Smith House

One of the most iconic modernist homes in America definitively established a new vocabulary for residential architecture.


Built amidst the rocks and trees of a one-and-a-half-acre site, the Smith House overlooks Long Island Sound from the Connecticut coast. A dense cluster of evergreens stands at the entrance to the property. Behind, the land clears and rises to the center of the site, then drops sharply to the rocky shoreline and a small, sandy cove. Every detail of the house has been designed in careful response to this remarkable context, ensuring that changing light and weather conditions activate its clear glazing and crisp white surfaces, fostering an ongoing dialogue between the house and its natural surroundings. 




The spatial organization of this house hinges on a programmatic separation between public and private areas. The private side of the house is at the entrance, which faces inland toward a wooded area. Conceived as a series of closed, cellular spaces, the private areas on this side of the house are organized into three levels behind an opaque facade, which is intermittently pierced with windows. The public spaces, where the family meets and entertains, are to the rear of the house, overlooking the water. This public zone consists of three levels nestled within a three-sided glass enclosure; from the outside, the ground and upper levels appear as solid slabs held fast in the white mullions of the glass shell.

The dramatic view of sea and sky that greets one upon entering is framed and intensified in the transparent skin of the rear facade. Placed directly opposite the entry, a painted brick fireplace pushes to the outside through the tight frame of mullions. Suspended between the chimney and the steel structural columns, the glazed wall creates a subtle tension that draws the occupant across the living space to the outside. The balustrades of the lower and upper levels are set back from the glass, amplifying that tension.