Location: Ithaca, NY
Architect: WOJR
Area: 587 square feet


Beyond the blanketed fog, which lays thick and noiseless, one can begin to see what roughly resembles a house. Perched high on wooden piers, it is gently framed by stark, sagging branches, its charred façade fading into the shadows of this portentous place. It feels not of this world but elsewhere. A realm, perhaps, in which the ruler is of immoral intent. But the real story is one of loss, of a man whose younger brother was taken from him by the untamed waters of a nearby lake. By way of grief, a sanctuary was born—a chance to live anew.

Sitting atop the gentle curve of a hill, the structure slowly begins to reveal itself. A vertical plane engrossed by its own environment, disguised by slightly sharpened and thinly sliced planks—a mask. Its habitable identity purposefully withheld. The entrance, unseen by onlookers exists at the end of a long, narrow footbridge. And between the door and the slated overlay rests a staircase, a vanishing point. A passageway to protection on one side, and on the other, an escape.

houseInside, there is light. The kind of light that despite all the darkness, still manages to emerge. There is a beauty to it. To the uncolored wood and bleached tile, a vision unimaginable from the outside. It is a house made up of contrast—open yet private, hard but soft, bright yet dim.

“A series of thresholds” is how the rooms are described. “Becoming successively more removed from one world and more connected to the next.” A kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, a bed—all sanctuaries within themselves, each a division marking a new boundary. The transition is subtle, nearly unnoticeable in the scheme of the widespread space and yet it’s felt. The shift from ordinary to other, from immersion to separation.

What appears at first as an act of disruption, rebellion, even, stands in tandem with its surrounding forest—a tribute. An homage to the steep hills and fertile trees, to the darkened sky and forbidden lake. At one time, there was life here. To forget would be easier, but to remember is to live again.