It’s covered with a gray-black neoprene sheetskin, a material usually used for the flat roofs of -industrial buildings.I was looking for a house upstate, something rustic, like an old farmhouse. This was the first place my real estate agent took me to see, and I was annoyed because the Rubber House was clearly not what I had said I was looking for. But as I continued to search, I kept returning to have another look. Visit by visit, I was seduced, and I finally bought it. One of the best features of the house is that nature has a dialogue with it. The inside looks out, and the outside looks in.
While the side exposed to the road is austere, with few windows, the other side is floor-to-ceiling glass, which frames the landscape like a living diorama.
.When I first got the place, there was so much glass that birds were flying into it and killing themselves. For a while I put sheets of paper over the glass when I went away, but the birds have somehow learned to accept the house. They fly around it. The cat from down the road has never forgiven me! My best memory of the place is lying in bed, watching a storm roll in from over the horizon.”
WILLEM DAFOE’S RUBBER HOUSE (as was published on Architectural Digest Magazine)
ZOOM: TOM PRITCHARD AND THE RUBBER HOUSE
A graduate of Princeton University in 1967, the architect Tom Pritchard strives in all of his work–residences, apartments and large-scale landscapes–to embrace and integrate nature with built form. The key to his approach is to pare away to the essentials, reducing or eliminating ornament to reveal stark form—a philosophy particularly evident in the Rubber House.
A LEVEL OF ABSTRACTION
The famed choreographer, Eugene Loring, when describing what he wanted in this house, asked for something totally different than the simple white house Richard Neutra had designed for him in California and which he described as living in a “work of art.” For the Rubber House, the main idea was to achieve a level of abstraction using simple and unadorned forms, to eliminate wherever possible anything that might come between the house itself and the nature surrounding it.
WITH A BUDGET IN MIND
The Rubber House is wood construction sheathed in plywood; all of the exterior surfaces are covered with neoprene. “This particular rubber sheeting gives it the monolithic quality I was looking for,” explains Tom Pritchard. “Using this kind of material for a private home was obviously a bit controversial, but our budget was very limited and we could only afford to use commonly available materials.”
SHADOW AND LIGHT
Once through the front door, one enters into a space with a vista of floor to ceiling glass windows, a complete relief from the stark black rubber entry façade. Further inside, the kitchen is bathed in light from the glass greenhouse above. Here one can see the absence of details—no roof overhangs, window or door frames—just openings–solids and voids that allow for the play of shadow and light.
A FAMOUS BUSINESS
In 1975, Tom Pritchard started his office, Madderlake Designs, Architecture + Landscape. In addition to the houses and landscapes of well known stars (Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Calvin Klein…) and numerous residential projects in Manhattan, he has created the artistic and administrative headquarters for the New York City Opera, dance and rehearsal studios for American Ballet Theater, a seven thousand acre ranch in Colorado, and numerous other works in Canada, Puerto Rico and Florida. Tom Pritchard has also designed two projects in France, one at Cap d’Antibes and the other, his own country house situated on ten acres of rugged wilderness in the Languedoc.