Tour a Forest Guesthouse That Sleeps 5, But Has No Bedrooms

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The guesthouse was built using high-tech German glass, 3-D-printed models, and actual humans.Photo: Iwan Baan

Steven Holl is one of a handful of global architects who have changed the way we move through cities. (See, for instance, his Linked Hybrid complex in Beijing, which connects eight towers via pedestrian walkways.) Now he’s taken that same spirit of invention to his upstate backyard. It happened when he discovered that a 28-acre piece of land in Rhinebeck down the road from his weekend house was going to be turned into a five-house subdivision. He bought up the property and set about building a 918-square-foot guesthouse, which sits in a clearing in the woods and glows from its space-age windows; the glass orbs seem almost scooped out of the building.

“This house sleeps five, but there are no bedrooms,” Holl says of the unusually meandering, open space, dubbed “Ex of In House,” which was designed to disturb the landscape as little as possible. The goal was to build a passive, hyper-energy-efficient house. This involved geothermal cooling and heating and a flexible solar roof panel, as well as siding made of post-consumer recycled glass. “It’s called Poraver, comes from Germany, and hasn’t been used much in America,” he says. In addition to using high-tech German glass and 3-D-printed models, Holl still relied on actual humans for much of the work: Javier Gomez and his team built the interior sphere in three layers of thin birch plywood that was carved and sanded without machines. They also fabricated the curved windows. “It was all done by hand beautifully,” Holl says.

*This article appears in the October 17, 2016, issue of New York Magazine.