Spy Architecture Lecture by Simon Jacobsen Set for January 19

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The Spy is pleased to announce that Simon Jacobsen will make a presentation of his firm’s work over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend on Saturday, January 19th, from 5:00 to 6:30 at the St. Michaels Inn in St. Michaels. Simon is the son of Hugh Newell Jacobsen and they formed Jacobsen Architecture in 2007.  Tickets can be purchased here.

Our Habitat Jenn Martella, summarized their work recently in the Spy and we have re-published it here: 

My second job as an architectural intern was with Gini L. Pettus & Associates in Atlanta. The focus of her practice was interior commercial architecture but we both enjoyed discussing residential architecture and soon discovered our mutual admiration for the work of Hugh Newell Jacobsen.

After I moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004, I was delighted to discover two of his houses from excursions with friends on the water. After visiting the firm’s website, I learned that Jacobsen had designed several houses in Talbot County and his Bachelor of Arts degree was from the University of Maryland. I like to think that on breaks from his studies he made sojourns to the Eastern Shore to enjoy the peaceful pre-Bay Bridge rural architecture and landscape.

What I admire about Jacobsen’s work is how he drew his inspiration from the distinctively American vernacular rural architecture-sheds, smokehouses, detached kitchens and barns. The essence of his iconic style were series of pavilions devoid of ornamentation that evoked Shaker architectural design. His contemporary interpretation of the “telescope” houses of the Eastern Shore, became, in his gifted hands, simple geometric plans with gable roofs and chimneys that rose through the steep roof planes to become sculptural elements. His unique style set him apart from his fellow second-generation Modernists peers.

He also designed houses ranging from Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ home on Martha’s Vineyard to the “1998 Life Dream House,” Life Magazine’s promotion of houses designed by famous architects whose plans were made available to the public.

His son Simon is the Founding Principal of Jacobsen Architecture and explains his firm’s design philosophy as “…our detailing is deliberately sparse and linear in order to enhance the spaces within and without … the site is the dominant factor. The quality of the light upon that particular area of earth is always unique and determines the path the architecture will take.” The firm’s houses on the Eastern Shore embody that design philosophy and my favorite of the Eastern Shore houses is the original Green Residence that as of 2017 has a new owner.

The Greene Residence was built on the Wye East River close to the Chesapeake Bay. The client, a New York advertising executive, retained Hugh Newell Jacobsen in 1971 to design a year-around house. On one of his first visits to the site, the client sprinkled cedar seedlings along the shoreline that have matured into a tall grove to protect the house from the winter storms off the Bay and to frame and shade the exquisite house.

Like the older houses of the Tidewater, the Green house has white walls and steep roofs but the similarity ends there. Unlike historic Tidewater houses, this plan’s massing and functions are organized into pavilions defined by the function within. Some of the pavilions are linked by connections with walls of frameless panes of glass resting on brick sills for a striking solid/void juxtaposition of wall and glass. Other pavilions are slightly shifted from each other with just enough space for construction workers to accomplish their tasks. The lack of exterior soffits, gutters and trim is a careful and deliberate abstraction of traditional detailing.

Many of the pavilions have floor to ceiling glass panes at the main level to create an “outlook” to the landscape and water beyond. Above the large glass panes are two levels of multi-paned transoms. The bottom row is open to the main floor of the pavilion and the upper row becomes windows for the second floor. The lack of interior trim allows the wall and floor planes to seamlessly merge and the steep pitched roofs with dormers creates delightful spaces for the guest suites or the loft for the Owner’s artistic endeavors.

The Green house consists of six pavilions. There are two center pavilions with the front pavilion being the entrance hall and support functions. Behind the entry pavilion a short hall leads to the rear sitting room pavilion that faces the water. The rear corners of this dramatic room are floor to ceiling glass panels and the massive chimney rises through the pitched ceiling. At the front corners, glass walled connections on each side lead to two pavilions that are set on a diagonal to the entry and sitting room pavilions. The kitchen/breakfast and dining room pavilion is on the right and is slightly shifted from the garage pavilion by a solid connection. Off the kitchen pavilion, the long pool reaches out to the water and a fence hides the motor court of the garage pavilion. On the left, another sitting room pavilion and the master suite pavilion complete the composition. Terraces off the sitting rooms offer expansive views of the water.

Two guest suites were located on the second floor. One suite is accessed by a “U” shaped cantilevered stair that floats above the floor of the diagonal sitting room pavilion and the other suite is accessed by a spiral stair in the kitchen pavilion. Since the two suites are separated by the main sitting room pavilion, they have total privacy.

The interiors are white to better reflect the light from the varied sources and the firm’s signature “Eggcrate” bookcases are found in the diagonal sitting room. The Mid-Century Modern furnishings include the leather and polished chrome Le Corbusier sofas and the wood Scandinavian dining room table and chairs. It would be very difficult for this architect to choose a favorite detail but the vista from one of the glass-walled connections through the glass corner of the adjacent pavilion to the water beyond was breathtaking.

The Green Residence is a masterpiece of a gifted architect’s vision of domestic architecture in the early 20th century. The photographs that accompany this article were taken last year and belie the age of this iconic house.

Jacobsen Architecture was founded in 2007 by Hugh and Simon Jacobsen and is the recipient of over 140 awards in architecture, design and interiors. The firm’s work spans from much of the US, Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. Besides many accolades and publications, the firm has been nominated for the AIA’s Gold Medal four times and is longest running recipient of Architectural Digest’s AD100, the magazine’s list of the top 100 design talents internationally. The Jacobsens are currently working on a new book to be published by Rizzoli titled “Jacobsen Architecture: 12 Houses by Hugh and Simon Jacobsen”.

If you are one of the lucky few on the Eastern Shore to own a Jacobsen house, please contact the Spy as we would welcome another opportunity to feature more of these unique American houses.

For further inspiration, visit the firm’s website . Photographs of the Green Residence courtesy of Sean Shananhan Photography, Sean@shanahanphotography.com, 703-582-9462. 

The Spy is pleased to announce that Simon Jacobsen will make a presentation of his firm’s work over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend on Saturday, January 19th, from 5:00 to 6:30 at the St. Michaels Inn in St. Michaels MD, 1228 S. Talbot Street. Click here for ticket sales.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

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