Two Brothers Create Twin Houses That Riff On Their Shared Blood

We have no idea if the brothers who own Twins — a pair of fiercely minimal vacation houses in upstate New York — fight or not. But if they do, then boy, has architect William O’Brien Jr. given them a superb remedy.

The houses are virtually identical but appear totally different on the outside. If that sounds like a bunch of nonsense, just click through the drawings in our slideshow above, and it’ll start to make sense. Basically, the Cambridge-based architect (also an assistant prof at MIT) pieced together five architectural volumes — one triangle and four trapezoids — two distinct ways, as if he were playing a dissection puzzle with the floorplan. That created two buildings, one shaped like a square, the other like a hexagon. But because the volumes within each building are the same, just arranged differently, the houses have the exact same square footage and the same geometric composition. The volumes are even designed to do roughly the same things. The triangle, for instance, is used as a porch in both houses. In short, they’re twins but also… not.

The upshot is that neither brother can accuse the other of selfishly hoarding space! At the same time, each house is unique enough to conform to the brothers’ individual identities. (To wit: One brother wanted an internal porch and sun room, so O’Brien placed the triangle smack dab in the middle of the square-shaped house. The other brother wanted an outdoor porch, so the triangle makes up two edges of the hexagon-shaped house.) It’s the perfect architecture for mollifying sibling rivalry: separate but very, very equal.

[Images courtesy of William O’Brien] SL