“What drove me to start out on my own was 2016,” architect Jennifer Preston says dryly. “It marked an important internal shift for me as a woman in architecture.” She opened Shelter Design Architecture that same year and shortly after convinced Pedro Marmolejos, a former colleague at BKSK Architects, to come on as co-principal. Now a four-person team, they work remotely (and did so long before COVID-19), Marmolejos out of New York City and Preston in Vermont.
A wellness annex to Troutbeck—an Upstate New York hotel owned by Anthony Champalimaud, son of Interior Design Hall of Famer Alexandra—proved to be a project “encapsulating everything we stand for,” Preston
discloses. The bucolic site already had a wedding barn. Shelter added two similar structures—one taller, one
longer, totaling 4,800 square feet and joined by a covered breezeway—to house fitness and spa amenities. The interiors of the chapel-like volumes shift in scale and modulate in affect depending on function. Echoes of timeless sanctums, from forest bathhouses and pegboard-lined workshops to front porches and historic churches, abound. In the horizontally oriented Long Barn, locker rooms, treatment facilities, and saunas are hunkered down, almost monastic in feel, while a 23-foot rafted ceiling and copious glazing make the movement studio occupying the Tall Barn open and airy. The palette was kept intentionally subdued and natural: quartzite, plywood, whitewashed oak, spruce, reclaimed larch. “We are averse to fake materials,” Preston notes. “The project doesn’t overcomplicate itself,” Marmolejos adds. “It sits in the context quietly, without grandiosity or ego.”