Manitoga, hidden within nature

Traven Tong

After delving into the 1700s at the Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, NY, we arrived at the site of Manitoga. We were able to catch a quick breath and picnic lunch, surrounded by nature, before the tour. After a hearty lunch, we head off to a small shack nearby that provided us with a brief explanation on Manitoga and Russel Wright.

Before entering the studio, we were guided through a scenic path where glimpses of the house could be seen. Covered by rocks and trees, the house was well integrated into the background, almost camouflaging itself using a green roof. In no way did the house seem obstructive to the environment.

As natural it may seem, the landscape was meticulously sculpted to Wright’s imagination, imitating a theater opening and closing as you traverse the path. Even the rocks of the waterfall were strategically placed to create a Quarry pool. Once you exit the path, you are confronted by the studio where Wright worked and slept. 

Upon entering the studio, the first thing you will notice is the scale of the studio. It provides the simple necessities that Wright would need as he was designing. The design of the house and furniture tells a story about Wright. It focused on ornamentation through natural materials and abstract art in attempt to introduce organic shapes. The use of this would express the juxtaposition between synthetic and natural materials. The studio is filled with intricate details, one being a window that opened downward into a sill, hidden from sight when opened. There is a quality of function and efficient design that could only be experienced in person.

The next part of Manitoga is the house where the rest of Wrights family would normally stay. Taking your first step inside, the landscape follows along. Looking at the ceiling, you could tell that Wright was influenced by Japanese architecture introducing natural forms into the house. Large panels of glass illuminate the interior while light is scattered along the walls through the native plants embedded into them. Walking down a stair made of rocks brings you to the kitchen which showcases Wrights line of China and custom made chairs that would be stable on an irregular slab of rock. The house changes along with the seasons; having bright white counter-tops and cabinet drawers during the summer to vibrant red during the winter. It would normally take three days to switch them over. Knowing that, it would be a different experience coming back during the winter. Moving onward, you may begin to see other intricate details along the way. It may be the butterflies pressed between sheets of translucent plastic, or if you have a good eye for woodworking, you will notice bow tie joints along the sill. The house shows a great deal of craftsmanship, all which brings you to an art gallery. Here, you will see unique paintings done by Peter Bynum. The techniques he used to create these pieces of art was pressing acrylic paint in between glass and releasing the pressure to create beautiful organic forms. The tour concluded after the gallery, and we were ready to head to our next destination, The Storm King Art Center.

Manitoga will go back on my list of places to visit, or to just hike on their public trails. There is a lot to offer if you enjoy being surrounded by nature, though I would recommend that you bring a can of bug spray.

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