Hither Lane pulls you into its masterful private realm.
By Allen Freeman
Making your way through Hither Lane is like reading a good mystery novel, one
that unfolds so artfully that artifice goes undetected.
Photograph by Alan Ward
Turning off a straight, narrow road, you pass through an unpretentious
gate of horizontal wood slats and drive up a gentle rise through
a curving allée of mature plane trees. After pulling into a cloistered
courtyard, you enter one of three modernist structures in a rambling,
one-story compound and ultimately arrive at a long, high-ceilinged
refectory with a wall of windows on one side. The payoff is an expansive
view of smooth lawn across the undulating landscape you just skirted.
In front of you are a shallow ravine, a soft breast of land, and
long prospects through tall treeslittle to suggest an 11-acre fenced
estate in the Long Island town of East Hampton, New York.
Hither Lane, winner of an ASLA design honor award, is private,
rural, and internally orientedantithetical to the other 2003 honor
award recipient, the Olin Partnership's prominent, public, and urban
Getty Center in Los Angeles. Although as carefully planned and constructed
as any urban landscape project, Hither Lane seems natural and expansive.
It is a place to explore and savor.
The landscape architect, Douglas Reed, ASLA, of Reed Hilderbrand
Associates in Watertown, Massachusetts, detected potential in a
piece of land that eluded those who previously sited two houses
on this property. The first house, built in 1898, was positioned
near the middle of the estate on the top of the breastlike knoll.
That house burned down in the early 1920s. In the 1930s, the owners
put a second house on the side of the knoll and located a swimming
pool where the first house had stood. In 1995, when new owners were
contemplating constructing the current house, Reed and architect
Salvatore LaRosa inspected the property and concluded that the estate
would be diminished by placing a large dwelling at its center, and
that this land would be better served by building near an edge.
Reed and LaRosa rented a bucket truck so they could rise above
the dense undergrowth and get a clear picture of the terrain. They
made out three distinctive forms: the knoll, the ravine, and, in
front of the 1930s house, a plateau. "We felt that the legibility
of those three land features was somehow going to be key to a successful
and compelling scheme," Reed recalls. The top of the knoll, however,
had been flattened for the foundations of the 1898 house and then
excavated for the 1930s swimming pool; a thick, three-acre stand
of bamboo covered much of the plateau.
Reed says he and LaRosa approached their work on the project as
ordering the landscape out from the house for the benefit of the
occupants rather than for those who might glimpse it from the road
or driveway. They decided the best place for the new house was on
the plateau near the east edge of the acreage, abutting land in
conservation. This allowed them to orient the view from the house
obliquely across the property's longest dimension while taking advantage
of the landforms to obscure houses on adjacent properties.
LaRosa began conceiving something like a monastic enclave. He reasoned
that low-key, rational architecture, broken down into linked segments
around a courtyard, would best serve the larger, romantic landscape.
Extensive preparations included study models of the house and the
Site manipulation included taking down the 1930s house, restoring
a natural contour on the top of the knoll, subtly sloping the plateau
to improve drainage, and smoothing out the transition from the knoll
to the ravine. Although a roadbed for the curving drive that served
the 1898 house was no longer visible, the double row of plane trees
survived, and Reed saw that restoring the drive would work for the
new house at the edge of the property. A no-brainer, he calls it.
The allée frames views of various landscape features, and then the
drive turns in behind a grove of tulip poplars and enters the courtyard.
From there, views into the heart of the property remain concealed
until you make your way to the refectory, which LaRosa fronted with
a shallow arcade. The arcade's columns echo the plane tree trunks.
For the courtyards, Reed chose trees that would lend domestic scale
and shade, including broad-form cork trees and katsuras. He put
a private garden off the master bedroom under the grove of tulip
poplars, and on the way to the pool house, he added a walk of river
birches that serves as a backdrop for a small sculpture court. The
pool and pool house are set in a preexisting sassafras grove bisected
by a curving fence with no horizontal members (see Transparent Solution).
Beyond, you stroll to a hillside of lavender bushes set in a quincunx
pattern, wind around to a playhouse, tread century-old brick steps
to the top of the knoll, and look back across the ravine to the
house, framed by honey locusts, on the plateau.
Reed met the owner of the Hither Lane property through LaRosa,
a principal of B Five Studio in New York City. "Sal approached me
about this project, saying it could be unusual in our careers because
of the beauty of the site and the sophistication of this particular
client," Reed says. The landscape architect and the architect had
worked together before and knew that they connected in the way they
read landscapes. Speaking generally, Reed says LaRosa is "interested
in a greater artifice of landscape than I amnot to say that we
disagree but rather that we reach a middle ground. He feeds off
that in his architecture, and I find our exchanges healthy and refreshing."
The Hither Lane collaborators hope this project, where landscape
and building were conceived as a single entity, appears seamless.
It helps to see Hither Lane in that light. The product of this smooth
collaboration is definitely more than the sum of its parts.
Landscape architect: Reed Hilderbrand Associates, Inc., Watertown,
Massachusetts: Douglas Reed, ASLA, Lisa Morris, Adrian Smith, ASLA,
Sylvia Palms, ASLA, and John Kett. Architect: B Five Studio, New
York City: Salvatore LaRosa. Landscape contractor: Whitmores, East
Hampton, New York. Building contractor: Andreasse and Bulgin Construction,
Southampton, New York. Sculptural fence fabricator: DeAngelis Ironwork,
South Easton, Massachusetts. Mason: Seven Sons, East Hampton, New
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