“Chickens are the new frontier,” the architect Pietro Cicognani tells me, as he barrels down the Prolonged Island Expressway at best speed. “There’s a hen war in the Hamptons. Individuals really do not want Bentleys or haute couture. They want to save endangered heritage chickens.” I’ve regarded Cicognani for many years. In addition to his sizeable architectural chops, he is just one of New York’s wonderful charmers and gives very easily the finest bear hug in the city. (He arrives by bear-hugging truthfully: His grandmother was the daughter of Piotr Stolypin, a person of Russia’s very last prime ministers below the tsars.) Cicognani’s work draws from an eclectic combine of architects and designs, such as Louis Kahn, Alvar Aalto, Islamic architecture, and his beloved Baroque. His commissions are also eclectic and amazing, like a church in Venice, which he is about to transform into a family residence, a personal mausoleum in Delaware, and his individual apartment in Rome. Lately, although, Cicognani has grow to be the master of the substantial-finish, best-of-the-line, brilliantly about-the-major chicken coop. And right now I am to behold his biggest masterpiece to date.
We get there at Woody Home, the East Hampton house of Katharine Rayner (regarded as “Kathy”), a observed philanthropist (she sits on the boards of the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum) and eager gardener, who has commissioned Cicognani for former tasks. The property, which originally belonged to Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, is sandwiched in between the ocean and Georgica Pond, as heavenly a piece of land as one particular can come across in the Hamptons, buzzing with bees and fluttering with butterflies through the summer, and always circled by the chicken’s natural enemy, the hawk. On a wintery day, the sky a severe Atlantic blue, I can nearly envision the lushness of the gardens in bloom, but I content myself with the steam lifting off the lap pool. Soon after we climb to the key residence, I espy the cupola of Cicognani’s rooster coop from the icy grey of Georgica Pond.
“It seems like an Armenian stone church,” I tell him, and he agrees.
Rayner comes to fortify us with glasses of prosecco, and then we wander by way of the maze of shrubbery and rose gardens toward the hen basilica, which is flanked by a guesthouse (Rayner: “The chickens are everlasting, in contrast to the guests”) and a pair of cedars. Soon we are surrounded by lots of brightly coloured examples of Gallus gallus domesticus. Rayner is a humorous and irrepressible steward of these noisy, at situations combative creatures, and she greets them like extensive-lost buddies at a Vassar reunion. “Silky! Sophie! Georgia! You older girls are exhibiting off now.” They cluster about, pecking at the feed, participating in really hard to get with the amorous rooster. One uncommon chicken of Polish descent, white and with a modern topknot, catches my eye. Rayner suspects this exemplar of endangered chickenhood might be blind, but hen aficionado Isabella Rossellini afterwards tells me it’s the bird’s pompadour of feathers that makes it tricky for her to see. In any case, my really like of these attractive, effectively-fed creatures is contradicted only by my need to take in them.
Above the reclaimed doors and columns of the rooster temple Cicognani has penned in Latin, “In Hoc Loco Gallinarum Fuit,” which translates to around “In this put there the moment was a rooster coop.” It turns out that immediately after the challenge was finished, Rayner fell in love with it to the level of seeking to make it her particular area. Eventually, her really like of her feathered companions overrode her affection for Cicognani’s architectural whimsy, and the chickens have been authorized to flourish beneath a Latin motto testifying to their near eviction.
Although from afar the coop reminded me of the church buildings of the Caucasus, Cicognani was initial encouraged by the Chinese pavilion of Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, near Berlin. Up close, just one can also see how the Foro Boario in Rome performed a position (in addition to his Russian heritage, Cicognani’s ancestors hail from Italy). The interior is swathed in sharp, pale, ecclesiastical mild, nonetheless the general outcome is a single of Northern European coziness, a room in which to admire the chickens in their earthly divinity as they roost peaceably in their laying bins.
The design was admirably carried out by learn builder Neville Burke, with inside layout offered by Shatzi McLane. There is a classical frieze of lichen and pine cones wooden shavings conceal checkerboard tiles. The roof has been intended to span 4 fifty percent ellipses, two small kinds and two very long types, giving for an intriguing but calming geometry all through. Cicognani also attained out to his good friend Isabella Rossellini, who in addition to remaining an actor, creator, and philanthropist also functions as a conservator of exceptional chicken breeds.
“He termed me lots of occasions wanting to make certain chicken welfare was highly regarded,” she wrote me in an e-mail. “I advised to him to give the chickens some variety of branch or stick in which they can wrap their feet, since they like to roost and not keep their feet flat on the ground like us. Of program, they also need to have cozy areas to lay their eggs.” Rossellini explained that, in portion due to industrial farming, the 20 billion chickens all around the entire world are genetically similar, conjuring for comparison a earth in which pretty much all canine have been aspect of a monoculture of pugs. Her chickens and Rayner’s are an try to diversify and protect the traces of these endangered creatures.
Rayner tells me her women have been laying eggs at a prodigious amount, served by the radiant heat and the comfort of their natural environment. “We experienced four dozen eggs a single day, and we do not even have four dozen birds,” she says. Rossellini notes that heritage breeds are far a lot more fit than modern day breeds.
This conservation operate is serious, but there is one thing inherently humorous and charming about these cluckers as effectively. “Isabella has a rooster that appears to be like like Andy Warhol,” Cicognani tells me, smiling as he pics the fowl. “He is a incredibly very good-searching rooster,” he suggests. We adjourn for lunch in the loggia, watching the Atlantic lap at the shore in the in close proximity to distance, and then wave a remaining goodbye to the inhabitants of Cicognani’s mad new creation. “These are the luckiest chickens in the entire world,” he suggests.
This story appears in the April 2022 situation of Town & Nation. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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