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Sagaponack home's novel design 'celebrates' flooding

Architects designed the Kiht'han House, a contemporary home

Architects designed the Kiht'han House, a contemporary home in Sagaponack, as a series of pavilions connected by enclosed walkways, so water can flow between them, making flooding a nonevent. Credit: Bates Masi + Architects

If the water’s going to keep coming, why not embrace the reality and go with the flow?

Such was the thinking in designing Kiht’han House, a contemporary home in Sagaponack, notable for its unusual design.

Normally you try to have a horizontal feel to a house, blending it into the landscape, explains Aaron Weil, project architect for Bates Masi Architects, the East Hampton firm that designed the home, which they named, “Kiht’han” after the Mohegan Native American word for ocean. In this case, they couldn’t hide the height of the house.

“So, we decided to celebrate it instead with these separate pavilions, almost like towers that are connected by enclosed walkways,” explains Weil. “And the water can actually flow between them. It reduces the water pressure if there is moving water under the house from wave action: It dissipates the pressure because the water can flow between these volumes. Instead of one big wall that it’s pushing against, it’s flowing between these smaller volumes.”

One pavilion became the entertainment area: kitchen, living room and dining room with an upper level master suite. The two-story, quartet of guest bedrooms became the second pavilion and a circulation area in between the two encompasses the foyer, mudroom, elevator and stairs that lead to a second floor family room. Two glass bridges on the second level connect the pavilions.

The steel and wood framed home is sided with Alaskan yellow cedar, which Weil describes as “a take on traditional barn board and batten siding.”

Bates Masi has designed a number of homes on sensitive sites “because the best views are on sites that are often vulnerable to flooding and on bluffs and low lying areas that are flood-prone,” says Weil, adding that this was the first time they endeavored to make an advantage out of the flooding potential, due to the home’s proximity to the shore on a low-lying area.

Noting that there are many other waterfront homes that are elevated, due to FEMA requirements, Weil says their solution makes a unique experience out of the flooding.

“I think we all have to come up with a new language and a new way of dealing with what’s only going to become a more common issue for these challenged sites along the water,” he says. “So, I think there’s something to be learned from it.”

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