Olnick Spanu House

Architectural Details: Alberto Campo Baeza’s Majestic, Mies-Inspired New York Residence

With pristine forms and impeccable detailing, the Olnick Spanu House is an ode to the architectural icons of the 1950s.

James Bartolacci James Bartolacci

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Like a refuge perched on top of the rugged terrain of the Hudson River Valley, the Olnick Spanu House sits like a piece of minimalist sculpture: simple white lines and weightless rectangular forms.

Like Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s Glass House, this design by Alberto Campo Baeza uses a minimal amount of materials for support while surrounding interiors spaces with a glass wall to maximize views of the home’s pristine and unspoiled location.

From the earliest sketches — like the one shown below, from 2006 — to the final construction, Campo Baeza’s design concept held true, culminating in a modern icon arguably on par with those classic mid-century modern homes.

Olnick Spanu House

© Alberto Campo Baeza

© Alberto Campo Baeza

Pared down to its essence, the home is divided into three volumes: roof, glass box, and a concrete platform making up the lower level.

Olnick Spanu House

Olnick Spanu House

The section drawing (above right) succinctly depicts the contrasting nature of each space — a grounded, shaded volume below and a light-filled, open space above.

The flat roof, made of travertine, cuts through the forested landscape. Held up by a system of 10 steel posts, the roof cantilevers by 10 feet on all sides, appearing to hover over the home’s main rooms. In the central volume, the living room and kitchen are enveloped by a glass curtain wall, giving residents uninterrupted views of the majestic Hudson River.

The central volume is surrounded by an exterior terrace of polished stone, which reflects the sun and provides another space for appreciating the landscape.

© Alberto Campo Baeza

© Alberto Campo Baeza

© Alberto Campo Baeza

© Alberto Campo Baeza

Keeping in line with the home’s minimalist aesthetic, furniture and products likewise emulate the best of mid-century modern design. As if chosen by Mies himself, sofas, lounge chairs, dining chairs, and tables were selected from some of the best modern furniture providers like Cassina, ADELTA, EDRA, and Knoll, among others.

When the sun is not shining on through the home’s glass walls, fixtures by LUTRON ELECTRONICS fill the communal areas and bedrooms of the lower level with bright light. When natural sunlight proves to be too intense, or when residents feel the need to disconnect form the landscape, curtains by BERGER IRON WORKS add a layer of privacy.

© Alberto Campo Baeza

© Alberto Campo Baeza

© Alberto Campo Baeza

© Alberto Campo Baeza

By creating a strong connection to its natural context combined with a careful selection of materials and orientation, Alberto Campo Baeza designed a structurally simple, yet rich and elegant sanctuary with the tranquil beauty of the Hudson. As with the modern marvels that preceded it, it seems inevitable that admiration for the Olnick Spanu House in years to come.

For more of Alberto Campo Baeza’s range of spectacularly beautiful contemporary projects, explore the firm’s Architizer Profile.

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