Wright designed Dragon Rock with architect David Leavitt, whose work on diplomatic housing in Japan impressed Wright while he was there working with the state department helping the Japanese to build an export market for their handicrafts. However, Wright and Leavitt disagreed on certain pragmatic aspects of construction, and Wright’s insistence that the home be built down into the quarry wall has resulted in issues of adequate drainage. Construction is currently under way to seal the envelope of the house and protect it from further water damage.
The home is a fusion of the indoors and outdoors. “I love [this land] so much that I wish the shelter to blend with the landscape and be an unshocking contrast with it,” Wright said of the house around 1958, a year after construction began. “Therefore, I will make it of the rock to be found here, of the lumber to be found here; and I will cover it with vines that are native.”
Boulders form walls and fireplaces, pocket windows drop down to blur the lines of interior and exterior. Wright was always looking for contrast, in nature and in the home, and he delighted in using natural materials like white pine, autumn leaves and hemlock needles next to the manmade such as formica, styrofoam and fiberglass.
“Russell wanted to show that you could have a very personal house and you didn’t have to use very expensive materials to do it,” says Kitty McCullough, executive director of the Russel Wright Design Center. His sensitivity to contrast included changing framed art, window dressings, and even cabinet fronts according to season – reds and oranges in winter, white in summer.
It’s also a testament to one man’s quest to reconcile a modern, comfortable lifestyle with honoring and enjoying nature. “This was an industrial wasteland,” says McCullough. “Russell reclaimed it as a garden to show us how.”
Visiting information: 22 Old Manitou Rd., Garrison. Open to the public May through October, guided tours offered on weekends and selected weekdays, cost $15 and requires reservations. Hikers are welcome on the trails during daylight any time of year, a donation of $5 is asked for trail maintenance. Contact the Russel Wright Design Center at 845-424-3812 or visit russelwrightcenter.org.
Kelly Kingman is a freelance writer living in Beacon. Her latest project is stickyebooks.com.
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