ARCHITECT LEE MINDEL'S GEOMETRIC MARVEL IS A SHOWCASE FOR A COLLECTION OF MODERN FURNITURE
"It's Honest Origami," says New York architect Lee Mindel of the house he designed for himself on the Peconic Bay in Southampton. "The planes of the house can be broken open, folded or lifted."
He is describing his spectacular new 6,500-square-foot concrete house. It is in the form of a V. One arm, the one that can be seen from the street, is sheathed in cedar the color of driftwood; the other, in glass. A tower made of industrial channel glass is wedged between the two and serves as a lantern to bring light into the interior of both.
"This house is about an idea: the integration of site plan, architecture and interior," Mindel says. The setting is a dream: the two-acre trapezoid plot faces a marsh, a bird sanctuary and, beyond, the bay. The northeast side has a forest of tall, mature oak trees. The south side, which faces the street, has a grove of native Montauk shad trees, now carefully pruned, set into a carpet of gravel. "I was inspired by the Tuileries Gardens in Paris," Mindel explains. "By the look and the sound of crunching pebbles."
A boardwalk in a straight line parallel to the water's edge bisects the property, corner to corner. "It's the longest dimension," Mindel says. This acts as a spine to connect the V-shaped main building to the guesthouse and pool at the opposite end of the property.
The facades are a cedar plank curtain wall of rectangles that alternate direction and clad the concrete structure beneath. "The wall is like a cabinet," Mindel says. It's all millwork. "The curtain wall of the street facade is manipulated to create three maneuvers: a drawbridge overhang that is raised above the front entrance; a shallow canopy, like those at a beach refreshment stand, frames the kitchen windows; and a large swung-open panel resembling that of a barn door, creates a Dutch door service entry. It's a quilt of symbolic contextual materials," Mindel further explains. "Cedar is native, and the concrete is like clay coming out of the ground."