Wild Watchtower: Defensible Forest Studio & Library Space


New York normally conjures images of modern materials and defensible spaces, but in urban contexts – skyscrapers in the city, not retreat cubes in the forested mountains found upstate.

Designed by regional architect Peter Gluck, the heavy base and open-on-all-sides windows above are reminiscent of the sold-and-void relationship of classic watchtowers found in the wilderness, but made of rigorous steel and concrete rather than rough timber.

Nature is fully accessible through a cascading glazing system – sliding windows sit one in front of the next so that entire corners can be easily opened to the exterior.

Bookcases, couches, desks and other surfaces are all matched in level to the lower edge of the windows, preventing any visual obstructions to the outside. The use of unobtrusive white and gray likewise focus the eye back outside while wooden stairs and floors add a little life underfoot.

No glazing can be found on the first level, but thin and round metal columns on the second story make for full 360-degree views where it matters most. This lofted level lets an occupant enjoy the outside, but also see anyone on approach and feel safe via a level of removal from the forest floor (providing physical protection against the elements as well as psychological distance). In a sense, it works on both the conventional and architectural (or: natural and urban) definitions of defensible space – addressing wildfire dangers and fear of predators, human or otherwise.

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