It may not look like an aircraft, but this house designed for an airplane pilot was conceived as a collection of aeronautical parts and is intended to simulate life in the clouds. Called "a villa for an aviator," the house in New York state was designed as a deconstructed airplane to give the owner the feel of living in spaces that are surrounded by open sky.

"Dis-assembled flight components"

Taking the fuselage as a starting point, the team from Urban Office Architecture considered each component, such as wings and tail, separately and arranged different elements according to spatial accommodation, views and air flow. The final collection of “dis-assembled flight components” is a house that is exposed to wide open views on three sides. Set up on a small hill, the house is also raised further on stacked vertical volumes, creating even grander vistas. As the house is located between a lake and a swimming pool, the outlook from inside the house gives the impression of being surrounded by water below and sky above.

Twist and torque

A house built in homage to aircraft might be expected to follow a streamlined form, however this villa has a deliberately twisted geometry. This “twist and torque,” say the architects, is an effort to simulate the way a plane steers through air currents, while also heading to a destination. The shape also bends the window apertures to accommodate the best views, making the most of the site.

The view from the cockpit

Yet, rather than installing large, flat planes of glass to make the most of the setting, the architects created sharply angled convex/concave windows that recall the pilot’s cockpit, projecting the viewer into the space beyond the walls. From the height of the upper level, the three-dimensional quality also produces a sort of free-fall effect. The windows are mounted on riveted metal frames, recalling the rivets in airplane construction. These are shaded by perforated metal screens, or brise soleils, which are meant to replicate the texture of clouds as they soften harsh direct sunlight and shadow the internal spaces.

Levels and rooms

Arranged in separate, overlapping volumes, the villa is anchored by a ground-floor space on one side, and a rectangular volume raised up on stilts on the other. Theses are separated by an open undercroft below and connected by a bridge of rooms at the upper level. From the tall living and dining area, stairs ascend to an office and bathing area that leads to a den (which spans between the two vertical structures), and the bedroom, which cantilevers over the structure below.

Interior spaces are minimal with the primary impact coming from the unusual window openings and the tall ceilings. The open-plan living/dining/kitchen area rises to a height of 9 m (30 ft). Set on a 12-m (40-ft) cantilever, the master bedroom is designed to create a dynamic atmosphere with the geometry of the large, angular windows and screens on three sides. From here, stairs leads down to the private library, where the owner displays his collections of memorabilia. This room looks onto a wooded area and is a calm meditative space, though still open to lavish amounts of natural sunlight.

According to the architects, the ascent to the bedroom is supposed to signal the final retreat for the day, but from this elevated perch it would be hard not to feel poised for take-off.

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