New York

Record Houses 2007

VilLA NM Ring House Brown House Casa Poli Ohana Guest House Christ Church Tower Loblolly House

The client, a New York–based developer with a young family, had a clear goal: a weekend house “as exciting as anything by Neutra and Schindler.” With VilLA NM, he got it—in spades. The flat-roofed, taut, planar house in upstate New York, designed by UNStudio, of Amsterdam, both evokes its predecessors and pushes their architectonic qualities into a new realm.

Whereas the Modernist structures of the early-to-mid-20th century emanated from simple rectangles that seemed to float above a grassy lawn or perch on a craggy cliff, something else is going on here. If the south elevation brings to mind Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1951) coupled with Philip Johnson’s Glass House (1949), or the stepped massing to the north harks back to Schindler’s Lovell House (1926), then what about that curved middle section? While the original architectural paradigms define the box-on-a-rock category, this villa is a box-on-a-rock-with-a-twist. The singular insertion of what UNStudio principal Ben van Berkel calls a “bloblike moment” causes “a simple shoe-box shape to bifurcate into two separate volumes, one clinging to the northern slope, the other detaching itself from the ground to leave room underneath for a covered parking space.” Not only does the new prototype assume a more complex spatial relationship to the land, it creates quite a different interior environment.

The client and his wife, both aficionados of current design and art, encountered the work of UNStudio, headed by van Berkel and Caroline Bos, at the Museum of Modern Art’s 1999 Unprivate House exhibition. There, the couple (who themselves are very private) were drawn to the display of the firm’s attenuated Möbius House, built in Het Gooi, the Netherlands, in 1998, and inspired by the Möbius strip, the single-surface topological model. As van Berkel recalls, “They were fascinated by the way the design wove together living, working, and sleeping activities in a continuous movement.”

The client found 2 acres on a hilltop that commands spectacular views of rolling pastures and forests with no other houses in sight. Both he and his wife, who are originally from Russia, welcome changing seasons and wanted to watch turning leaves and falling snow while inside the house. The architects happily responded with what they called a “viewfinder dacha”—a 3,600-square-foot villa, which dramatically embraces the surrounding landscape through expansive glass walls.

But more unexpected are the swooping interior spaces forming the core of the house, which you first detect as you approach the front door and carport, tucked under the cantilevered bedroom wing: Here, the exterior wall of the south end lifts up in a gentle curve to meet the soffit above the entrance.

UNStudio: Evolution of Space, featuring the VilLA NM among other projects, is on view at the Yale School of Architecture Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, CT until May 4, 2007. The exhibition was originated by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany.

Project Specs
New York

the People


Stadhouderskade 113
1073 AX Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Postal address:
PO Box 75381
1070 AJ Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)205702040
F: +31 (0)205702041

Ben van Berkel with Olaf Gipser and Andrew Benn, Colette Parras, Jacco van Wengerden, Maria Eugenia Diaz, Jan Debelius, Martin Kuitert, Pablo Rica, Olga Vazquez-Ruano, Wouter de Jonge

Robert Silman Associates, P.C.
New York, NY

Pouder Design Group
Patterson, NY
tel: 845 878 3323

Regency Architectural Lighting, Inc.
New York;
212 355 8205

Project Consultant:
Roemer Pierik, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Christian Richters
Annette-Allee 41A
48143 Muenster
T + 49-251-277447
M+49 172 5301920


CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Cad software:
AutoCAD 2006

3D modelling:
Rhino, 3D studio Max, 3DViz, Alias Maya Complete


the Products

EPDM rubber membrane

Windows Glazing
double-layered, insulated glazing with coating: Eclipse,  Pilkington Inc., USA

Valli & Valli     

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Macassar Ebony cabinetwork by David Boyce, Boyce Products Ltd., New York, NY tel. 212 683 3100;

Kitchen Island in Corian by Joel Miller, Sterling-Miller Designs, Inc., Brockton, MA; tel. 508 894 6999;

Wall coverings
Timorous Beasties, UK

Special surfacing:
Epoxy-floor and wall System                         

Floor and wall tile:
Glass, Bisazza,

Raised flooring:
wenge plank and parquette

Fixed seating: Tufty Time seating system, B&B Italia

Chairs: Utrect, Cassina

Regency Architectural Lighting, Inc.
New York; 212 355 8205    

Opera, Toscoquattro srl., Italy

Ceramica Flaminia srl, Italy

custom Gold Cornelian Onyx

Flat,Agape, Italy

Flat, Agape, Italy

Kitchen Appliances
711 Overlay, Sub-Zero


ceramic glass, LP, Miele