“And from its station in the hall
An ancient timepiece says to all, —
‘Forever — never!
Never — forever!’”
-H. W. Longfellow, The Old Clock on the Stairs
At the site where Pittsfield High School now stands, the house of Longfellow’s in-laws once stood. His poem The Old Clock on the Stairs describes a clock in the house, and expresses Longfellow’s interest in time as an all-encompassing force.
The Longfellow studio uses the rhythm of the stair and the parallel continuity of the hall to mark the passage of time. As the sun passes through the sky, the tapered roof tracks the time of day over the stair treads, turning the studio into a time-telling piece that encourages the movement of the body through an eternal cycle.
“Why has man rooted himself thus firmly in the earth, but that he may rise in the same proportion into the heavens above?”
-H. D. Thoreau, Walden
Thoreau writes of the Berkshires from an observation tower at the top of Mt. Greylock before beginning his experiment at Walden Pond as a journey to abstract truth through isolation.
Thoreau believed that being alone in nature was the way to bring us into contact with our true selves and gain an understanding of the world around us.
Climbing above the traditionally inhabited ground plane, the Thoreau studio urges the inhabitant to consider more than the visceral world below. A broad view on one side of the studio narrows to a vertical cut that creates a singular abstraction of the relationship between the individual and the outside world.
“There is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.”
-H. Melville, Moby Dick
Melville composed Moby Dick from his second story study at Arrowhead, looking out a window that framed Mt. Greylock and his imagination of a world beyond.
In Moby Dick, Melville describes these opposing conditions as the port and the gale, in which the port represents the safe space of domesticity, and the gale the natural world at the mercy of the elements, unmoored from civilization.
The design for the Melville studio explores the relationship between the intimate and the immense through two portals in a fragment of a farmhouse. One opens to the sky, leaving the inhabitant exposed to the elements, yet protected on all four sides, while the other offers the shelter of a roof, opening out onto the vast horizon.
“This is such an odd and incomprehensible world. The more I look at it, the more it puzzles me; and I begin to suspect that a man’s bewilderment is the measure of his wisdom.”
-N. Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables
The Hawthorne studio is composed of a complex roofscape, modeled after the undulating enclosure in his novel The House of Seven Gables.
By using the roof alone to define the space, dramatic angles rapidly change the character of the interior as the roof slopes, intersects, and opens.
This studio creates a series of conditions around a central gable spine, off of which balance two smaller spaces–one which is more enclosed and one which is more open, recognizing Hawthorne’s dual desire for solitude and connection to humanity.
“The soul of a man has a series of concentric envelopes round it, like the core of an onion, or the innermost of a nest of boxes. First, he has his natural garment of flesh and blood. Then, his artificial integuments, with their true skin of solid stuffs, their cuticle of lighter tissues, and their variously-tinted pigments. Thirdly, his domicile, be it a single chamber or a stately mansion. And then, the whole visible world, in which Time buttons him up as in a loose outside wrapper.”
-O. W. Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table
The Holmes studio flows fluidly through a series of concentric boxes from an individual space at the center to an open perimeter porch that opens to the natural and social world that surrounds.
At the center of the volume, a light shaft defines the most individual space. The second layer is defined by straight columns and moveable panels–the chamber that encloses the individual. The outermost layer is supported by angled columns and invites the outside in.