This 2,200 square-foot residence, one of the recipients of the 2009 AIA Housing Award, is located on a Chesapeake Bay barrier island near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, an estuarine marshland ecosystem, and an important stop along the Atlantic Flyway.
The project conceptually fuses architectonic form with the natural elements of the site. Positioned between a saltmeadow marsh, a pine forest, and the bay, the architecture is conceived to be at one with the water, the horizon, and the sky.
The idea of an elemental architecture is explored in the relationship between the simple form of the building and the agrarian structures that dot the surrounding area.
Hooper’s Island occupies a landmass less than 1 meter above sea level. In 2003 a storm surge from Hurricane Isabel destroyed many of the houses on the island. As a result of the destruction, FEMA and the Dorchester County Zoning department established an ordinance requiring that all new residences be built three feet above the base flood elevation.
The local vernacular of the barns and fishing shacks which had survived the hurricane, provided inspiration for the new house which was elevated to the required height using plinths made of black ground face concrete masonry.
The plinth foundations are tectonic constructs that result in an opportunity to create above-ground structures: the outdoor shower, the swimming pool and the fire pit.
The house is used with various degrees of frequency and intensity depending on the weather and the number of guests.
For this reason, the house is composed of several separate cabins that can be locked down or conditioned and inhabited as needed. Although the cabins are individual buildings, they are linked visually by the exterior metal cladding and coplanar sloped roofs.
The three main structures that comprise the house are the master cabin, the guest cabin and the lodge. The master cabin and lodge are articulated as metal and wood tubes that cantilever off the plinths, minimizing the incision in the earth required for their footprints. Each building is oriented to take advantage of specific views across and down the Honga River.
The guest cabin is located between the lodge and master cabin and has a roof that protrudes above the main roof to act as an abstracted light fixture, greeting visitors as they approach. A screened porch is literally and figuratively a bridge that links the three volumes, while providing a breezy place to relax. A wood sun deck connects the pool plinth to the lodge. A fourth structure is an art studio.
Upon designating the project as recipient of the 2009 AIA Housing Award, the jury had the following comments: "The imagery looks casual, like the geometric, compound-like structures are randomly placed, but the plan is regimented. The way it addresses the specific conditions of the site is very affective, elevated off the ground plate, in response to storm surge. Additionally, the shower as a beacon is striking."
"The horizontal nature of the skin works with the water setting. In fact it is in some ways like an island on an island."
Architect: David Jameson Architect
Owner: Michael Minnemann & Richard Bernstein
Engineer: Linton Engineering
General Contractor: CJ&E construction
Photographs: © Paul Warchol Photography Inc