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Mid-century modern architecture is updated for a contemporary Japanese lifestyle in this restoration and renovation of the historic, William Landsberg home in Port Washington, Long Island. The 1951 house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The new owners and architect entered the design process with deep respect and admiration for the house’s Bauhaus style and hillside setting, while also wanting to make it comfortable for a young family used to living in a Japanese home. The “floating” rectangular-box structure and simple lines of the house were aesthetically suited to the clients’ design sensibilities and wish list, which included a teppanyaki-cooking island in a kitchen that opened to the living room; a narrow engawa-like deck along the back of the house; a master bathroom with a deep ofuro-type soaking tub; a tatami guest room; and a patio big enough to play ping pong. It was also important to make technological upgrades so the house could function sustainably in the 21st century, and, on a smaller scale, to fix those parts of the house that were worn out or not working.

Size: 3,200 sf

General contractor: Golden Eye Construction

Structural Engineer: Blue Sky Design

Kitchen: Henrybuilt

Photography: Michael Biondo

5T: The Landsberg House - Renovation & Restoration —

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Sheared Saltbox
Shelter Island, New York

The Shelter Island house is a re-interpretation of the fisherman’s saltbox cottage, with its box-like shape and long pitched roof. In this contemporary, sustainable version, the saltbox is sheared; that is, the second floor has been pushed forward to create a small overhang in the front and a balcony in the rear. The windows—from large openings to narrow slits—explode the symmetry. The rear roof supports the photovoltaic system that powers and heats the house. Following the slope of the site, the ground floor has an open plan that changes levels between the front of the house, which includes the entry foyer and library/guest room, and the living/dining/kitchen area in the rear. The artist’s studio on the second-floor has a soaring ceiling and large windows with northern exposure. The master bedroom opens to the rear balcony, and is connected to the study. The exterior is clad in Alaskan yellow cedar and gray stucco.

Size: 2,500 sq. ft.
Contractor: The Wooden House Co.
Photography: Michael Moran

Sheared Saltbox —

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Mamaroneck Residence
Mamaroneck, New York

A children’s treehouse inspired the major redesign of this residence on the western edge of Saxon Woods Park. Originally built by a developer in the late 1950s, the ranch-style house faced away from the wooded park. Several additions, including an indoor pool, further obstructed the park views. The treehouse, which the clients had built some years ago for their grandchildren, sits on stilts among the trees, and guided ideas about the redesigned house’s silhouette, orientation, interior spaces, and materials. Highlights of the redesign include a new covered entrance supported by two tree-like steel columns; a single large sloping roof that unifies the north side of the house and opens up the office and kitchen to the park; a new three-sided glass family room facing park and pool; the addition of a second-floor master bedroom suite with treehouse views; and the thematic use of wood slats in the detailing of both exterior and interior.

Size: 6,600 sq. ft.
Contractor: O’Brien Carpentry
Photography: Michael Moran OTTO

Mamaroneck Residence —

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A small, 1920’s cottage was converted in to a contemporary home for modern living seamlessly blending the new and the old. Located in a mature suburb at the end of a cul-de-sac, the original L-shaped house was enlarged to over 2,300 sf from 1,700 sf – while increasing its footprint by less than 75sf —by an enclosing an existing screen porch and adding a fourth bedroom on the upper level. Key elements of the new design include a copper clad front porch extending from the existing garage that has natural Douglas-fir wood framing. An enlarged entrance with a large natural wood and glass door and side lite. The board-and-batten siding was restored as well as the existing master bedroom porch along the front of the house. An open plan on the ground level with the living room interconnected to the den, dining and kitchen along the back. An open, U-shaped kitchen with a cantilevered bay window facing the back of the house. On the upper level, a fourth bedroom and extra half-bath were added, as well as a full Master bedroom suite with 14’ tall cathedral ceilings and a separate master bath.

Size: 2,350 sq. ft.
Contractor: O’Brien Carpentry Landscaping: Breath of Spring Structural Engineer: Petrucelli Engineering

Photography: Michael Biondo

86B: Contemporary Cottage —

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Greenwich House Addition
Greenwich, Connecticut

Perched on a steep wooded site overlooking the Byram River, this home was built in the 1960s and renovated in the early 1970s by architect Paul Rudolph. This expansion and redesign of the master bedroom suite focused on opening it up to the river and woods while respecting the ingenuity of the Rudolph addition. This was done by transforming an existing deck into a cantilevered bathroom and reconfiguring the interior spaces. A transom-lit corridor with a wall of closets connects the bedroom to the living wing of the house. The bathroom is accessed through a set of sliding doors inspired by shoji screens. In the sink alcove, two panels of windows provide a wide view, in a gesture to a lookout tower. Interior materials, such as pearwood, maple, steel, and white ceramic tiles, echo the landscape of trees, river, and sky.

Size: 850 sq. ft.
Contractor: Taconic Builders
Photography: Peter Margonelli and John Hall

Greenwich House Addition —

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Upper West Side Apartment

In this comprehensive renovation of an Upper West Side apartment, dramatic light-filled spaces were created by peeling away the low ceilings and thick walls of a clunky 80’s condo conversion, and respecting and playing with the contours of the exposed structural shell. For example, the curved decorative plaster wall that gracefully defines the entry foyer was shaped around a fire stair that we uncovered.

The two-bedroom unit, shaped like a backwards, block-letter “C” , spans the entire east side of the 1927 building, and has iconic views in three directions. In the redesign, the eighth-floor apartment was configured so that the public spaces (entry, living, and dining) have impressive skyline views, while the master bedroom suite and its terrace face the courtyard and a streetscape of brownstones. The public and private spaces are separated by a long, narrow service zone, with kitchen, breakfast nook, and office. A small guest suite is tucked away off the entry.

In the forensic-like operation of stripping back the ceilings and exterior walls from the condo conversion, we discovered the raw space that allowed us to create an open and airy apartment, with a graceful flow and contoured high ceilings. Walls were stripped to plaster and brick. Steel window casings were uncovered and restored. A massive steel column in the northwest corner of the living area was exposed and integrated into a media wall. In the kitchen, a pair of abandoned skylights was repurposed as illuminated light coves. We opened up the master bedroom to the outdoor terrace and city views by inserting a set of large floor-to-ceiling glass doors in the exterior wall. The glass doors, with side lites and low-profile steel frames, are triple the size of the single small door they replaced. They bathe the bedroom with light, and merge the serene interior space with the outdoor terrace, where Alaskan cedar planting boxes are filled with grasses and climbing ivy.

In the entry hall, the curved decorative plaster wall directs you into the large living/dining area, which was configured out of two smaller rooms. Two large south-facing windows bring symmetry and light to the space. From the living area, it is possible to have a sweeping interior vista down the length of kitchen/ office zone to the master bedroom terrace; but, if privacy is desired, pocket doors on either side of the office separate the private and public spaces. To define public, service, and private, three different wood tones were used for flooring and cabinetry, with the darker tones of stained oak in the living area; medium tones of honey-colored anigre wood and end-grained douglas fir in the kitchen and office; and light ash and white-painted wood in the master bedroom.

Bold saturated colors accentuate each bathroom: cobalt blue in the master; sunset orange in the guest; and a Bridget Riley-inspired, yellow-patterned wall paper in the powder room. The client’s interest in early 20th-century German and Austrian art and architecture influenced design choices, including the patterning on the curved plaster wall, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s birch trees; the Bauhaus prototype used for the door hardware; the simple contouring of the structural-ceiling; and the dark gray-silver palette of woodwork, doors, and media wall in the living area.

Size: 1,600 sf

Interior Design: Beth Altschuler

Contractor: Silver Lining Interiors

Photography: Michael Moran / OTTO

Upper West Side Apartment —

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In this total renovation of a classic-six apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a rabbit warren of small rooms was opened up to create a large living space (or great room) for a contemporary lifestyle while retaining the graciousness of pre-war detailing. The owners, empty nesters relocating from the suburbs to the city, wanted a peaceful oasis for the two of them that would also be a welcoming and comfortable place for family gatherings and overnight stays by their adult children.

Located on an upper floor, with a Hudson River view, the apartment, built in the early 20th century, reflected the living style of that era: the service quarters (kitchen and small maid’s room with tiny bath) were tucked away from the living quarters, a series of small rooms (living room, formal dining room, two bedrooms) connected by a narrow corridor. In the redesign, the living room, dining room, and corridor were combined to form a single large living space, anchored by a long open-island kitchen. A third bedroom and large bathroom with laundry facilities were carved out of the original kitchen and maid’s quarters.

While the owners were drawn to the apartment’s original architectural detailing, including French windows opening to a Juliet balcony, and nine-foot-plus ceilings, they wanted the new design to give them a contemporary point of view. In the new apartment, the woodwork and moldings are light and clean. An artisanal plaster cove ceiling, a simplified reinterpretation of the original, unifies the great room. Other details: a stained oak floor is used throughout the apartment; painted white wood cabinets are paired with gray synthetic stone countertops in the kitchen; the master bedroom, in the northwest corner of the apartment, captures the sunset over the Hudson; a window in the interior wall between guest room and great room provides borrowed afternoon light.

Size: 1,500 sf

General Contractor: Marek K Construction

Photography: Michael Biondo

West End Ave Apartment —

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By the Museum of Natural History

This Upper West Side renovation was driven by the client’s desire to change a pre-war apartment into a family-friendly open floor plan, with the kitchen as the center of activity. The new design also takes advantage of the views of the Museum of Natural History and Central Park. The floor plan was reconfigured by combining part of the entry vestibule and part of the existing dining room to create a new dining area, and opening it up to the living room. The remaining part of the dining room was converted into the den. The clients love to cook, and the existing kitchen and maid’s room were combined to create an airy eat-in kitchen with laundry area. A pair of large glass retractable doors enhances the open flow from kitchen to dining area. The opening between dining area and living room has been doubled to further enhance the openness of the public spaces, as well as to maximize views and light. In the children’s bedroom, the interior designer, Beth Altschuler, sourced whimsical wallpaper patterned with large tropical fish that appear to be swimming across the street to the museum.

Apartment size: 1,630 SF

Interior Designer: Beth Altschuler Design

General Contractor: Macro Construction

By the Museum of Natural History —

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Sherman Square

Size: 1,460 sf

Contractor: Binakis Construction

Paintings & Drawings: Elizabeth Langer

Photography: © Albert Vecerka/Esto

Sherman Square —

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Fifth Avenue Renovation
New York City

In this full renovation of a Fifth Avenue apartment, the primary idea was to open up a rabbit warren of small spaces to accommodate the casual lifestyle of a young family. The redesign expanded the living area by incorporating a small balcony. The result is a gracious, light-filled room with windows on both the west and south sides, which also brighten the adjacent foyer. Glass-paneled doors connect the study to the living room and foyer. Entry, living room, and library flow in a circular pattern. In the back of the apartment, the galley kitchen was combined with the dining room for informal family meals. Immoveable pipes became design opportunities for a glass vitrine in the living room and bottle storage racks in the kitchen.

Architects: Stephen Moser and Amanda Martocchio
Size: 3,000 sq. ft.
Contractor: Chartwell Construction
Photography: John Hall

Fifth Avenue Renovation —

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New York City

The renovation of this pied-à-terre on the Upper West Side was driven by the design of an L-shaped bank of cabinetry that opens up the small apartment by eliminating furniture clutter, while quietly defining the living space. The cherry wood cabinet follows the contour of the apartment. It begins near the front door as a built-in set of closets that steps down to become a desk; when it turns the corner, it becomes a low bookcase, which separates the entry/work area at the front of the apartment from the seating/sleeping area at the rear. Four hanging lights over the bookcase enhance its role as room divider.

Size: 600 sq. ft.
Contractor: J & W Construction
Photography: John Hall

Pied-à-terre —

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Design Team:

Stephen Moser

Isabel Branas

Helene Lee

Guido Garfunkel

Evan Cerilli

Unbuild The Wall —

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Critical Mass

Lima, Peru

“Critical Mass: A Dialogue Between Art and the City,” a design for a contemporary art wing for the Lima Art Museum, takes inspiration from its context within the city’s Exposition Park. Through its “critical mass,” this new structure, in tandem with a rethinking of the park’s communal outdoor spaces, transforms the city center, and puts a spotlight on contemporary Peruvian art.

The multi-level addition, anchored by an above-ground pavilion that rises up at the project site’s southern end, merges with the park through the addition’s connecting sunken terrace and courtyard. In doing so, it improves and shapes the park as a dynamic passageway and verdant place of retreat and tranquility. The pavilion, constructed of concrete, glass, and wood, is essentially a simple box inflected on the north and east sides, and wrapped with a ribbon of metal screening that is a contemporary interpretation of pre-Columbian interlocking forms. It serves as the entrance to the new wing, and houses a cafe on the mezzanine level and a library on the “floating” upper level. The building’s strong but serene shape is meant to add to the diversity of pavilions and small structures in the park, including the Byzantine and Moorish pavilions, and the Chinese Fountain. The art galleries are located on two levels below ground, in an L-shape that wraps around a courtyard; the classrooms occupy three below-grade levels along the western edge of the site.

The pavilion has been pushed to the south to keep the northwest corner of the project site open to pedestrians crossing through the park and/or using the future subway station. The new wing’s main entrance is on the east side of the pavilion, and is adjacent to MALI’s main entrance. The two sunken outdoor spaces, which are north of the pavilion, connect to each other via a below-grade walkway, as well as to the park above and subway below. Inspired by open pit-mining, the northern-most space has stepped-back, landscaped terraces, and its east walls are constructed at the ‘angle of repose’: the steepest a sloping surface can be and maintain stability. In the sunken courtyard adjacent to the pavilion, a grove of Guada Angustsolia bamboo trees creates an atmosphere of contemplation. The red-leafed plantings, grass, and trees make a visual link to the park, while the below-grade windows allow natural lighting to enter the underground galleries and classrooms. To the west and east of the terrace, two small towers (wrapped in the same pre-Columbian-inspired forms as the pavilion) contain elevators: one for moving art works, the other for carrying subway riders.

MALI’s relationship to the park and city is enhanced by two pedestrian bridges over the Via Expresa, new pedestrian passageways, and a bike lane along Avenue Arequipa. New fencing features interactive LED lighting that can be used to promote MALI art exhibitions and upcoming park events, as well as to showcase contemporary design installations commissioned by the city—providing a visual representation of dialogue between art and the city.

Stephen Moser Architect:

Stephen Moser

Helene Lee

Guido Garfunkel

Juan David Grisales

Giles Holt


Raymond Quinn

Jaume Soler

Brian Markham

MALI Contemporary Art Museum Competition —

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The London plane tree, with its fluted shape and mottled bark, is the inspiration for a plan to redesign and refurbish SummerStage’s outdoor venue in Central Park. The City Parks Foundation requested the plan in anticipation of the annual music festival’s thirtieth anniversary in summer 2015. The venue, which is nestled among majestic plane trees, is located on a playfield near the southern end of the park.

A system of deployable scrims, patterned after the tree’s multi-toned bark, provide a practical way to screen adhoc structures, such as office trailers, shipping containers, and portable toilets, from the spectator’s eye, while defining the venue’s large perimeter and bringing visual coherence. With their light-dappled, camouflage pattern, the scrims also enhance the magic of the spectator experience by mirroring the sunlight on the real trees in daytime and reflecting their illumination at night.

A new roof is supported by flute-like structures that are in dialogue with the graceful trunk of the plane tree. The roof itself is transparent, illuminated from the interior, its oval shape inspired by the tree’s broad leaf.

Client: City Parks Foundation
Design Team:
Stephen Moser, Giles Holt, Nicole Anderson & Guido Garfunkel
Arup: Brian Markham, Tateo Nakajimi & Edward Arenius

A Plan for SummerStage —

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“I am talking about genuine peace — the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living — and the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.”

President John F. Kennedy, Address to American University June 10, 1963

“[The Peace Corps volunteer is a living example of] [t]he idea that free and committed men and women can cross, even transcend, boundaries of culture and language, of alien tradition and great disparities of wealth, of old hostilities and new nationalisms, to meet with other men and women on the common ground of service to human welfare and human dignity.”

Sargent Shriver, Address to the Foreign Policy Association December 11, 1963

Our design for a commemorative work to honor the Peace Corps expresses and embodies two ideas central to the Peace Corps’s ideals and values: peace (as in the dove, the wings of peace) and common ground (as a place, quite literally, where people come together to reflect on and celebrate the Corps’s service to human welfare and human dignity).

Our design, which we have titled “Common Ground”, is simultaneously sculpture, landform and architecture. It is a site-specific work that evolved from the constraints and possibilities of the triangular shape of a large traffic island at the intersection of Louisiana Avenue NW and First Street SW. The design inflects inward along Louisiana Avenue and then splits in two, creating separate wing-like shapes. These forms are, finally, fronted by a narrow tree-lined lawn that, together, mirror the triangular shape of the site.

The three spaces—North Wing, South Wing, and tree-lined lawn—symbolize the three goals of the Peace Corps.
Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women. • UNDERSTANDING AMERICANS: Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served.
Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

North Wing:
The North Wing symbolizes the goal of the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding abroad, in countries where it serves, of Americans. It is a physical manifestation of reaching out to and engaging with the world. The wing’s triangular shape leans in and rises up to a peak of 39 feet. Inside, a ramp spirals around a reflecting pool and leads up to a viewing platform, where visitors can look out at the Taft Memorial and the United States Capitol. The boldly-soaring design reflects self-confidence, fearlessness, commitment, and individual strength.

South Wing:
The South Wing symbolizes the Peace Corps’s goal of educating Americans at home about the people of countries served by the Corps. Its shape is lower and more intimate than the North Wing’s. A concrete bench is built into the wall and wraps around a reflecting pool, which contains a small stand of white birch trees and several large smooth rocks. The South Wing’s design reflects humility, thoughtfulness, compassion, and the importance of self-criticism. It is about becoming a better person or country by engaging with other people, communities, and countries.

The focal point of the South Wing is the PEACE BLACKBOARD, a large black slate slab that lines the interior above the long bench. Some of the slabs have printed quotes about the Peace Corps; others are blank, acting as an enormous blackboard where visitors are free to write their personal thoughts about the Peace Corps and its goals, as well as their own ideas about furthering peace in the world and serving humanity.

The Lawn:
The grassy lawn in front of the wings is a place, a Common Ground, where, under the shade of trees, visitors can reflect on the Peace Corps, including its goal to make a difference, to help people in need around the world.

Common Ground - Peace Corps Commemorative Work —