Down Harbor Residence


This island retreat for a Boston client is a compound of buildings located on Martha’s Vineyard. The residence features multiple combinations of two roof angles to produce a variety of forms, juxtaposed throughout the project. On a wooded parcel of land overlooking Katama Bay and the island of Chappaquiddick, the structures are vernacular in scale and contemporary.

The visitor first sees the compound as a small group of buildings. On entering the front door of the residence, the visitor is aware of the near-water location and the sky lit “Great Room”. The separate structures of this complex are clustered to provide exterior rooms, which are extensions of the interior space and can be occupied during the temperate season. The main buildings, angled to each another, provide constant and varied views of the meadow and water beyond, while not interfering with this naturally wooded site.The plan, with its numerous building angles and forms, is evocative of connected rural farm buildings, an architectural form common to New England. The formal placement of the “Great Room”, caretaker’s quarters and pool maintenance building bring to mind the support buildings of eighteenth century Virginia residences, such as the beautiful house and quarters of Thomas Jefferson at Poplar Forest.

The building’s exterior features a cool weathered grey cypress siding and roofs of white cedar shingle. Both materials allow for weathering and preservation by the salt air. They were chosen carefully both for their beauty and because of their appropriateness in the harsh Martha’s Vineyard climate. The interior materials include glue lam beams, vertical cypress boards, and millwork, hardwood floors and trim, all of ash. The detailed, wood interior of the “Great Room” is lightly white washed in order to brighten the wood and to reflect the natural daylight. The top of the glue lam beams have been routed to conceal lighting which reflects onto the wood deck ceilings and illuminates the room at night.

This Down Harbor Residence provides both separate and common space: there are areas for the client’s extended family (parents, children, and grandchildren) and a “Great Room” to encourage the interaction of all visitors. This complex incorporates courtyards, a screened gazebo with pergola, skylight and roof planes that respects the outdoors and takes full advantage of its unique setting. As such, it is architecture within the natural environment, using natural materials and incorporating into the structure the island’s magical beauty.


“New England Architects,” The Boston Society of Architects selected Down Harbor Residence, Martha’s Vineyard, for this traveling exhibition.