As its name suggests, Villa Metamorphosis has undergone a dramatic transformation since it began life as a simple, shack-like house in the 1960s. But its latest incarnation – complete with louvred windows and asphalt domes – is aptly eccentric considering the villa's proximity to the artistic colony of Woodstock, best known for its 1969 rock festival.
The two-bedroom house sits on an elegant one-acre plot in Ulster County, upstate New York, with rolling lawns backed by woodland. 'The setting was very important,' says Japanese architect Ben Ryuki Miyagi, whose practice spans Japan and New York. 'I was looking for a building that could be an object in the landscape, with good photographic quality.'
Miyagi's dramatic extension took 18 months to complete. On one end he added three top-lit, curved domes, which infuse the interior with light, while blocking the view to a neighbouring property. Influenced by the Black Series paintings of artist Frank Stella, the exterior is clad in hand-cut asphalt shingles that are reminiscent of fish scales, held on by stripes of white battening.
At the opposite end to the domes, natural light enters the bedrooms through four beak-shaped translucent polycarbonate louvres, but whose opacity again provides privacy. The front of the building was rendered in black stucco and the existing front windows were replaced with frameless glass openings that Miyagi describes as decorated with 'hieroglyphic geometries' with an East Asian feel.
Three structures have been added to the grounds to establish sight-lines for the landscape. The house is situated beside a long structure that acts as an extended hallway leading to a small room with a roof open to the sky. This House of Solitude also acts as a fence, emphasising the view across the fields while providing a barrier to the view of surrounding houses. There is also a structure made of four symbolic towers, reminiscent of an inverted torii, or Japanese temple gate.
Finally, in front of the house is a concrete deck with a void, within which you can sit. Called the Sky Mirror (because rain collects in it, reflecting the heavens), this stage-like structure defines the site's foreground boundary.
'These objects all have pragmatic functions and are used as screens or to define the space. They are never just sculpture. But I also wanted them to be experienced as a choreographed sequence of themes, which I call the Landscape of Geometric Mythology,' explains Miyagi.
Although the architect is hesitant to define the obvious symbolic intent behind Villa Metamorphosis, its many elements combine to create a poetic whole.
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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).
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