- Project Name
- Chilmark House
- Gray Organschi Architecture
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- 6,000 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- Shared by
- Ashleigh Popera
- Lighting Designer: Atelier Ten
- Project Status
FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
Chilmark House sits on 4.25 acres overlooking the sea, surrounded by Farmland in “Up-island” Martha’s Vineyard.
The entry drive is carved into the southern and eastern portions of the property, utilizing the natural contours of the land wherever possible. This landscape based approach led us towards how best to site and lay out the house; the architectural and landscape process feeding off of and interchangeably leading each-other.
The long dirt drive is a part of the vernacular of human occupation and experience in the region and our efforts to slice a slender drive into a wooded thicket sets up a relationship with both the natural landscape and the typological landscape that defines the contemporary yet contextual design approach.
We worked with the family to search for land for a year before settling on an unbuilt parcel set back from the South shore. The drive culminates at the eastern edge of the house. A stone and river rock walkway leads the visitor along an initial opaque facade, squeezed tightly between a garage with upstairs office and the long northern facade of the house.
The solid black facade gives ways to a 40’ wall of louvers and glass at its midpoint, revealing deep views through the house of the sea beyond.
The site had never been built on before. Originally tribal land we sought to honor a connection to the natural at each instance, binding the approach to the house to the landscape on all sides of the house.
The program necessitated a large house for a large family. Wonderfully slopped the site challenge demanded a delicate balance between the architectural insertion and the natural landscape. In dealing with the slope we discovered a historical antecedent, the Bank Barn, whose basic diagram reflected two issues we were facing:
1. Inserting a large mass into a hillside without overwhelming the natural environment/event.
2. Identifying a clear and harmonious separation of the architectural program.
Chilmark House is a 118’+ long sleek black barn above and a recessed “L” shaped hugging into the hill below. he core public spaces are upstairs, flowing into each without ever losing a few of the ocean. he lower level features shared bedrooms, play spaces, an exercise room sprawling out into a meadow and interior garden spaces for quiet reflection and reading.
The entire nature of the house is sharing. Every room had a view of the woods and the sea, almost every room can be entered directly from outside making sure to ground the house in connection to this place. n site every month for two years we carefully worked with local builders and specialty trades to coordinate construction. he concrete work, on an island with a single plant, was a particular challenge.
We worked hand in hand with concrete teams on the island through several mock-ups and initial construction to achieve the board-form concrete retaining walls. For the first wall form we led the carpentry crew, by the end of the job the team was behind the work without over-site. They were enthusiastic.
The upper “Barn” Portion is pulled 21’ off the foundation wall, highlighting the return to the landscape and floating the living room out over the landscape. The framing is picked up by two large steel columns embedded inside the chimney mass, thus achieving the spectacular cantilever but maintaining a simplicity to the form.
The prominent wood siding and sun louvers seen along the upper story nd the office are a product of research and development. The process, from Japan, called Shou-Sugi-Bahn, roughly translates as “burnt cedar siding.” We had done this previously with furniture and were excited to expand the knowledge learned there to the architectural scale.
The charing of the wood removes carbohydrates from the skin thus minimizing its attractiveness as a food source to termites, hornets, woodpeckers, etc. It also lengthens the life-span of the siding as a rain shield.
Once burned wood will not burn again. In the cool sea light the facade changes from black to white to gray across the day. The louvers were all produced by Schiller Projects in the Bronx and shipped to site.
The interior approach plays off the architectural context much the way the architecture plays off the landscape. A muted palate of bleached ash planking and bleached plywood gives way to opportunities for color and texture in the furniture and the textiles. At the heart of the house lies a giant hand carved walnut dining table designed specifically for the space.