“This year, on the brink of a new millennium, the P/A Awards offer proof that Modernism has weathered a generation of growing pains, and is all the stronger for it.” So began the introduction to the 1999 awards issue. Among that year’s varied award winners, none expressed the founding principles of Modernism more eloquently than did New York–based Thomas Phifer and Partners’ Taghkanic House, a rural retreat on a hilltop in the Hudson Valley.
The most visible part of the house is a pavilion fashioned with extraordinary discipline and delicacy—a framework of white-painted steel, infilled with glass and fitted with manually operable aluminum-mesh panels for sun control. Approaching the house, all one sees is this 30-by-60-foot pavilion, which contains only the living and dining areas. At closer range, one can see the glazed walls of the far larger spaces—four times as much floor area—that infiltrate the house’s landscaped plinth. Bedrooms at this level look west, toward the mountains across the river, while the kitchen, family dining room, and indoor pool face east toward a sheltered terrace. Skylights, set flush with the grass, illuminate some under-plinth spaces, and unexcavated areas allow for trees to flourish.
The design was worked out in collaboration with landscape architect Dan Kiley, the reigning expert at extending Modernist geometries into their settings. The outcome is not only minimal apparent disruption of the land, but minimal expenditure of energy for such an ample residential program. Completed faithfully to the jury-honored design, the house stands as an elegant millennial interpretation of Miesian ideals.
1999 P/A Awards Jury
Thomas Fisher, Assoc. AIA
Eva Jiricna, Hon. FAIA
Rodolfo Machado, Intl. Assoc. AIA
Billie Tsien, AIA
Mehrdad Yazdani, Assoc. AIA
Update: The Taghkanic House is now being offered for sale by Sotheby's for $6.75 million. See the listing at www.taghkanichouse.com.