A modern testament to the harmonious coexistence of nature and architecture, Russel Wright’s Manitoga sits nestled amid the woodlands of New York’s Hudson River Valley. After Wright, an industrial designer, acquired the 75-acre property in 1942, he went about designing and experimenting with different elements, the focal point of which is a former quarry. In the 1960s, Wright built a house and studio directly into the side of the quarry, collectively referred to as “Dragon Rock.” Manitoga, which means “place of great spirit,” is an integrated landscape encompassing the house, studio, and grounds, and was Wright’s residence until his death in 1976. Wright blurred the traditional boundary between interior and exterior through the use of large areas of glass and by incorporating materials found on the site into the house. Innovative construction methods and details exemplify his philosophy of domestic efficiency and economy of space.
In 2001 the not-for-profit Manitoga, Inc. acquired full ownership of the property. Following the purchase, the group initiated conservation efforts and opened the site to the public for tours. The landscape has suffered from invasive non-native plants and the negative effects of storm-water. The house and studio have been damaged by water infiltration, and conservation work has been hampered due to the array of unusual materials used in Wright’s experimental composition. The complete restoration of Manitoga will ensure the preservation of Wright’s legacy in the annals of American design, promote community engagement at the site, and communicate Wright’s philosophy of living in harmony with nature, a message even more poignant today.
Watch Day 2012
For Watch Day at Manitoga, students from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design participated in a conservation field school on site. The group assisted in restoring an outdoor space and learned about the challenges of preserving the house and its landscape.