A Modular Home on Martha’s Vineyard

General / People / Places / May 12, 2018

A zoning restriction spurred an architect’s solution.

An 18-foot limit on building heights in Martha’s Vineyard gave architect Alexander Kolbe of evoDOMUS pause. His clients were in search of a four-bedroom, 5,000 square-foot home with guest quarters, overlooking the water in the distance.

That’s no small residence.

So the architect dug down and created a split-level. The guest quarters are below grade, and the living quarters are above.

“We raised it high enough so you can see the ocean,” he says. “Then we added a huge roof deck on top of the bedroom, and a green roof contributed to make it environmentally friendly.”

Kolbe did it all with modules – eight of them in varying sizes, clad in cedar for a decidedly contemporary look on an island dedicated to traditional design.

“I was raised in a modern environment and I studied in Berlin, so I only do modern design – no Cape Cod or Colonial homes,” he says. “The clients were looking for modern and sustainability – they’d seen it online or heard about it through word of mouth.”

The architects are committed to passive house design guidelines. “Our design is always driven by energy efficiency, like maximum solar gain in winter, wide overhangs and exterior blinds,” he says.

All the materials – including the cedar cladding and the German-made, triple glazed custom windows – had to be shipped to the island.

Inside, his British clients already had an interior designer on board, one that took cues from the exterior. “So there’s wood cladding, a stone fireplace with white walls and all natural wood, and tile in the bath that’s Duravit,” he says.

And outside, the home will eventually blend into its surroundings, as its cedar weathers to a pale gray.

It may be modern and modular, but soon enough, it will blend right in with its neighbors – and the environment.

For more, go here.

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Mike Welton

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on May 16, 2018


I appreciate your kind words. However, I have to disagree with your statement about overhangs. It might not be spelled out in PHIUS’s principles but even the diagram on your link shows the overhangs and what they achieve: protection from the sun in summer. We have been very successful in protecting our homes from unwanted solar gain in the summer season.

I also disagree to your statement about modular structures: It is the designer’s responsibility to respond to the environment and the land, this has nothing to do with modular versus conventional construction. Custom modular structures can be extremely flexible and versatile. The designer is the one who can or cannot respond to the conditions of an individual site.

on May 13, 2018

One word: Gorgeous! (If it were mine, I’d have the exterior treated so it wouldn’t turn gray with weathering. The warm cocoa color is just lovely as it is, and a dazzling contrast to the stone foundation.)

I wonder if other Martha’s Vineyard homeowners had a problem with the sleek modernist structure– contextually speaking. If not, kudos to those homeowners!

About the Kolbe’s commitment to passive house design guidelines: I don’t see the wide overhangs he cited as a guiding principle. Otherwise, I assume the house complies with all of these principles, which photos can’t capture: http://www.phius.org/what-is-passive-building/passive-house-principles.

I also have a problem with modular structures in general: They don’t allow the land to suggest how a house should respond to it. As Frank Harmon, FAIA, and his ilk often say, “All good buildings begin with the land.”

Nonetheless, this is a stunning residence. Thanks for sharing it with your readers!

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