by Devanshi ShahOct 04, 2021
Sail House by David Hertz Architects presents a series of tensile roofs that conjure up the image of billowing sails on the seafaring vessels that once frequented the waters of the Caribbean Island. As a sequence of nautical-themed structures dotting the crest of a forested hill slope with panoramic ocean views, the residential design was inspired by the sailing traditions and building concerns of the island of Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where it is located.
"The main inspiration for the Sail House was a wooden boat with its masts and sails, the expressed stainless steel rigging and hardware, that are all referenced in the home," states David Hertz, head of David Hertz Architects, Studio of Environmental Architecture, in an official statement. Hertz’s firm, based in Los Angeles, is reputed for its commitment to environmentally sensitive design and sustainability, and Sail House is no exception.
Alongside the initial nautical-themed concept, the uniquely structured intervention is a response to the equatorial climatic conditions of the region, with the sweeping tensile membranes creating overhangs and offering shade on a scale not feasible with conventional roof structures. These canopies are also arranged to collect rainwater and create a thermal chimney that augments the structure’s stack ventilation. Beneath it, a series of built forms that consist of the primary residence and a few guesthouses, are approached via a sloped road that leads visitors to the garage and the main living space at the ground level.
Much of Sail House's structure was prefabricated before being flat packed and transported to site via 15 shipping containers. According to the architects, this course of action was selected to compensate for the limited resources available on the site in the Grenadines island chain. Great care was taken to maximise the efficiency of this process and ensure that it generated zero waste. As Hertz himself declares, "Sustainability was one of the main goals of the project.”
In the finished structure, this notion extends to the foundation of the home design, where a concrete box anchoring the set of built forms to the sloped terrain serves an auxiliary function as a cistern for rainwater harvesting. Aluminium beams, angularly cantilevered off this block, act as supports for cables that hold the tensile canopies in place, emulating a ship’s masts and rigging. When rainwater falls onto the roof canopies, it is directed towards stainless steel clamp plates at their edges, which funnel the collected liquid into the aluminium masts linked to the cisterns below. The water harvested here can also be used to draw cooler air up into the higher levels of the structure through the central mast when necessary.
Describing the home’s assemblage and its environmentally conscious design features, the California-based architect relays, “The non-corrosive and termite-resistant aluminium structural system is wrapped in reclaimed ironwood planks, recycled from an abandoned pier in Borneo, as are the plank floors, decks, and the vertical louvers that control low sun and prevailing breezes." Woven palm and repurposed coconut shell fragments are used for some of the home’s other interior finishes, alongside natural hand-crafted surfaces, all fashioned with the expertise of Javanese and Balinese craftsmen.
On the lower level, near the base of the concrete block cistern, a curved pool design extends along the site’s edge, with an adjacent indoor lounge area, pergola, and an extensive deck. At the pool’s centre is an enclosed platform that rises atop a metal column, resembling a barrelled crow’s nest lookout – a feature often seen on the masts of sailing ships. A suspended bridge connects it to the balcony that runs along the full length of the upper floor. This level houses a bedroom with an attached bath, and an office.
The home's prefabricated design also incorporates sustainable features such as stormwater collection and photovoltaic panels, which allow the residence to produce enough water and energy for all year round. Combined with water storage and sun shading systems, these features further reinforce the home’s resilience within the tropical climates of the Caribbean.
As an example of self-sufficient residential architecture that pays tribute to the traditions of its context, Sail House proves that energy conscious design need not only be methodical and efficient and that when utilised appropriately, sustainability can drive truly remarkable and aesthetically impressive architecture in any type of context.
Name: Sail House
Location: Bequia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Architect: David Hertz, David Hertz Architects, Studio of Environmental Architecture
Principal Consulting on Design: David Hertz FAIA
Project Architect: Eric Lindeman
Project Designers: Stephan Schilli / TomaHouse
House Fabrication: TomaHouse
Structural, MEP & Envelope Engineering: TomaHouse
Lighting Designer: TomaHouse
Climate Consultant: David Hertz Architects,inc.