Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Georgian Revival Retreat, Western Massachusetts

Architect: David Scott Parker Architects, LLC, Southport, CT; David Parker, AIA, principal in charge

General Contractor: Allegrone Construction Co., Inc., Pittsfield, MA



Special Award

Winner:David Scott Parker Architects, LLC

Home and Leisure

By Lynne Lavelle

To fans of American literature, Edith Wharton's Western Massachusetts estate, The Mount, is an important historical artifact. It was here, between 1902 and 1911, that the novelist wrote House of Mirth and played host to contemporaries such as Henry James and her architect friend Ogden Codman, with whom she co-authored the influential book The Decoration of Houses. Architecture, gardens and interior design were subjects close to Wharton's heart and about which she wrote prolifically. Henry James once said of Wharton, "No one fully knows our Edith who hasn't seen her in the act of creating a habitation for herself."

Designed by Francis Hoppin, The Mount was an outlet for Wharton's tastes and spirit as surely as writing was. Her influence reached beyond the gates of her own estate, however, to that of a friend and relative, who hired Hoppin in 1908 to build a Georgian Revival residence in the hills of western Massachusetts. "The distant views to the south look over the mountains," says David Scott Parker, principal in charge with David Scott Parker Architects (DSPA). "It is really quite glorious, especially in the fall." Recently, DPSA added a new leisure complex to the 27-acre property, earning the firm its first Palladio Award. The pool, pool house, cabana, terrace, tennis court and mechanical support systems are situated downhill on the formal central axis, south of the main house's large esplanade and parterre garden. "When I first met with the clients it was clear that they wanted the complex to be a retreat," says Parker. "They didn't want it immediately adjacent to the house – they wanted it to be a place to go to. We actually did preliminary schemes placing the complex in other places. Those were not as satisfying and didn't really respect the quite dominant original architecture of the house. Also, we sited the new structures where they were able to fully enjoy and embrace the view.

"As when the estate was created, fall foliage continues to be particularly beautiful and alluring in this remote corner of the state."

One of the main constraints of the site was that the property had previously been subdivided, and a more modern house built in close proximity. Additionally, the new design had to incorporate or conceal an existing, informally sited tennis court on the lower portion of the property. "As the project evolved, we saw the opportunity to accommodate changing rooms for the existing tennis court on the lower level," says Parker. "Once the decision was made to respond to and organize around the central axis, the question became how to respect the symmetry while accommodating the different functional elements of the program."

The pool house and loggia pavilions are symmetrically placed around the pool, while a balustered semi-circular exedra conceals changing rooms for the nearby tennis court and a small gallery below. By turning its back on the modern structure to face the loggia, the pool house defines the western edge of the courtyard and screens views of the neighboring house. Its lower wings house service spaces; the main room features an 18th-century French limestone mantelpiece found by the client as well as reclaimed limestone flooring. The loggia serves as both a pool cabana and a venue for formal entertaining and dining. In the spirit of Georgian Revival, its proportions recall the main house, and it turns the swimming pool into a reflecting pond. Three matching antique lanterns provide nighttime illumination within the loggia.

Local marble from Berkshire Stone, LLC, of Winsted, CT, ties the pool house and ancillary structures together, and connects them to the main house. "The existing house had a marble water table and marble sills, quarried locally when the house was built," says Parker. "We went to the quarry from which the home's marble had originally come and were able to engage the people there to provide matching stone for this complex: the balustrades, the parapet plinths, the quoining on the pool house and the loggia, and the columns and keystones – they are from the local source."

To meet required codes, the firm enclosed the pool with wrought-iron fencing and gates by John F. Graney Metal Design of Great Barrington, MA. The effect was deliberately subtle. "It's decorative but also dark and discreet and provides the necessary enclosure around the immediate area of the pool," says Parker. "A small bronze and iron handrail above the perimeter balustrade enabled the Classical balusters to be properly proportioned."

The masonry brick for the project was supplied by the Bridgewater, MA-based Stiles and Hart Brick Company, while the brick pavers were supplied by Iowa City, IA-based Gavin Historical Bricks. Other suppliers included C.M. Goodrich & Sons of Pittsfield, MA (cabinetry, doors and millwork); P.E. Guerin of New York, NY (hardware); Innovative Stone Surfaces of Hauppauge, NY (stone counters and trim); and Dynamic Windows and Doors of Abbotsford, Canada (windows and doors).

While the site's significant grade change appeared less than advantageous, the firm turned it into a plus. On the lower level side of the complex, the immediate drop provides added security. And overall, the grade was used to regulate scale. "The symmetry and the axial relationships organized the program, as did the change in grade," says Parker. "When you are looking down from the house, it diminishes the mass and scale of this complex, which is actually fairly large. When you are at the house, for example, you are totally unaware of the lower level under the exedra, where the changing rooms are."

For the clients, the complex had a use beyond the architectural program as a place to display pieces from their impressive collection of antique artifacts and sculpture. Among the items integrated into the design are a monumental set of Carrara urns and a 17th-century Italian statue of Minerva in the changing rooms' lower-level rotunda. "It was not unusual at the turn of the century – quite typical in fact – for architects to incorporate antiques, especially antique sculptural elements, in their designs," says Parker. "And so the tradition of including things like wellheads or statuary is very much in the Neoclassical tradition and something that Americans at the time did frequently."

By blending the new with the old, and function with beauty, the firm has opened a new chapter for this pedigreed estate.  



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