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August 2008


FEATURES

Innovation in Design
Architecture Category - Winner

THREE UNIQUE PROJECTS—A MODERNIST-INSPIRED RENOVATION TO A COURTYARD HOME, A WESTPORT FARMHOUSE'S OLD-WORLD UPDATE AND A COSTAL GEM THAT BLENDS INTO THE LANDSCAPE—EXEMPLIFY THE DIVERSITY OF INNOVATIVE ARCHITECTURE IN CONNECTICUT

by Eva Hagberg
Joeb Moore photographs by David Sundberg/Esto
Jeff Kaufman and Sean O'Kane photographs by Neil Landino, Jr.

Joeb Moore

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Seven years ago, Joeb Moore finished the first major renovation/addition of this Connecticut courtyard house, and won an AIA Design award. Two years ago, the owners, a young couple from California, asked the architect, recognized for his process and client-driven residential work, to add on even more space. What they knew they needed were two extra bedrooms for their children and a family room, and what they knew they liked was the garden area, the backyard and the house's general sense of California-style openness and transparency.

Rather than expand the house horizontally (simply adding on another long series of rooms), Moore decided to keep things close together but fluid, like a Richard Neutra design, but materially dense, like a Frank Lloyd Wright design. By introducing a perpendicular expansion onto the existing house—"If you think of the house as a straight line, this makes it an L," the architect says—and by building up as well as out, Moore introduced a whole new set of spaces where the garage had connected to the main house inside and a whole new courtyard outside. "We were able to organize it vertically," Moore says, describing the basement-level playroom, the first-floor family room and then a study/play area on the floor above, all wedged onto the existing house. "Then we used this glass and metal curtain wall that ran from the second floor all the way down to the basement, connecting the spaces visually."

The complex is called the Courtyard House for a reason: a materially-rich entry courtyard provides a buffer from the neighboring property, at once blocking the view from the street and creating a warm and intimate space for the owners and their visitors. "It is," Moore says of this space, "literally an outdoor room."

Jeff Kaufman

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It was an old book—Little House, Big House, Back House, Barn by Thomas C. Hubka—that inspired the workspace addition to an existing Westport house by Jeff Kaufman of JMKA. "We wanted it to look like it had always been there," Kaufman says the space, which he designed to look like a pre-existing barn. One of the owners is a leading collector of French pottery, an enthusiasm that Kaufman wanted to translate into an architectural sense. "Early settlers would build a barn and then a house, and over time they'd connect them," Kaufman explains. "We tried to follow up on that idea, but we had this house, so we built this building that looks like it's the barn part." It wasn't only an aesthetic trick; it also meant that they could make the addition bigger than the house, change materials and not have to worry about it all being aesthetically consistent. "It looks like it was added on at different times," Kaufman says.

"Yet it goes together."

Sean O'Kane

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Inspired by the craggy coastline and rustic cottages of his native Ireland, architect Sean O'Kane created a New England version of the rambling seaside houses of his childhood. With much of its height tucked inside a gambrel roof, which O'Kane describes as being like "a hat over the structure," this house has a strong sense of enclosed shelter, sited as it is on an extremely steep and rocky ledge. O'Kane first sculpted the massing of the house out of clay, working off of a cardboard contour model, and came up with a few picturesque sketches of what he describes as a "stucco and stone house hunkered down along the coast." That iteration came in too high for the client's budget, but a more typical local wood exterior was perfect. And that on-the-edge feeling? "We did wood shingles, but placed them so that there are no straight lines on the roof," O'Kane explains. "It's a reference to the waterside location—the roof has these wavelike forms."

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