House VI by Peter Eisenman sits on a gorgeous old New England lane wedged between a steep ravine and a manicured working farm field. The thin grey and white planes of the 1975 structure first appear, as one enters the property, like a squared-off architectural exclamation point without an obvious entrance and little if any relationship to its site. But the exterior walls, thin light wells, and larger glass sheets that function not as windows to frame a view but as transparent walls make the building seem not like a residence—which of course it is—as much as an architectural model. This iconic building, commissioned by Suzanne and Dick Frank in 1972 and lived in as a weekend getaway since that time, is now for sale. The asking price is $1.4 million and, according to realtor Steven Drezen, the house has had several inquiries from “high net worth collectors” of architectural masterworks. The Franks and Drezen are marketing the house as an artwork. This is a residence that makes no concessions to daily bourgeois experience, but requires—or forces—its inhabitants to bend to its rigid, Spartan plan.
The compact, taut spaces of House VI feel like a small New York duplex apartment. They all come together around a famous green staircase and adjacent false stairs painted bright red that disappear into the ceiling. The house does have its charms, like the light slits that come down the wall and continue along the floor, back up again, and across the ceiling. Eisenman meant the structure to challenge our notions of domesticity and it does. A meal at the kitchen table is interrupted by false columns placed so that any conversation must happen around the vertical impediments—one can barely see the people at the end of the table. While changing my clothes to use the house’s elegant swimming pool I looked down to see that a glass slit across the floor exposed me to the downstairs living room as nearly as much as Paul Rudolph’s famed Beekman Place tub ceiling. While it take a special client to keep this architectural folly a working residence, it has to be said that the Franks have spent a lifetime living in the house they commissioned, trying to come to terms with its toughness (for example, the only bathroom must be entered through the bedroom, for which there is no door). They are trying to preserve it and find a buyer who will not tear it down. House VI is built on the foundations of a much older house that was torn down to make way for it, so perhaps its fate is to become a memory of an idea and an intellectual concept.