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Butterfly Studio

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Butterfly Studio


A private workshop for art and reflection 

Winner of the 2017 American Architecture Prize. Inspired in part by the closing of a butterfly’s wings and other organic forms, this 350 square-foot art studio and private office for a family home in Westport, Connecticut, provides a serene refuge.


Like shards protruding from the earth, the studio’s angled panels clad in stucco and recycled teak, impart a primitive and futuristic quality at the same time. The structure exploits the potential of glass, wood and steel.


The expansive skylight of steel and thermally-insulated glass eliminates the need for day-lighting, even for an artist. It also creates an airiness despite the confined floor plate. Efficiency is furthered by the sealed poured concrete floor that contains radiant heat piping; one may roll a work desk on wheels throughout the space.

Due to the skylight and narrow windows, there is a strong sense of privacy and being hidden from the rest of the world. The view of changing skies and light create an optimal space for intermittent reflection during artistic production.

Cross-ventilation is achieved by carefully placed windows that capture breezes off the proximate Long Island Sound. A half-bath is included.


Technical Info


Materials: Douglas fir wood framing, steel columns, and beams, low-e-double pane glass, stucco-cladding with trowel-finish, teak wood cladding, new and recycled.


Poured concrete floor with electric (snow-melting) radiant heat; custom windows with aluminum frames both fixed and operable;

custom skylight with aluminum frame.


HVAC: Mitsubishi split-air heating and cooling


Landscape by architect: Colorado blue spruce and azaleas


Zoning limitations for ancillary structure: 350 square feet floor plan; 17 feet max. height to the midpoint of the highest ridge


About Valerie F. Schweitzer Architects
Valerie F. Schweitzer Architects aims to construct inventive spaces that are not just visually arresting, but communicate a central purpose. That purpose might be the light-drenched transporting dimensions of an artist’s studio, or the playfulness of a Los Angeles apartment building.
With her small team, Schweitzer creates bold structures that attempt the shoring up of the human spirit. Principal V.F. Schweitzer’s residential buildings are also efforts to improve and integrate the fabric of the surrounding streets. With her additional training as a painter, Schweitzer integrates textiles, color and lighting into a synchronized assemblage, widening the application of architecture. Schweitzer studied architecture at Princeton University for her Bachelors of Art degree, and UCLA for her Masters of Architecture, receiving honors at both institutions. Her firm is based in New York City.


Photo credit: Tom Leighton
Paul Bartolomeuw

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