U.S. Building of the Week

Cocoon House

nea studio
25. November 2019
Photo: Caylon Hackwith

Cocoon House is the perfect name for this L-shaped house on New York's Long Island: The rounded walls on the more public side of the house are solid, while the glassy, private side is colorful, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. Nina Edwards Anker's nea studio sent us some text and images on the recently completed house.

Project: Cocoon House, 2019
Location: Long Island, New York, USA
Client: Withheld
Architect: nea studio
  • Principal Architect: Nina Edwards Anker
  • Project Team: Anna Agoston, Raphael Walter
General Contractor: Licciardi Builders
Structural Engineer: Will Laufs, LaufsED
Mechanical Engineer: Jordan Goldman, Zero Energy Design
Electrical Engineer: Michael Edwards, Avioworks
Sound Engineer: Charles von Mueffling, Obelisk Consulting
Prefab Trusses: Unalam
Photo: Caylon Hackwith

This LEED-certified home is called Cocoon because its round walls form a Cocoon shape towards the northern and western neighbors. This rounded enclosed half of the house provides shelter and privacy. The other glass side of the house, facing south, takes in ocean breezes and open views. The cedar shingle cladding blends in with the architectural material palette of the historic Long Island neighborhood. By tuning in to given site conditions, and with the help of environmental technologies such as photovoltaic panels, the architectural design serves both the environment and wellbeing.

Photo: Caylon Hackwith

The 16-foot-high Long Island cottage is split in two: "cocooned" into a soft opaque shape that provides privacy, and transparent and crystalline to allow for views onto an undisturbed landscape. Its L-shaped 1,730 square foot footprint is shaped by the legal restriction to build at a 150-foot radius from the wetlands and to keep a 35-foot distance from the adjacent properties. Luckily, the view of the greenery towards the ocean faces south and east, so that the southern glass facade provides both views and passive heating gain. The thermal masses of the thick northern and western walls, supported entirely by timber structure, keep away humidity and retain heat while providing privacy.

Photo: Caylon Hackwith

The large unbroken sliding doors connect inhabitants with the smells, feel and sounds of the garden and ocean in the distance. In a structure that partakes in the natural landscape, a comfortable temperature is primarily achieved through passive strategies. The sliding doors open to catch prevailing southern breezes from the Atlantic Ocean that temper the heat in the warmer months. In the winter the glass facade collects heat from the southern sun, and in summertime interior shades cut 50 percent of the solar heat gain.

Photo: Caylon Hackwith

The sensual experience of the sun in a structure that is half opaque and half exposed guides the framework of the design. In the half of the cottage that is crystalline and transparent, sunlight filters through the translucent colored skylights, reflects off of the water cistern and enters through the glass facades. The skylights above the hallway of the bedroom wing are based on the color theory of Goethe, used by J.M. William Turner in his 19th century paintings of sunlight above water. The colors range from vermilion red, which signals sunset and rest, above the master bedroom, to deep yellow, which signals zenith and activity, nearest the living room.

Photo: Caylon Hackwith

Geometric patches of colored sunlight from the skylights and glimmering water reflections from the reflecting pool/cistern project onto the interior thick white ovoid back wall, which is punctured by just a few small windows. The changing daylight on the round projection screen connects to solar rhythms throughout the day, directing attention to biorhythms in the passing of seasonal and diurnal cycles, marking hours through slowly moving light patches. It’s meant to serve as a cinematic screen, its round shape abstracting the play of light and shadow, cocooning the interior like an ocean wave with light hitting its surface.

Photo: Caylon Hackwith
Photo: Caylon Hackwith
Photo: Caylon Hackwith
Photo: Caylon Hackwith
Photo: Caylon Hackwith
Photo: Caylon Hackwith

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