Warsaw, Virginia, USA
Designed by Machado Silvetti, the Menokin Glass House project involves the stabilization, restoration and interpretation of a deteriorated 18th-century plantation home and its grounds, representing what was irreparably lost on the building with glass and a semi-transparent liner.
In the 18th century, the Menokin site became the plantation home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Georgian mansion, built for Lee and his wife in 1769, has been vacant and slowly deteriorating since 1960 and is currently unstable with over 80% of its original material in a state of collapse.
The Menokin Foundation aspires to approach the conservation and interpretation of the house in a truly innovative and revolutionary way. Their philosophy is to stabilize and exhibit the historic fabric that remains, while giving the public a unique understanding of the irreplaceable portions of the artifact, and by representing them with a completely different material; glass.
The project concept proposes to stabilize, preserve and interpret the Menokin House (a National Historic Landmark) and its ancillary buildings and landscape, while featuring the delicate marriage of the “old” and “new.” This approach maintains the distinct characters of “old” and “new” and establishes a necessary synergetic relationship between the formal, environmental and structural interdependence between the two.
Working closely with preservation technology experts and the structural engineering team, Machado Silvetti developed a design strategy that adds three new layers that stabilize, enclose and re-materialize the crumbling structure.
The interdependent relationship between the proposed Liner and the existing historic fabric both structurally and visually allows for a highly efficient and innovative approach to restoration and
Michael Lewis in the Wall Street Journal describes the unique means of experience the Glass House
approach will offer to visitors and the broader historic preservation community: “Its glass planes can be read as solid wall or insubstantial air; look once and you see the house in all its volumetric absoluteness, look again and see the jagged ruin… Menokin, by taking into account what we now understand of the elasticity of visual perception, is our first important postmodern restoration. It is a cannonball flung between the feet of the historic preservation community.”
Architects: Machado Silvetti
Client: The Menokin Foundation