Inspirational House: Kragsyde

Our design process is one that uses a rigorous and studied approach.  We always have our radar out for new projects and new ideas as well as frequently studying houses that we find significant.  So, we thought that a series of blog posts on Inspirational Houses would be an interesting endeavor and allow us to organize our ideas about architecture that we feel is significant to our work.  Identifying case studies to blog about is an easy task.  They are pages from our design library tagged with multiple post-it notes, dog-eared repeatedly and have been scanned, printed and copied for many project files.  This is certainly true of our first Inspirational House, “Kragsyde” in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Ma.

Kragsyde elev low res

Designed by Peabody and Sterns in 1884 as a summer house for Bostonian George Nixon Black, Jr.  Kragsyde is a remarkable example of American Shingle Style homes of New England.  Unlike Colonial homes of the time, the asymmetrical and varied forms of the shingle style, as exemplified here, echoed and complimented the conditions of the specific landscape.  Kragsyde is set into the wooded, craggy heights overlooking the Atlantic just North of Boston.  The house is built up from a masonry base made of local stone and the natural wood shingle sheathed forms are brought together into one swelling volumetric shape that produces an incredibly strong relationship to its site.

As with great shingle style houses, there is a “plasticity” in the forms of the house that are articulated by wrapping the entire structure in shingle.  Trim details are virtually non-existent (as compared to it’s Colonial counterparts) so as to not interrupt the shingled envelope.  Because of Kragsyde’s size, shape and asymmetry, it cannot be understood from a single static viewpoint.  The plasticity and varied forms need to be experienced by moving around and through the structure.  As opposed to a Colonial house, for example, where you can “make sense” of the house by looking at the front facade, the shingle style house provides a multitude of views - any one view does not give the viewer/user the whole “experience” of the house.

Kragsyde plan low res

A look at the floor plan shows a “V” shaped plan with the broadest face facing the ocean.  This not only maximized the beautiful view, but also captured cool sea breezes with in the house and the many outdoor piazzas that attached to each of the main rooms of the house.

Finally, the (easily) most recognizable feature of the house is the shingled arched porte-cochere.  This beautifully detailed archway, is the focal point of the house as you drive up the entry drive, and once through has a direct view of the water.  This impact of departure and arrival to the house is articulated beautifully with the architecture as it celebrates the cadence of summer life in a summer home.

Unfortunately, Kragsyde was destroyed soon after the owner passed away in 1929.