The Edifice

New York, US
Marc Thorpe Design

The Edifice is a dwelling so remote and small, that only one seeking it would be able to find it. This was exactly the intention of architect Marc Thorpe, of Marc Thorpe Design. Inspired by the writings of transcendentalist authors Thoreau and Emerson, The Edifice sets out to apply transcendentalism in our modern age. A core belief of transcendentalism is in the inherent goodness of people and nature. The Edifice seeks this goodness in an elegant architectural structure. According to the architect:

The Edifice is an exercise in reduction, to live with only what is necessary and self-reliance.

Nestled on in the hills of upstate New York, The Edifice is an understated cabin. Measuring a mere 46 square metres, the rectangular form is constructed almost entirely of cedar. The facade is wrapped in blackened wood, with light unstained cedar peaking out at the entrance and continuing in the interior. There are only two points of fenestration on the facade: a large window on the North elevation, and a tiny sliver window on the South facade. These windows provide a peek at the interior programming without exposing too much. As the structure has no clear point of entry, one must wander around the outer cabin, forcing an interaction with the building and its environment. The East and West facades, having no windows, allow the light and shadow to dance across the dark wood. The combination of sunlight and black cedar, paired with the backdrop of soft green trees and plantings, is quite beautiful.

One of the main features of this building is the recessed porch on the North facade. The simple act of pulling the northern wall inward creates a covered opening, a subtle reference to the porches on traditional farmhouses often found in this part of New York. The recessed porch is the only piece of the structure that features unstained cedar. The wood wraps the walls, ceiling, and floor of the porch, providing a moment of lightness on the exterior as well as a hint at what is to come as you cross the dwelling's threshold.

The Edifice’s interior continues the story from the exterior. The material is cedar and the design is simple, providing only the necessities for living, sleeping, and dining. A wood-burning stove is both a feature of the interior design as well as the home’s only source of heat. As The Edifice is “off the grid”, there is no electricity in the space. Lighting is provided by candle. Harmony between the natural and built environments is of upmost importance in transcendentalism, therefore The Edifice is fully self-sustaining, with a zero ecological footprint. The dwelling exudes respect for the natural environment, and is serene in its place among the hills and trees.

The effect of our material world on our psyche is well-established. The transcendentalists believed that society could be corrupting, but that one could find their way back to themselves in nature. The Edifice is a beautiful experiment, one architect’s way of seeking harmony in our chaotic world.

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