David McAlpin, a principal at Fradkin & McAlpin Architects, is among a group of 21 noted architects and landscape architects, including Steven Holl, Laurie D. Olin, Peter Pennoyer and Diana Balmori, whose solutions to a 130-old mystery will be on view at American Institute of Architects (AIA New York) from January 31 to April 22. The mystery concerns the summer house at Olana, the Hudson Valley home of the great American landscape painter Frederick Church. There will be an opening reception for the show on Tuesday, January 31, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at AIA New York Center for Architecture (536 LaGuardia Place).
Summer houses were common in early American gardens and public landscapes. While one appears on the 1886 Plan of Olana, Church’s detailed blueprint for the 250-acre landscape he designed in Hudson, NY, no summer house was ever built on the property, and there is no documentation for the structure Church envisioned.
Mr. McAlpin’s design solution to this mystery, and the solutions of 20 of his fellow architects, will be exhibited at the AIA New York show. Entitled “Follies, Function & Form: Imaging Olana’s Summer House,” it was first seen last summer on the grounds of Olana. The exhibition has been curated by Mark Prezorski, Landscape Curator of The Olana Partnership in collaboration with architect Jane Smith of Spacesmith.
In the absence of a solution to the design mystery, The Olana Partnership, in collaboration with the New York chapters of the AIA and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), invited the group of esteemed architects and landscape architects to offer their ideas of what a summer house envisioned by Church might look like.
Mr. McAlpin designed an ode to the surrounding landscape, with its ever-changing light. His summer house is a southern-facing pavilion constructed of mirrored glass and posts made from the trunks of oak trees, with an intimate viewing room and an adjoining reflecting pool. After following a path that leads around the pavilion, visitors enter a subterranean room animated by light filtered through the reflecting pool above. They then ascend a graceful spiral staircase to reach the viewing room, whose opaque glass ceiling and oak-framed glass walls etched with geometric patterns both frame and contain the view beyond as they allow further light-play. Looking out, the Hudson River emerges behind the tree tops.
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