series of volumes that are rearranged in the surrounding context, where it becomes the co-star on a par with the local vegetation and fauna.
Broad bright views frame the adjacent lake, augmenting interaction between indoor and outdoor spaces, which is already underscored by cantilever elements, sloping planes and staircases towards the water's surface: a procession of the built and non-built, in a process similar to mimicry.
The oaks near Copake Lake House protect it in summer from the sun's glare and the heat, while during winter their branches allow the daylight to filter through, endowing all the interiors with warmth and brightness. The focus on the presence of these centuries-old trees ‒ also made viable by the studio's many visits to the site ‒ comes through architectural solutions with minimal impact on the existing vegetation, starting out from foundations designed and created to avoid causing obstacles or harm to the tree roots.
The ground plan to the home is more or less rectangular: the designers took this figure and cut into or added to it, in the form of niches or multiple sloped roof planes, which intertwine like sculpture. This effect is also achieved by the choice of materials: for the external surfaces, the design team opted for a combination of concrete and cypress planking, with boards stained a tone of gray that will change over time and help the building become one with its surrounding vegetation.
Besides cypress wood, Douglas fir has been chosen for the sheer drops and cantilever elements as well as for the beams on the underside of the roofing, where the criss-cross structure has been left on view.
For the home's interiors, the architecture studio devised a layout encouraging connection with the landscape and a hybrid indoor-outdoor use of the various spaces.
The ground floor houses the day zone, including the kitchen and a living room with broad expanses of glass to instill a feeling of floating on water. The ground floor is completed by a guest suite and a sort of sheltered terrace fitted with a whirlpool hot tub, with the land sloping down towards the lake. Three further bedrooms are located on the top floor, and one of these creates a volume protruding above the terrace below.
A covered parking spot is located next to the house and this comes with a spacious additional room acting as a storage area for sports equipment and gardening items. Also worth highlighting is the choice of gravel for the parking lot surface: this consideration allows rainwater to drain into the earth. In fact, careful attention has been placed on rainwater management, given that the site is vulnerable to flooding and erosion.
The flexibility of the spaces and the scope for future layout changes also make the home ideal for handing down from one generation to the next.
Harmony with nature is not only brought by the interplay between solids and voids and by the broad windows and cantilever volumes extending towards the lake but is also underlined by the pattern of sloped roofs, built with a criss-cross timber effect to echo the branches supporting the trees' canopy.
Location: Copake Lake, New York, USA
Architects: Desai Chia Architecture
Structural Engineer: David Kufferman
Civil Engineer: Crawford Associates
Landscape Architect: Jamie Purinton
Lighting Consultant: Christine Sciulli Light + Design
Plumbing Fixtures: Duravit
Photography by Paul Warchol, courtesy of Desai Chia Architecture