Today's vacation homes are planned to make people feel they are roughing it outdoors, with sliding partitions and large windows minimizing the separation between the trees inside and the forest just beyond the decks. John Rogers, the 37-year-old Cape Cod sailor above, is an architect who has a distinctive approach to this contemporary theme. He works in wood, often in inexpensive and shaggy lumber left to weather in the wind, and combines a naturalist's viewpoint with a distaste for anything fussy, nervous or illogical. The house at left has a living room in which two exterior walls roll away, leaving the roof supported by a tree that rises through the structure.
All of Rogers' work shows a deep respect for the New England countryside, and site invariably dictates the shape of his houses. This home, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Peter Berle of New York City and located in Massachusetts on a hillside in the Berkshires, has only one story, yet its five rooms are on six different levels. It bends with the land, facing north and east for the view, but the sharp curve insures that it does not turn its back on the sun. The Berles built their weekend house themselves, including a huge poured-concrete bathtub with the name Sky Farm emblazoned on it in blue tiles. They were assisted by George Bergman, a 72-year-old Finnish carpenter, who took one exception to the Rogers design. He insisted that expensive woods be used instead of roughhewn materials and the plywood that Rogers had suggested for some of the interior walls. Hence the redwood exterior (rather than pine), walnut doors and wide oak floorboards. The free-form roof, which appears to have the delicacy of a bird in flight, could carry the weight of a railroad train, and five tree trunks that come up through the floors support the rafters. The trees are shown as dots in the sketch at right: two maples in the kitchen, two cherry trees in the living room and an ash in the master bedroom. The house has three fireplaces made from fieldstone found on the land.
Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Voorhees wanted privacy in this weekend home in West Stockbridge, Mass., so Rogers, an architect who welcomes the thoughts of owners, divided the structure into a series of independent living levels.
The Berle house steps upward in a spiral, ending with a dramatic tower, and Thai temple bells decorate the roof. The grounds are largely untended, in accordance with Rogers' happy theory that nature is the best landscaper.
October 16, 1966