Construction begins on the Glass House project, a new approach to historic preservation


Construction begins on the Glass House project, a new approach to historic preservation

The Menokin Foundation has started the construction of its “Glass House Project”, a new initiative for the preservation of historical monuments. Protecting what remains of the 1769 house, the intervention will replace the missing walls, floors and roof sections with glass. Designed by Machado Silvetti, in collaboration with glass engineer Eckersley O’Callaghan, and landscape designer Reed Hilderbrand, the project will be developed in phases, to be completed in 2023.

Exterior rendering of the project
Exterior rendering of Menokin’s “glass house project”. Image courtesy of Machado Silvetti

Menokin House, a national monument of original colonial architecture, was the 1769 home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and his wife Rebecca Tayloe Lee. Fallen into disrepair over the past few decades, the National Historic Landmark and stands on 500 acres of open farm fields, forests and waterways in rural North Virginia. One of the best-documented 18th-century homes in the United States, the original architectural designs for the house are still available, making this type of preservation possible.

Interior rendering of Menokin's
Interior rendering of Menokin’s “glass house project”. Image courtesy of Machado Silvetti

Until the Foundation acquired it, Menokin was the only home of a Virginia signatory to the Declaration of Independence threatened with loss to the ravages of time and the elements, […] The Foundation decided it was imperative not only to save what was left of the house, but to develop an innovative way to connect people to the length of history that the house embodies. – Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, Jr, Chairman of the Board of Menokin.

Drawing of Menokin from Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).  Image courtesy of the Menokin Foundation
Drawing of Menokin from Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Image courtesy of the Menokin Foundation

Winner of the “Best of Design Award for Unbuilt> On the Boards” by the Architect’s Newspaper in 2016, the project adopts a new type of restoration method, “”emphasizing the deconstructed architectural elements of the building, revealing what is usually not seen: the restoration and conservation work, the materials used, the methods and craftsmanship involved in 18th century construction”. In fact, once completed in early 2023, visitors will be able to enter the house and physically explore both the remains of the original building and the new spaces. Blending perfectly with the original stone, brick and wood, the glass structure will allow “restore the overall configuration of the building, its footprint and its functions”.

Historical image of Menokin.  Image courtesy of the Menokin Foundation
Historical image of Menokin. Image courtesy of the Menokin Foundation

The Menokin Foundation, founded in 1995 to preserve and interpret the remains of the house, works with the architecture and design firm Machado Silvetti and a team of experts to launch the new approach to historic preservation. The team includes Consigli Construction Co. Inc (construction); DATA Investigations, LLC (archeology); Eckersley O’Callaghan (glass design); Encore Sustainable Architects (historical architect); John Fidler (conservation technology); Reed Hilderbrand (landscape architecture); and Tillotson Design Associates (lighting design).

Aerial view of Menokin.  Image courtesy of the Menokin Foundation
Aerial view of Menokin. Image courtesy of the Menokin Foundation

The glass structure […] will allow visitors to fully understand the original house, to reconstruct its overall configuration, its footprint and its functions, and from the outside as well as from the comfort of the inside, to highlight its relationship with the natural environment . At the same time, it will reveal, up close, what is usually not seen: the restoration and conservation work, the materials used, the methods and craftsmanship involved in local construction. – Jorge Silvetti, main co-founder of Machado Silvetti.



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