Architect Constantine Kalesis’s favorite building material? Natural light. “No other material do we have such an emotional connection with,” says the principal of Kalesis Design Studio. “On each project we study the path of the sun and devise clever ways to bring it into the space.”
It’s this kind of elemental, site-specific approach that defines much of his work. “The timeless architectural principles of form, space, and most importantly, light, are what we are striving to master,” says the Parsons-educated architect with over 20 years of experience practicing in New York City and five as the principal of his own firm.
With any project, regardless of type or scale, Kalesis always starts with hand sketches and drawings that allow him to intuitively explore the possibilities of a site. “It’s a process of discovery,” he says. “Drawing by hand allows for the continuous flow of ideas via the mind/eye/hand connection where multiple concepts and ideas can quickly be explored in a way that the computer interferes with.”
This purity of practice is what drives Kalesis’s firm to create spaces that are a dynamic response to their particular environments and clients’ needs. It’s what also drew him to the Woodstock area, where he began working on residences in 2012.
In contrast to his projects in the city, which almost always have a predetermined footprint, the Hudson Valley has offered him room to explore his practice as an architect and to build relationships with the region’s many talented builders and craftsmen. “It’s a very challenging design exercise to be given carte blanche on a raw site,” he says. “I take cues from the surroundings when developing a floor plan. Where the sun rises and sets, the vistas, and any variation in topography.”
Many of his residences feature strategically placed oversized panes of glass that connect the architecture with the natural beauty of its site. Such was the case with the Zena Highwoods House, a 2,500-square-foot house in Saugerties with soaring views of Overlook Mountain that was completed in 2020. Like all his residences, the experience of the space is at times monumental, but also intimate in a way that feels like home.