For many architects, mirroring our natural environment is the ultimate goal, and the Ex of In House set in the forests of Rhinebeck, NY does just that. The 918-square-foot guest residence was conceived as an experimental research project by Steven Holl Architects, blending recycled materials, solar energy and geothermal heating with abstract forms. Constructed as three intersecting spheres, the sculptural home is the embodiment of nature itself: the earth's globe.
Located on the property of principal architect Steven Holl himself, the Ex of In House opened this past July as an artist residence and architectural experiment. Holl purchased the lot to save it from development, with plans to open up part of the property to the public as an extension of his non-profit “T” Space art gallery. His partner Dimitra Tsachrelia recently took Inhabitat on a personal tour of the guest house: “We wanted to do an experimental work of architecture that challenges the notion of protecting our environment and is experimental in the use of materials,” said Tsachrelia.
The Ex of In House’s three interlocking spheres were carefully aligned with the surrounding environs: one eastern sphere facing the rising sun, one western sphere in line with the Hudson River, and an upper sphere open to the sky. Its unique shape is translated throughout every aspect of its design from its interior walls, lighting fixtures, and facade made from thousands of recycled spheres of porous glass. Each circular level represents the earth and our place in the solar system.
The abstract form originated from a cubist sculpture designed by the architects themselves, translating into a generous illusion of volume that one wouldn’t expect within a 918-square-foot space. With hardly any right angles present, it proved to be a challenge both in its architectural design and construction. Tsachrelia noted, “Today you see buildings more on the outside as objects and you can’t really see what the quality of the work is inside. We started with this [very abstract] research and we said, ‘why don’t we start intersecting spheres?’– a challenging geometry that we could work with, but also very abstract.”
With water recycling, geothermal heating, and a thin film solar roof, the goal of the Ex of In House is to have a net-zero building that returns energy to the grid. Holl and his team was careful to build on a natural opening in the land, with no trees torn down for this purpose. The large glass openings allow for sunlight to naturally warm the home all-year long. All of the mahogany, pine and cedar wood interior is completely raw with no finishes, even in the window frames. The raw wood engages all the senses with its earthy aroma, and the 3D-printed bio-plastic fixtures are a replication of the overarching spherical, cubist concept.