Shortly after graduating from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Stephen Atkinson begged his father to build what would become the original Zachary House. The dogtrot-style cabin was completed in 1999 but subsequently destroyed in 2005 upon sale of the property, much to the architect’s chagrin.
Now, more than a decade later, two Duke psychology professors are rebuilding the structure in rural North Carolina.
Everyone…well, almost everyone, is delighted.
THE little house was awfully pretty, its corrugated metal cladding glinting in the sunlight, as honest and spare as a child’s drawing, amid ancient magnolias and overlooking acres of lush soybeans. The owners, Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, two psychology professors at Duke, declared themselves delighted with it.
They admired the way the house embodied the rural architecture they loved: the dogtrot cabins of the American South and the “wrinkly tin” structures of New Zealand, where they are conducting a longitudinal study of 1,000 individuals. (Dr. Moffitt, 57, and Dr. Caspi, 52, are nature- and nurture-ists. Their work examines the role of environment and genes in human behavior, particularly antisocial behavior and depression.) Dr. Caspi recalled the shacks on the kibbutz he grew up on, and Dr. Moffitt pointed out how the house’s tiny footprint overlaid that of the original farmhouse built by her family here in the 1920s, and how potent the memories still are.
To be sure, the house does have its skeptics. There was the neighbor who exclaimed, “Honey, you’ve made a terrible mistake and built your fireplace outside of your living room.” (Dr. Moffitt told him, “It’s worse than that. There is no living room.”) And her father took a dim view of their building, as he put it: “a cross between a chicken house and a trailer.”