Remembering the House at Martha’s Vineyard

Four years ago today, Thomas Fisher memorialized the House at Martha’s Vineyard for Architect Magazine. The house, built in 1988, was inspired by Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick. The structure was constructed in a similar way that Native Americans in the book used beached whales to construct their homes. Finding a beached whale skeleton, they would pull it to dry land and stretch skins over the large bones, transforming the animal into a dwelling.
The House at Martha’s Vineyard was an inside-out balloon frame structure, elevated over the landscape. The wooden "bones" of the frame carried an encircling veranda affording ocean views. Along its porch, wood members received the naturally growing vines of the island. These tendrils transformed the straight linear architecture.
As Fisher noted: “This tragic [demolition of the House at Martha’s Vineyard] recalls another aspect of Melville’s tale: the illusion of permanence that we ascribe to the structures we construct, be they buildings or boats. The “firm deck” of the Martha’s Vineyard House has ended up “all collapsed” before “the great shroud of the sea,” like the Pequod, smashed by the muscle and bones of the white whale.”
Read Fisher’s full article on Architecture Magazine here.