Martha’s Vineyard Architecture, Landscape, Interiors (2011-2016)
Designed and built in Chilmark, Massachusetts, The Chilmark House project covers almost five acres of previous unbuilt land in the heart of the farming and artistic community that is “Up-Island” Martha’s Vineyard.
Farm / Landscape / Seascape
Chilmark’s long agrarian history on the windswept southern edge of Martha’s Vineyard underpins the design approach to this house and studio for a multi-generational family. The site, a former sheep grazing field, overlooks Chilmark pond, with long views to the Atlantic, and is edged by a series of Chilmark’s massive, meandering stone fences. In deference to the field’s history, and to the simple New England forms that shape the area’s architectural heritage, we developed the house and studio as a pair of barns with low pitched roofs that sit quietly in the landscape. Two buildings form a series of courtyards and outdoor spaces, with varying degrees of privacy and views. In a nod to New England’s bank barns, the long barn is set into the hillside, diminishing its scale from the north and creating direct connections to the outside from both upper and lower levels.
Photos by David Sundberg, Esto.
Producing a Facade
To produce a series of structural wood louvers along the facade of the buildings Schiller Projects took over a warehouse in the Bronx and built them ourselves.
The simple, dark buildings are approached via a farm road that winds through Chilmark’s dense thicket of scrub oak. A broad stair links a large south-facing porch back to the farm road and provides pedestrian access through the field to the beaches beyond. Based in a shared love of the dense aggregation of New England’s farm complexes, we sited the studio and the house barns tightly together, creating a charged outdoor space between them, which provides the approach to the house’s entrance. The sweeping Atlantic views are only experienced after a visitor enters the house; the northwest entry courtyard is edged by a mute, charred cedar wall with screened apertures, creating a private courtyard with views west over the rolling fields and stone fences. Inside the dark buildings, bleached ash lines all surfaces. The ceilings in the public rooms lift to the high ridges, with dropped areas to create a children’s sleeping loft high in the roof. The lower level creates a series of bedrooms with shared spaces between that look into light wells, landscaped with local rocks and moss.
At the heart of this design process lies collaboration. Aaron Schiller, Principal at Schiller Projects, six years ago, approached Alan Organschi of Gray Organschi Architecture to collaborate with him on the architecture for Chilmark House. Gray Organschi Architecture gave Aaron a home to start this project and provided experienced leadership to the project that in turn launched our practice. Additionally Lisa Gray, of Gray Organschi Architecture and Gray Design, collaborated with the Schiller Projects team on the interiors approach. Over the course of five years this team built an intricate approach to the architecture, landscape design and interiors. Schiller Projects designed and built many of the freestanding furniture pieces specifically for this project and enlisted great designers, friends and long time collaborators to contribute designs as well including: Fort Standard and Pletz Lighting out of Brooklyn and Caleb Woodard Furniture out of Tennessee.
Photographs by David Sundberg, Esto.
Photographs by Matthew Carbone