Arc House: An Architect Embraces the 21st Century

A view of the Arc House from the driveway shows the original design with the flat-roofed sleeping quarters behind it. Matthew Carbone

    When Robert Stansel and Tammy Marek of Portland, Ore., saw a rendering of what an architect hoped to build on property on Green Hollow Road in East Hampton, they were intrigued. Three years later, Maziar Behrooz’s Arc House is almost finished. The couple have been living in it since last winter, although they travel back and forth to the West Coast.
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    An arch, which needs no weight-bearing columns, has been used in buildings for thousands of years — from ancient Rome to today’s airports. But, Mr. Behrooz said, it had not been used in contemporary residences except for emergency shelters in areas hit by natural disasters.
    The East Hampton architect had been interested in how industrial construction could be adapted for housing and decided to give the arch a try. When he showed the previous owner of the Green Hollow property a picture of an airplane hangar, with no front or back but the nose of an F-16 sticking out of it, its potential was apparent.
    To be able to build such a house, however, he needed a client for whom industrial design and materials were not taboo. Mr. Stansel and Ms. Marek wanted something contemporary, but were ready to pare down. The result is a house that is made primarily of concrete and glass with a corrugated metal roof. “It was so different from what you’d normally see in a contemporary house,” Ms. Marek said in a recent interview.
    “I can’t think of any builder locally or nationally who had done what we wanted to do,” Mr. Behrooz said. “On paper we said this should really work, and then when it really did work, it was fascinating to see. On the one hand it spoiled me tremendously . . . I’m really grateful that, after seeing other work I had done, they trusted me enough to complete the project. It’s given me tremendous confidence in continuing. I think it’s the way to go in the future,” he said.
    Together, Mr. Behrooz and his clients developed and refined the concept. “We probably spent a good year working on the plans with Maziar, back and forth,” Ms. Marek said. “We flipped a few things, added a guest suite, bathroom, and powder room . . . we added a big walk-in closet . . . the kitchen design was different.”
    With three acres of undulating land and 3,200 square feet on each of what was planned as two levels, there was a lot to work on.
    The more public spaces — the living room, kitchen, and dining room — are under the arch, which is made of stainless steel and has 14 “ribs.” Mr. Behrooz described the structure as “like a slice of a Quonset hut.”
    The private spaces are in a flat-roofed wing behind the arch, containing a master suite with a fireplace, a guest suite, two bathrooms, and closets. Visible outside the master suite is a 1,200-pound plinth-like stone from an Alaskan glacier that Mr. Stansel discovered in Portland. They also are planning a Zen garden outside the master bathroom.
    The couple planted a vegetable garden between the arch and the bedroom wing and a terraced garden between the house and the garage, which juts out to one side of it at a lower level and has a succulent garden on its roof. They also had the Bayberry Nursery plant Chinese temple trees, a cut-leaf red Japanese maple, thread- branched cypresses, moss juniper groundcover, and, as screening, native white pine.
    The driveway uses Belgian block stones set far enough apart to allow grass to grow between them, and to help it appear as part of the landscape rather than a roadway. The finishing touches and a swimming pool should be completed by next summer.
    The livable spaces on the lower level have two more bedrooms, another bathroom, a media room, an open gallery hung with large paintings, Ms. Marek’s study, a storage area, a linen closet with washer-dryer, as well as a gym, steam room, and sauna. The owners also plan a wine cellar off the gallery.
    Ms. Marek designed the bathrooms and closets and chose some of the interior materials, such as the flooring, doors, and stairs, which are of Oregon black walnut. The kitchen was designed by a Portland firm, with cabinets from Toronto.
    A floating staircase cantilevered off a cement slab on one side with cables on the other leads to the lower level. The ground was pulled away at different points there, Mr. Behrooz said, to allow for light and air.
    “It is a traditional technique using underground spaces — the cool air goes up in the center of the arc, and, because of the shape, a natural convection path is creContinued from C1
ated and the air is pushed sideways and down again.” A geothermal system regulates the temperature and humidity.
    “We use very little propane,” Ms. Marek said, “and we have very small bills for such a big space, about $600 a month.” Filters in the utilities room are changed every four months and there are thermostats in the living room, kitchen, and master suite. The couple chose LED lighting because of its efficiency, and Ms. Marek decided on radiant heat for the bathrooms and steam room.
    There is a catch basin that doubles as a reflecting pool at the base of each end of the arch and cisterns to capture rainwater that is then filtered and brought into the house. Some of it goes on the grass and gardens while keeping the Suffolk County Water Authority bill low.
    “It’s very comfortable,” Ms. Marek said. “There were a few other things we wanted to get to, but we ran out of time last year.” Ms. Marek said she likes the loft-like feeling provided by the arch. “You’d think from the outside it would be more industrial but it’s not, really.”
    “Doing things the old-fashioned way is not recognizing all sorts of opportunities, technologies, and materials that are nowadays available,” Mr. Behrooz said. “I don’t know if the Shingle Style is still the preferred aesthetic. I’m not getting calls about that anymore. It’s the 21st century. We can’t build the way we did in the 19th and 18th centuries, and, to be green, people know that you have to explore different things.”