Life on the Edge, Dominican Republic
Words by Juliet Austin. Photography by Paul Warchol.
There can be no more exhilarating location on earth than Casa Kimball's enviable cliff top vantage. With awe-inspiring panoramas out over the Atlantic Ocean - a landscape of sky and sea and crashing waves, where the solitary courting songs of migrating Humpback whales blow in on the breeze – there is a tangible sense of being poised in the delicate balance between earth and the heavens, stuck in the giddying moment before stepping off the edge of the world. With architectural and interior design by New York-based pacesetter, Jasmit Rangr of Rangr Studio, Casa Kimball pays tribute to the ‘impossible beauty’ of its location in Cabrera on the Dominican Republic’s rugged, rural north coast.
Inspired by modernists who were also classicists, – American, Louis Kahn and German-born Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the mastermind behind what was coigned ‘skin and bones’ architecture – Rangr’s architectural scheme evolved in response to a site extraordinaire, aspiring to create structural order with minimal presence. With its strong aesthetic, the residence celebrates volume and light, with interior spaces extending outward to embrace nature, and nature, in turn, flooding in to create a breathtaking fluidity of space that speaks to freedom and interconnection. Situated on a three-acre arrowhead cliffside promontory that imbues the property with a Titanic-esque romanticism, the architecture is driven, in no small part, by the elements – seasonal shifts in the sun’s path, its rise and fall, and the course of prevailing breezes.
With interior and covered exterior areas spanning a vast 2,050 square metres, the residence comprises eight pod-like private suites capable of hosting a total of twenty guests. Undeniably bold in its modernity, Casa Kimball manages to avoid the soullessness suffered by some minimalist designs by offering up a series of intriguing paradoxes and surprising subtleties: the movement of its broad, flats echoing the inky horizon; the crystalline interplay of shadow and light on its angled façades; the contrary natures of solid mass versus the illusory effect of reflection; the joyful ‘Jengalike’ effect of its ‘stacked cuboids’ and the inventive perforated breezeways. It is cliff top cave dwelling at its most lavish. “I do think the design has a clarity to it that’s rare, especially in luxury dwellings,” states Jasmit Rangr, lead architect and creative tour de force behind his own eponymouslynamed New York design studio. “When the overall design achieves a simplicity of forms with a complexity of spatial experience, I think the design purifies and heightens some elemental experiences of being in the natural world.”
Erasing all boundaries, the muted, stony hues and cooling textures of coral stone tiles and cladding create continuity of form between interior and exterior spaces. By way of contrast, dark, sustainably-harvested tropical hardwood ceilings introduce an element of emotional warmth, creating intimacy and generating involvement between spaces via fine variations in colour, texture, pattern and grain. The simple abstract shapes of the house soften the design, enabling Nature to claim her rightful place as star of all she surveys.
Yet it must, surely, be the ethereal forty-five metre long watery centrepiece that offers the ultimate creative coup d’état. With three infinity edges extending out past sheer sea cliffs in world-without-end glory, the pool’s glassy openness becomes a magical mirror to paradise; a gigantic horizontal mirage reflecting Nature’s majesty in cinematic splendour – vivid, elemental, inspiring. Forever in flux, creamy-rose dawns dotted with fleeting swirls of grey clear to reveal skies of unthinkably pure blue. Floating atop this seamless edge of water, a sunning island offers guests the nearest thing to a magic carpet ride this side of Disney World. Matching the level of the surrounding deck and living room, water levels work to enhance what Rangr calls, “the design clarity and poetry of the spaces.”
Adding vertical shift, locally crafted window walls spanning the full height and breadth of openings are designed to pivot effortlessly on automobile wheel bearings, breaking the plane between inside and outside and allowing unrestrained views of the ocean, pool and lush, tropical gardens. According to Rangr: “With the windows open, they form portals or interstitial spaces between inside and outside.” Preconceived divisions melt: an outdoor ‘living room’ complete with fireplace gives way to a sweeping oceanfront terrace, perfect for sipping the island’s famed mamajuana cocktails, while up on the rooftop terrace, mountains plummet to the cerulean sea.
With ‘insides’ that seem to unfurl before one’s eyes, casting open spaces in an endless bloom, the entranceway to Casa Kimball is designed to tease, issuing forth a series of tantalising screens around which and through glimpses of sky and sea are meted out enticingly, paving the way towards paradise. Once inside, simple, sleek décor amplifies the experience of each space. Flashes of colour invigorate the design scheme but it is the absence of extraneous, distracting or frivolous detail that speaks volumes. Bedroom suites complete with contemporary fourposter beds draped in romantic, billowing linens, deliver a mood of stillness and calm with each private terrace offering secluded ocean views and invigorating breezes. “Simplicity, I think,” states Rangr, “is more profound than a lot of stuff.”
As night falls, Casa Kimball transforms anew, with the interplay of light on glass façades, the pool surface and ventilated walkways introducing elements of illumination, transparency and reflection. “The lighting is designed to wash surfaces with an even diffused light,” Rangr explains. Concealed light sources mean that spaces appear to be lit by glowing planes of stone. “It has a very calming effect.”
With such intense and thoughtful attention to detail, Casa Kimball’s visual and spatial genius delivers in its ability to offer awe-inspiring architecture that has no inclination to compete with the natural wonder of its surroundings. Rather, one feeds the other. Resonating with a certain nobility, it is a creative triumph of design where one is invited to step over the edge into the rare world of holistic design.
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