For decades, the eastern reaches of Long Island, N.Y., had been a spawning ground for architecturally adventurous weekend houses. But none of them displayed the conceptual audacity of the Slow House, intended for a waterfront site in North Haven. What Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, AIA, proposed was essentially a habitable device for examining the site’s prized sea view. In simplest terms, say the architects, it was “a passage … from a door to a window.”
The house had no façade, just a tall narrow portal with a pivoting front door. On entering, one would have a choice of two routes, separated by a knife-edged divider: one curved corridor leading along a line of ground-level bedrooms; the other rising gradually toward a lofty living area facing the water through wall-to-wall glazing.
The experience of the water view was enriched by electronic means: a TV camera mounted on a boom angled up and away from the house could record the vista—panning or zooming as directed—to be shown on a monitor suspended in front of the sea-facing glass. The images could be simultaneous or the video could be deferred, showing summer views in front of a winter vista, or stormy views on clear days.
The exterior envelope, growing wider and higher as interior volumes expanded toward the water, resembled a crawling slug, with the canted chimney and the TV camera arm suggesting its antennae.
We’ll never know what the experience of this unique house might have been. Its foundations were poured, but the client was unable to complete its construction.
1991 P/A Awards Jury
Ralph Johnson, FAIA
Adele Santos, FAIA
Donald Watson, FAIA