written by:
September 24, 2009

In addition to the wonderful letters architect Peter Cohen sent to Editor Aaron Britt while he was working on a feature story on his home, Maison Amtrak, he also sent in drawings of the four other spine-and-module houses he's designed over his career. The first was from 1961 and the most recent from this decade. His draftsmanship is as fine as his letters, and Britt finds himself to be very happy to share them with Dwell's usually floorplan-hungry readership.

Maison Amtrak, Peter and Sally Cohen's home, is the latest of five spine and module houses he's designed. Clipping rooms, decks and the garage onto a central spine makes Cohen's designs high adaptable to different sites.

Maison Amtrak, Peter and Saly Cohen's home, is the latest of five spine and module houses he's designed. Clipping rooms, decks and the garage onto a central spine makes Cohen's designs high adaptable to different sites.

Photo by 
Originally appeared in The Right Track
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The lower level of Maison Amtrak has two studies, storage space and houses the mechanical equipment for the house. The two bathrooms upstairs are directly over the mechanical services, keeping cost and noise down.

The lower level of Maison Amtrak has two studies, storage space and houses the mechanical equipment for the house. The two bathrooms upstairs are directly over the mechanical services, keeping cost and noise down.

Photo by 
Originally appeared in The Right Track
2 / 12
There is a precipitous drop off the deck at Maison Amtrak, though the sloping site meant that either serious excavation or a bit of caution would be needed. The Cohens opted to play it safe, and have a planter of red geraniums that guard the edge of the d

There is a precipitous drop off the deck at Maison Amtrak, though the sloping site meant that either serious excavation or a bit of caution would be needed. The Cohens opted to play it safe, and have a planter of red geraniums that guard the edge of the deck.

Photo by 
Originally appeared in The Right Track
3 / 12
The first spine and module house Peter Cohen designed was this one in 1961 meant for a family in Rochester, New York.

The first spine and module house Peter Cohen designed was this one in 1961 meant for a family in Rochester, New York.

4 / 12
In this house the spine is more of a T-shape than a long corridor. Nonetheless the rooms clamp on to each side with a small terrace out of one room.

In this house the spine is more of a T-shape than a long corridor. Nonetheless the rooms clamp on to each side with a small terrace out of one room.

5 / 12
This elevation photo of the same house from 1961 shows Cohen's fascination with clean, vertical lines and the influence of Japanese design has had on his work.

This elevation photo of the same house from 1961 shows Cohen's fascination with clean, vertical lines and the influence of Japanese design has had on his work.

6 / 12
Viewed from above, the 1961 house appears to be three volumes rising up out of the central T. The terrace provides a counterpoint to the larger rectangular rises of the top floor.

Viewed from above, the 1961 house appears to be three volumes rising up out of the central T. The terrace provides a counterpoint to the larger rectangular rises of the top floor.

7 / 12
This small cottage in Corea, Maine, was designed in 1991 as a seaside getaway for a couple. Here the central spine is a long corridor, another variant on Cohen's flexible system.

This small cottage in Corea, Maine, was designed in 1991 as a seaside getaway for a couple. Here the central spine is a long corridor, another variant on Cohen's flexible system.

8 / 12
The south elevation in Cohen's illustration looks like an agglomeration of building blocks, and the slated roofs which do so much to counteract the weight of a Maine snowload remind one of Robert Venturi's Vanna Venturi house.

The south elevation in Cohen's illustration looks like an agglomeration of building blocks, and the slated roofs which do so much to counteract the weight of a Maine snowload remind one of Robert Venturi's Vanna Venturi house.

9 / 12
This cottage was designed as a summer home in Sorrento, Maine. Cohen says of the property, "Their site was a marvelous sloping, wooded property on the shores of Frenchman Bay facing westerly. One view caught a glimpse of Cadillac Mountain, the other of a

This cottage was designed as a summer home in Sorrento, Maine. Cohen says of the property, "Their site was a marvelous sloping, wooded property on the shores of Frenchman Bay facing westerly. One view caught a glimpse of Cadillac Mountain, the other of a small island."

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The house was not completed to Cohen's specifications though, and later when he ran into his former client, he told him sympathetically, "Peter, your wonderful house how looks like someone left a Hershey bar on a radiator."

The house was not completed to Cohen's specifications though, and later when he ran into his former client, he told him sympathetically, "Peter, your wonderful house how looks like someone left a Hershey bar on a radiator."

11 / 12
The central spine of this 1986 design, also overlooking the ocean in Maine, is more like the one of Maison Amtrak, a boomerang-esque angle. The house was "symmetrical with a bedroom flanking each end, a Japanese farmhouse shaped roof, and my spine, contai

The central spine of this 1986 design, also overlooking the ocean in Maine, is more like the one of Maison Amtrak, a boomerang-esque angle. The house was "symmetrical with a bedroom flanking each end, a Japanese farmhouse shaped roof, and my spine, containing entry, kitchen and bathroom long the inland side."

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Maison Amtrak, Peter and Sally Cohen's home, is the latest of five spine and module houses he's designed. Clipping rooms, decks and the garage onto a central spine makes Cohen's designs high adaptable to different sites.

Maison Amtrak, Peter and Saly Cohen's home, is the latest of five spine and module houses he's designed. Clipping rooms, decks and the garage onto a central spine makes Cohen's designs high adaptable to different sites.

Photo by Mark Mahaney.

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