The City in the House

210505 Site Plan Venice March 28 2021 in

The City in the House

Preston Scott Cohen

Image credit : Steven Kosovac

Harvard University



Counterintuitive as it would seem, it is possible to conceive of a freestanding house that is deeply infused with urbanity. Alberti’s theory, that the house is a miniature city and the city a gigantic house, stands out as the most significant analogical hypothesis in architecture. The idea is most evident when the house is composed of individual rooms and corridors, a morphology that abstractly represents buildings and streets.  This type of house can also be an allegory of architecture.  The domicile composed of distinct spaces, dedicated to the most personal and celebratory of rituals, rehearses the architectural dialectic between the individual and the collective and thus analogizes the civic institutions in which a diversity of functions are aggregated.

In Truro House 1, 2021, the civic assumes the form of a displaced street intersection fused with a Latin cross church, a building type that performed as a crossroads under a ceiling that depicted the sky in the figure of the cross. Truro House originates from two decidedly different narratives; while its principal space on the main level evokes a crossroads between four discrete Cape Cod cottage-like volumes, the ceiling represents a unified whole that emanates from a center and is subdivided. When a crossroads is architecturally analogized by a freestanding house, it simultaneously evokes Palladio’s Villa Rotunda and the Arch of Janus in Rome, the only surviving crossroads covered by a quadrifrons triumphal arch.