Architects Directory 2020: O’Neil Rose, USA

This Brooklyn architecture firm has been going from strength to strength since its creation in 2012. Founders Devin O’Neill and Faith Rose say their Oculi New York townhouse was designed around ‘ideas of daylight, visual connection between inside and out, and the intersection between digital and handcrafted processes’.

oculi house
(Image credit: Michael Moran)

Oculi House is a combination of old and new, outdoor and indoor, strengths and weaknesses. Realised by Brooklyn-based O’Neil Rose Architects, the historic New York townhouse adopts traditional craft in its thoroughly contemporary design solutions.

Made up of Devin O’Neill and Faith Rose, the practice had a key challenge on their hands with this commission: namely, how to brighten up the attic space. The architects know light is key to human life, and in this typical New York brownstone, where natural light was sparse, they looked to engineering a ceiling that ushers in the vitamin D. ‘For us, designing a home means inspiring people to explore and express how they coexist within the larger landscapes of their lives, and creating rich and meaningful places in which our clients can live, work, and play,’ they say.

Inspired by the sculptural forms of legendary Japanese American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi, they carved out two expressive oculi in the ceiling using 3D computer modelling – these sweeping designs were then mastered by artisans who honed in on old stone and plastering techniques.

oculi house exterior

(Image credit: Michael Moran)


The undulating ceiling offers up oval shaped windows, flowing natural light into the entire space below –  bringing a fresh slant to the traditional structure. These skylights also are in dialogue with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors leading to outdoor space, encouraging a healthy current of light throughout.

Elsewhere, light wood flooring and beige tiling keep the warm energy strong in this loft location. Sunlight now reaches spaces it could not before, flooding the central areas and casting shadows that would never have been seen in such an early 19th century structure.

Oculi House exudes O’Neil Rose Architects’ essence as a young studio, which the pair says requires you to be ‘versatile, nimble and innovative.’  They particularly want to capitalise on the problem solving elements of the practice: ‘we see each of our challenges as a strength as well.’

oculi house interior

(Image credit: Michael Moran)

oculi house living space

(Image credit: Michael Moran)


Sujata Burman is a writer and editor based in London, specialising in design and culture. She was Digital Design Editor at Wallpaper* before moving to her current role of Head of Content at London Design Festival and London Design Biennale where she is expanding the content offering of the showcases. Over the past decade, Sujata has written for global design and culture publications, and has been a speaker, moderator and judge for institutions and brands including RIBA, D&AD, Design Museum and Design Miami/. In 2019, she co-authored her first book, An Opinionated Guide to London Architecture, published by Hoxton Mini Press, which was driven by her aim to make the fields of design and architecture accessible to wider audiences. 

With contributions from