The hills I had ’cause that came with the territory. I picked [the site] because of the hills. Then I was looking out into the woods. Well, who wants to look at the woods? Do you realize how dull woods are if you stop to think? They’re nothing; you can’t see the trees, you can’t see the – you can’t see anything. It’s just a wall. It’s a very unpleasant wall ’cause it’s ragged. So what do you do with woods? You do away with them. But you do away with them selectively. You leave those wonderful great bowls that stick up. And depending on the nature of the trees, depending on how many and how old they are and what they, species they are – shag barks, of course, arethe prettiest – but you start learning trees, you start getting interested in, even in birds, for instance.
I never knew the beauty of the flying of a hawk. How many New Yorkers get a chance even to know that hawks exist? But in my house all I do is lie on my couch and to see the hawks flying in the air – that’s another advantage. I’ve got to start making a list of advantages of living in a glass house.
But, so, the forest. The forest was at me all the time. New England is a rain forest. That’s one of my favorite topics. You are enclosed in New England with trees. Have you ever been to New Hampshire or to Vermont or Maine? There are no big trees left; they were cut a long time ago. There are no fields because the farmers couldn’t make their plows go through the stones. And they all went out to Ohio where they’re meant to go. So it’s left New England covered with lousy trees that grow up the crick so you can’t see anything but still don’t make trees, you see. So in this very unfriendly atmosphere that a rain forest gives you, what you need is a machete and an axe and a saw. And armed with those tools, you create landscaping in a negative way, unlike the British, who in their great things of the 18th century, had no trees. There were no trees at Versailles, none, you see. They all had to be planted and worked out. I didn’t have to plant my trees; they were there. I had 200-year-old oaks and things all prepared for me. I had to select. I had to say this can be a copse, this can be a single tree, this has to be cut. And by ruthlessly doing that, I have the basic background, the interesting feature, watching your eyes follow through the forest to a wall beyond or not, or infinitely. And you have open fields, which is to me the best.”
Interview conducted on behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation by Eleanor Devens, Franz Schultz, Jeffrey Shaw, and Frank Sanchis.