Commonly overlooked below the suburbs of New York City is a dramatic geologic feature, a 500-foot-thick slab of bedrock that formed 200 million years ago. The massive stone slab is mostly hidden under a thin layer of soil but its edge has been exposed by the erosion of the Hudson River, creating cliffs along the river’s west bank called the Palisades. The concept of this house is to excavate down to the bedrock, and to use the resulting topography and excavated material to create privacy and a connection to the landscape in a dense suburban neighborhood.
Nearby neighbors to the north and south, as well as the street to the east, surround the 1-acre site. The topography slopes down to a vegetated buffer along the west property line, providing privacy in that direction. To capitalize on it, the house is pushed east towards the street and sunken down to bedrock elevation. To the east is a sheltered courtyard, an outdoor room bound by the house and by the newly-unearthed bedrock walls of the excavation. The entry path crosses this courtyard, descending a stair carved into the bedrock.
A series of parallel walls run east-west, creating layers of acoustic and visual privacy from the nearby neighbors. The walls are framed with cavities to allow for insulation, ductwork, plumbing, and electrical needs. The walls are wrapped in a system of weathering steel plates and stainless-steel cables, creating an armature to retain dry stacked rock, the same rock that is blasted to make way for the house foundation. The stone, which would otherwise be disposed of, creates unique opportunities.
By intentionally eroding the site to reveal the character beneath it, then up-cycling the spoils, the design creates privacy, unique building and experiential opportunities, as well as a connection to an otherwise subverted landscape.