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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
HomeAround The WorldCopake Lake House; A mix of Architectural Design with Nature

Copake Lake House; A mix of Architectural Design with Nature

The waterfront building is wrapped in concrete and charred cypress that has vaulted roofs resembling wings.
The global demand for seamlessly integrating architectural design with nature in buildings and structures is on the rise, driven by various factors.  People are placing a greater emphasis on sustainable and eco-friendly practices, aiming to minimise the environmental impact of construction and urban development. Additionally, there is a growing awareness of the influence of built environments on mental health and overall well-being, leading to a preference for architectural designs that harmonise with nature. The Copake Lake House stands as a compelling example that embodies the symphony of design and nature. We will analyse different standout features of the building and what makes it stand out.

Team behind construction of the building

Designed by Desai Chia Architecture PC, led by Katherine Chia and Arjun Desai, the Copake Lake House was a collaborative effort, with Yan Erb and Dustin Heim contributing to the design vision. Landscape architects, Jamie Purinton, also played an important role in seamlessly integrating the structure with its natural surroundings. This architectural marvel has recently been awarded a 2023 Future House Award by Global Design News and The Chicago Athenaeum Museum for Architecture and Design.Wrapped in a sophisticated concrete and charred cypress, the building achieves a delicate balance between aesthetics and functionality. Cantilevered elements of the building not only facilitate a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces but also serve as architectural poetry, providing shade to the outdoor seating areas. The strategic placement of cantilevers is a nod to the surrounding tall oak trees, showcasing an intentional effort to harmonise with the natural landscape. 

How was the foundation and facade used for the building? Key Highlights

The foundation of the building was constructed with cast-in-place concrete, a method that not only ensures structural integrity but also imparts a sense of enduring solidity. This deliberate choice not only serves a practical purpose but becomes an aesthetic statement, emphasising a commitment to both form and function. The method  involves pouring concrete directly on-site, creating a foundation that seamlessly merges with the natural terrain. Moving to the façade, the use of Shou sugi ban siding is a testament to the fusion of tradition and innovation. This ancient Japanese technique involves charring the wood surface, resulting in a visually striking and resilient finish. The lightly charred exterior creates a bespoke texture, elevating the architecture to a level of tailored sophistication that goes beyond mere construction. Douglas fir was used for the building’s overhangs. Based on a series of facade studies, overhangs and windows were strategically placed to reduce solar heat gain and promote cross-ventilation.The interplay of light and shadow on the charred siding, coupled with the unwavering stability of the concrete foundation, brings forth a design that is not just a structure but a visual and tactile experience, embodying the essence of material elegance.

Vaulted Roof Design used for the building

Ascending to new architectural heights, the Copake Lake House features a vaulted roof that adds a dimension of elegance to its design. The vaulted roof, with its arched or domed shape, not only introduces aesthetic appeal but also creates lofty and expansive interiors. This design choice goes beyond visual impact, enhancing structural integrity and redefining the spatial experience within the building. Running alongside the house is a carport with a large roof “attic”, which contains storage space for sports and gardening equipment. The carport’s gravel surface allows rainwater to soak into the soil.
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For vaulted roof Shou sugi ban siding has been used

Design and Materials used for Building’s Interior 

The interiors of the Copake Lake House speak a language of their own, expressing a harmonious blend of materials and structural elements. Each space unfolds as a canvas, inviting occupants to immerse themselves in a sensory journey within the carefully curated spaces.The second level of the building incorporates windows that offer framed views, ensuring they don’t distract from the vaulted, winged forms of the roof. A strategically placed upper window orchestrates sunlight to traverse crisscrossing members, creating a dynamic interplay of light during the late afternoon and early evening. This artful illumination enhances the overall ambiance, adding a touch of warmth to the living spaces.The ground level includes a sunken living room designed to create a feeling of being nestled within the water. This intentional lowering enhances expansive views from the dining room above. Additionally, the ground level houses a guest suite and provides access to a partly sheltered deck that descends toward the lake. One corner of the deck is occupied by a seamlessly blended hot tub.
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Woods used for building interiors
Wood is a prominent feature in both the exterior and interior. The wooden interiors include three bedrooms upstairs, with one situated in a volume that cantilevers 15 feet over a terrace below. A carport running alongside the house features a large roof “attic” providing storage space for sports and gardening equipment. The carport’s gravel surface allows rainwater to soak into the soil.
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Douglas fir beams used in the kitchen
Within the kitchen, Douglas fir beams run parallel, serving as lighting baffles that direct golden light onto the kitchen island. In the living and dining area, the structural system of the ceiling is left exposed, contributing to the overall harmony with the landscape.Beyond the building, the team incorporated rain gardens and rip-rap swales to help with stormwater management – an important addition given that the site is vulnerable to flooding and erosion. Moreover, the lakefront was restored to help support wildlife, and beneficial plants were added to the property.“Since the clients are avid gardeners, additional vegetation was planted to support habitats for bees and other pollinators,” Desai Chia Architecture team said.

Know-how about different methods and materials used for the building 

Douglas fir- A type of evergreen coniferous tree native to western North America. It belongs to the Pinaceae family and is known for its tall stature, straight trunk, and needle-like leaves. It is often used in various applications, including building materials, furniture, and decorative elements.

Cantilever design- A design where a beam or a horizontal member is supported at one end, while the other end extends freely into space. This design allows for overhanging structures without the need for additional support columns. Cantilevers are commonly used in various architectural and engineering applications, such as balconies, canopies etc. 

Vaulted roof- A Roof design that features an arched or curved shape, creating a continuous, curved surface. This design is often associated with architectural styles such as Gothic or Romanesque. Vaulted roofs can take various forms, including barrel vaults, groyne vaults, or domes. 

Rain Gardens and Rip-Rap Swales for Stormwater Management- Rain gardens, with their native vegetation, help absorb and filter runoff, reducing pollutants. Rip-rap swales, lined with rocks, control erosion and slow water flow, preventing soil loss. 


The Copake Lake House serves as a remarkable example of harmonising architectural design with nature. Through meticulous composition, thoughtful material selection, and a dedication to sustainability, it not only stands as a building but encapsulates the spirit of material elegance and a holistic approach to living.References- globaldesignnews.com,dezeen.com, archdaily.com


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