Anyone who asks Jim Cutler to design a home faces three facts. First, he’s a disciple of Louis Kahn, having studied with him for a year in 1974. Second, the homes he designs belong as much to him as to their owners. And third, he’s an artist.
Just ask clients Brent Habig and Ana Eccles. “He didn’t mince his words,” Ana says about the 67-year-old architect. “He said, ‘At this point in my life, I’m leaving a legacy.’”
The couple bought his pitch. “At the end of the day, if there was an aesthetic call, who were we?” Brent says. In fact, they are owners of 91 rural Pennsylvania acres, located just 50 miles from where Cutler grew up. In 2011, they surveyed the property with the architect, planting stakes at a number of sites.
Cutler drew up a different house for each, recalling from his youth the region’s vernacular—especially the crisp white barns nestled into lush green landscapes. They would inspire the form of the couple’s new 2,800-square-foot home.
It’s designed to capture natural light, but also to cool interiors on hot summer days, using tall, sliding shutters that can cover the two-story home’s windows from floor to ceiling.
“They’re five-and-a-half-inch red cedar boards with inch-and-a-half spacing, nineteen feet tall,” Cutler says.
Seen from a distance, the structure looks like any other barn. “But when you get close,” notes Cutler, “you say, ‘Whoa! What is that?’” The answer’s easy: It’s a place-driven, Kahn-inspired work of art, designed by a devoted student.