Sitting high atop a bluff on the Martha’s Vineyard coastline in Chilmark, Massachusetts, this modern concrete dwelling provides an elegant, cozy, and welcoming space to inhabitants while also treading lightly on the environment.
Named “East House,” because of its commanding eastward view of the north Atlantic, this home, designed by Peter Rose + Partners, proves that luxury and tranquility don’t have to come at the expense of the environment.
The first thing one notices when viewing East House from the outside, is the simple, sturdy concrete structure of the residence. These 10-inch-thick, solid concrete walls create, not only a breathtaking home, but a functional and future-proofed one as well. To fully understand this, one must first understand the geographic setting of the home. As mentioned earlier, East House sits atop a coastal bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Although picturesque, this setting poses a problem for the long-term safety of the home site. This is because of the rate at which the ocean is eroding the coastal cliff.
Fearing the cliff’s edge might someday inch too close to the house and destabilize it, the architects designed the concrete structure to extend underground and beneath the flooring. This design essentially makes each room its own three- or four-sided concrete box that can separate from the rest of the home. Because of this, the entire structure can move to safer ground one section at a time. If this happens, only the wood-framed sections between the concrete boxes will need rebuilding. This unique engineering decision ensures that East House will be inhabitable for generations to come, regardless of what nature may take from the land.
Once inside the rough concrete walls of the home, one is immediately taken aback at how warm and inviting the interior actually is. Dark stone floors meet the planked walls of Alaskan Cedar and Douglas Fir, effortlessly forming an open, yet cozy environment. Nowhere is this more evident than in the main living room, where the rich warmth of the wooden walls gives way to a clean expanse of sliding glass. This glass, when slid open, creates oneness with the surrounding environment and allows the crisp Atlantic breeze to fill the residence.
All of the materials mentioned thus far were chosen to make a home that is bold and unique. They were also chosen because of their function in reducing the structure’s overall environmental footprint. The concrete walls are a great example of this. Because they are 10 inches thick, they have a substantial thermal mass which creates a natural temperature barrier from the outside climate, thus reducing energy costs. Another example has to do with the wooden interior walls, which are made from trees that have been responsibly harvested from sustainable forests.
One last example, and a feature of the house that I haven’t mentioned yet, is its rainwater harvesting system. Whenever it rains, an underground cistern captures any water not absorbed by the home’s green roofs. This rainwater can then irrigate the surrounding landscape. These are just a few of the many examples which demonstrate how simple designs and materials can make a positive difference.
In the end, there are few places in this world that can compete with the tranquil beauty of East House. But what’s perhaps even more impressive, though, is the amount of thought that went into creating the property; thought that ensures this magnificent structure is easy on the planet and will last for generations to come.
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