architect: Murdock Young Architects, New York City

project: Lake House, Montauk, N.Y.

detail: Trusses

When summer residences are closed in with drywall, they lose the casual charm of the old uninsulated beach houses, says architect Robert Young, AIA. The task of exposing the rafters of this lakeside home got him thinking about using materials in ways that express their strengths. “We were talking about doing a knife-blade connection between the trusses,” he says. “It's usually concealed except for the bolt heads on the surface. What I found interesting is that the wood elements are doing the work in the middle of the span, but at the moment of connection, it's all about the steel. That led to the idea to leave a 1-inch gap to show what's going on.”

All intersecting timbers are held apart to expose a sliver of the embedded stainless steel knife plates. Of course, this more artful solution required the expertise of builder Rick Shumway, who used a plunge chain saw to chisel a thin, deep slot into the Douglas fir trusses to accept the plates at predetermined angles. At center span, the plates receive a stainless steel rod that slips through a sleeve and is tethered to the ridge.

“Elements in compression—the solid wood—need to be heavy and strong,” Young says. “But a rod in tension can be very thin. The materials express what's going on structurally.”

general contractor: Atlantic Collaborative Construction Co., Bridgehampton, N.Y.

steel fabricator: Peconic Ironworks, Southampton, N.Y.

structural engineer: Robert Silman Associates, New York City

materials: Painted 4x10 kiln-dried Douglas fir, stainless steel rods, knife plates, bolts, washers, decorative nuts

photography: Michael Moran