Twin Houses by William O’Brian Jr

Award-winning American architect William O’Brien Jr. has recently completed these two single-storey holiday houses located in upstate New York.

Situated on one plot of land, the minimalist, black stucco-clad dwellings have been realised as ‘a regular six-sided polygon and a regular four-sided polygon’ respectively yet are composed from the same five forms — ‘each are made up of the same four trapezoids and one triangle.’

The architect explains, “This design proposal for two vacation homes for two brothers and their families on one plot of land in upstate New York represents an examination of a curious part to whole relationship. The mathematical principle of “dissection” states that any two regular polygons with equal areas can be divided into sets of similar shapes; “minimal dissection” is the pursuit of the fewest number of subdivisions in each polygon. This scheme appropriates this principle as a solution to (1) general similarities in the programmatic requirements, and (2) distinctions in the desired relationships to the site, voiced by the two brothers for each of their homes.

The adjacencies between the five shapes are different within each of the regular polygons, as are their orientations relative to the outer perimeters of the polygons. Translated into spatial divisions in an architectural plan, these fixed arrangements prompt sectional-flexibility. Conceptually, in section the floor planes and the roof planes are configured in order to accommodate strategic micro-topographic continuities and discontinuities across the collective surfaces.”

“Proximity of houses relative to one another is calibrated through the development of the agricultural usage of the interstitial land. Water collection from the two roofs is directed to a subterranean piping system between the houses. The agricultural development of the land between the two houses separates them visually (to varying degrees depending on season) while linking them inextricably, both infrastructurally and communally. Water dispersal stems from two pairs of “water channels” embedded in two walls in each house. The planometric dovetailing of four different crops, which oscillate in harvest seasons, accommodates different proximities of crops to each of the houses. Leaf vegetables, berries, wheat and corn are braided together in order to provide each house immediate access to each food type.”

Read more: William O’Brien Jr.

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