11 June 2008

A Visit to Johansen’s Bridge House

Purely by chance, I found myself inside John Johansen's Bridge House yesterday, receiving a condensed history of the house, from concept through materials, spending as much time as I wanted to poke around and ask questions.

Tom sent me on a reconnaissance mission to see if the house is visible from the road and to maybe get some photos. As luck would have it, yesterday was open-house day for area realtors, and even though I am not in the profession, Rita Kirby of William Pitt | Sotheby's International invited me to have a look around.

Rita explained how the owners (who are the original owners and still live in the house) asked Johansen not only design them a house, but also to find the land it would exist on. According to Rita, Johansen always had a river house "in him" to design, and this site presented the perfect opportunity to realize that idea. One of the more prescient and romantic concepts was that in crossing the water, one was purified and the concerns and distresses of the outside world were washed away, making his "Villa Ponte" truly a haven.

The house is an extended, slab-serif capital "H" (in typographic terms, extended means wider than normal, and a serif is the small line, curve, stroke, or slab projecting from the main stroke of a letter), the cross bar of the "H" being the living/dining area beneath the famous gold leaf multi-barrel ceiling, and under which flows the Rippowam River.

Each "slab serif" of the "H" is a wing, or pavilion, with a different purpose which is denoted by a unique symbol that Johansen designed which is pressed into the stucco walls, on both interior and exterior walls, in random-looking (by design) groupings: The children's wing has an egg shape, the parents' wing has an elongated 4-point star, the kitchen wing has a stylized hourglass, and the guest wing has open circles, representing champagne bubbles.

Predictably, the house has narrow hallways and rooms on the small side (with the exception of the exceptional living room), and to make best use of the small spaces, there's lots of clever built in storage throughout. Every room has a door and windows to the outside to let in the sound of the river and make the woods immediately accessible.

I noticed that Johansen also designed the garage. Must have been a lot later, since the feel is so different from the main house. It's not bad from the outside, but the inside is uninteresting.

I was not permitted to take photos, but there are plenty here. To give you a better idea of the configuration of the house, I scanned the outline with its measurements from the Wm. Pitt packet on the house. I was told that an actual floor plan will be up on the house's website in about a week. – GF


Skip said...

Way to go Gina!

Bryan said...

Are they building houses over rivers today? Is it even possible given the environmental permitting issues? If not, it makes this house all the more spectacular.

The owners deserve a medal for maintaining its integrity.