the ‘tsai residence’, an upstate new york retreat designed by HHF architects and ai weiwei, is currently on the market for $5.25 million. originally conceived for two art collectors, the property was completed in 2008 and was joined three years later by a guest house — an independent structure on the same site completed by the same design team. described as a ‘simple abstract figure’, the main dwelling comprises four equally sized boxes that are connected to each other with small passageways.

ai weiwei tsai residence
image © iwan baan (also main image)

 

 

clad in corrugated galvanized iron, the residence boasts a typical american balloon frame construction. although the material that clads the building is reminiscent of agricultural utility buildings, its vertical corrugations and noticeable shine lend it a more noble character. furthermore, HHF and ai weiwei allowed the horizontal edges of the corrugated iron sheets to overlap, subtly articulating the wall structure.

ai weiwei tsai residence
image © iwan baan

 

 

internally, the floor plan contradicts the austere outer form with the four rational volumes dissolving into generously proportioned living and exhibition spaces. ‘the rooms of differing heights are arranged on a line that passes through the house via two small staircases in the form of a loop,’ explains the design team. ‘the dominating fireplace and the materials are oriented toward the great predecessors in 20th century american architecture.’

ai weiwei tsai residence
image © iwan baan

 

 

the brief for the guest house, which was completed at a later date, asked for three main elements: a bedroom, a workroom, and a gallery for artwork. these programs are contained within a Y-shaped floor plan — a gesture that both links these elements at isolated points and defines the building’s overall appearance. standing as a visual counterpoint to the main residence, the guest house is clad with corrugated corten steel. a material that rusts over time to blend with the landscape.

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © nikolas koenig

 

 

as each of the three main rooms offers a different perspective of the extensive grounds surrounding the structure, the landscape also plays a major role internally. the entire property, which spans 37 acres, is currently listed for $5.25 million. see more projects by the residence’s design team, basel-based architecture firm HHF and chinese artist ai weiwei, on designboom here and here respectively.

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © nikolas koenig

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

ai weiwei + HHF-designed upstate new york retreat goes on sale for $5.25 million
image © iwan baan

 

 

project info:

 

name: tsai residence
project: HHF and ai weiwei
location: ancram, new york, USA
design phase and construction: 2005 – 2008
team: herlach hartmann frommenwiler, with tom strub, bhavana hameed, fumiko takahama, magnus zwyssig
general contractor, cabinetry and installation: reed contracting services, germantown, NY
structural engineering and construction management: proper & o’leary engineering dpc, valatie, NY
windows and doors: case window & door, green island, NY
usable floor area: 375  sqm/ 4,000 sqf
building height: 8.5 m (27.8 ft)
client: private
award: american architecture award 2009
photography: iwan baan, nikolas koenig

 

name: guest house
project: HHF and ai weiwei
location: ancram, new york, USA
design and construction: 2009 – 2011
team: herlach hartmann frommenwiler, with mio tsunemaya, madeleine kessler, jeff mansfield
general contractor, cabinetry and installation: ​reed contracting services, germantown, NY
structural engineering and construction management: proper & o’leary engineering dpc, valatie, NY
windows and doors: case window & door, green island, NY
client: private
photography: iwan baan
award: american architecture award 2013