It would be easy to think of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s House at the Shawangunks—located a few miles west of the Hudson River in the hills near the upstate New York town of New Paltz—as a house designed for rock climbers. Granted, the clients—a husband and wife who left New York City—enjoy rock climbing and moved there in part to be within walking distance of cliffs. And the primary organizing strategy of the house is a light-filled central stair that connects three floors, capped by a ladder to an attic loft. But aside from these details, this analogy oversimplifies the house’s relationship to its sloped site.
As the architect Peter Bohlin, FAIA, puts it, up was the only way to go. Since the foundation needed to be close to 4 feet deep, on a substantial slope for a house with a basement, curtailing the foundation’s cost meant minimizing the overall footprint. As a result, even on its heavily wooded 6-acre site, the 2,100-square-foot house appears somewhat diminutive. Its vertically arranged program includes living and dining rooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom on the first floor; a master bedroom and bath, as well as a balcony office, on the second; the attic loft for an office and storage; and a basement with a media room, guest bedroom, bath, and utility room.