T House Simon Ungers Tom Kinslow construction ArchEyes corner
© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold

T-House is located in Wilton, NY, about three hours north of New York City. It was commissioned by an aspiring author who wanted a country retreat to store his 10,000 books. Ungers, and his business partner Tom Kinslow, came up with a cross-bar design with the library covering the immense top floor, a nod to the owner’s true passion.

T-House Technical Information

The configuration of the building is an interpretation of the client’s functional requirements, incorporating the site’s topography. The required separation of living and working areas is translated into two linear spaces stacked vertically and perpendicular to each other, connected by a square transition (entry) space. Access occurs on top of the partially buried residence at the center of the building.

T-House Photographs

© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold
© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold
© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold
© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold

Text by the Architects

The T-House is a residence and library, accommodating over 10,000 volumes for a writer. The client’s primary functional request was a clear distinction be­tween living (residence) and working (library) areas. Utilitarian com­ponents, such as kitchen and bathrooms, were to be kept to a minimum of square footage.

The client imposed no formal or material guidelines or constraints. The site is a forty-acre property located in upstate New York, three hours north of New York City. The building itself is situated adjacent to a former sand excavation pit. The topography is, therefore, partially artificial. The site’s slope is towards the south, offering a view of the Berkshire Mountains. The residential part of the building is oriented east-west; the library is north-south. The site is densely wooded on the west side of the building and clear on the east side.

The configuration of the building is an interpretation of the client’s functional requirements, incorporating the site’s topography. The required separation of living and working areas is translated into two linear spaces stacked vertically and perpendicular to each other, connected by a square transition (entry) space. Access occurs on top of the partially buried residence at the center of the building.

The library is a double-story space. The accommodation of both a view and bookshelves is critical to the library’s design. This condition is solved by vertical separating the reading/working area from the shelving. The shelving system is conceived as an independent steel structure, including a wrap-around mezzanine, sus­pended from the ceiling, creating a column-free reading/working space. Repetitive eight-foot high openings at two-foot intervals surround the entire reading/working area, providing a segmented panoramic view.

T House Construction Photographs

© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold
© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold
© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold
© Eduard Hueber & Lydia Gold

In contrast to the vertical character of the library, the residential space is horizontal. It consists of one space with separate areas (dining, living, sleeping) defined by core elements (kitchen, chimney, bathroom) independent of the enclosure; essentially a linear, symmetrical free plan. To further articulate the difference between the two main spaces, the fenestration of the residence is conceptually and spatially the reverse of the library.

The library is the residence upside-down, and vice versa. An internal shutter system controls the light in both spaces. The shutters are part of a two-foot modular panel system, creating a continuous, uninterrupted interior when shut. The exterior shell is a steel-frame construction with a 1/4 inch weathering steel plate, seam welded, and ground. Because the thickness of the steel plate contributes to the structural integrity of the building, relatively light steel channels were used for the frame. The entire steel shell is vented to avoid oxidation and eventual corrosion. The shell was prefabricated in six parts at a local factory.

It was then delivered to the site on flatbed trucks and assembled on top of a concrete foundation. The final welding and grinding were done on site. The dimensional accuracy (zero tolerance) of the six parts and the sharpness of all corners were highly critical to the construction. The tensile strength of steel allows the 19-foot cantilevers of the library and the suspended mezzanine.

Because the shell requires no expansion joints, a homo­genous, maintenance-free surface is achieved, contrib­uting to the monolithic appearance of the building. The construction of the shell is similar to that of a ship’s hull. The interior is a wood frame with 3/4-inch plywood veneer panels (tongue and groove). Because of the different expansion rates of wood and steel, the wood frame is structurally independent of the steel frame. The panels are separated by a 1/4-inch joint and screwed to the wood frame. As opposed to the exterior, the interior deliberately emphasizes the construction.

The library shelving, mezzanine, stairs, and windows are all black enamel steel. Steel grating was used for the shelving, mezzanine, and stairs to create maximum visual transparency. The kitchen and bathroom fixtures are stainless steel components from prison and commercial supplies. 

T House Plans

Site Plan T House | © Simon Ungers & Tom Kinslow
Floor Plans | © Simon Ungers & Tom Kinslow
Elevation & Section T House | © Simon Ungers & Tom Kinslow

About Simon Ungers

Simon Ungers was born in 1957 in Cologne, the son of the architect Oswald Mathias Ungers and Liselotte Gable. In 1969, his family moved to the United States. From 1975 to 1980, he studied architecture at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Ungers worked in New York and Cologne. He gained attention with Tom Kinslow for constructing T-House, a home made of Cor-ten in Wilton, New York. He also designed the Cube House in Ithaca, New York.

In 1995, he was one of two first-prize winners in a competition to design the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, but his design was not selected in a tie-breaker vote. Later neither of the two winning designs was chosen, but a new competition was held.

Ungers taught at Harvard University, Syracuse University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Cornell University, and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Works from Simon Ungers 

  1. Collaborators: T. Ogorzaleck,
  2. Engineers: Ryan & Biggs Associates
  3. Contractor: STS Inc., Regenerative Building Construction
Cite this article: "T-House in Wilton / Simon Ungers + Thomas Kinslow" in ArchEyes, June 19, 2022, https://archeyes.com/t-house-in-wilton-simon-ungers-thomas-kinslow/.