cademics often lead nomadic lives, hopping from school to
school. So when East Coasters Sigrid Miller Pollin and her
husband, Robert Pollin, were both offered tenured positions
at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, they jumped at
the chance to move from Riverside, California, to Western
At first, they lived in the center of Amherst, a bustling
town that is home to two major colleges, in a house
built in 1935 by William Gass, who was known locally
for restoring antique structures. Miller Pollin, who teaches architecture and heads her own
firm, Miller Pollin Architecture, describes it as a “traditional New England cottage” — a
far cry from the contemporary designs she creates for her clients.
After 11 years downtown, the couple decided to build new. They looked for lots near
the university, but with the open expanses of land they both craved. One autumn day, after
an exhaustive search, Miller Pollin was captivated by a sweeping hillside 5½-acre property
just a short bike ride from campus. “The minute we saw this site, we knew,” says Sigrid.
“It was gorgeous.”
However, the deep slope presented few options but to place the building at the crest.
She designed a house that nestles into the slope, “opening up like an eye,” a solution that
screens the structure from the street while deferring to the view to the east. In season, the
sloping lawn gives way to the blazing fall colors of the Pelham Hills and Holyoke Range.
As an educator, Sigrid is known for her “Great Spaces” lecture on inspiring, memorable
“The minute we saw this site, we knew,” says Sigrid. “It was gorgeous.”