malcolm mccullough – cuttyhunk winds

This is a project for a seasonal basecamp on a small remote island. Please be tolerant of its use of sloping roofs. Island Wind is proposed as a satellite of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA), in proximity to the huge offshore wind power developments Vineyard Wind and Block Wind. Cuttyhunk is the outermost island on Buzzards Bay, and has the one harbor on the route from MMA that is closest to these offshore windfarms. The proposed basecamp provides a flexible onshore space for groups of technical cadets on training tours duty, or at other times week-long workshops by invited experts and civilian organizations. With better focus than they could have on the MMA campus, and with better comforts than they could have at sea, here a group can undertake a memorable retreat. In addition, for the resident islanders, and especially the few year-round residents, the camp provides a much needed assembly hub. In proximity to the core of the island’s pioneering clean energy microgrid, and on a prominent bluff with the island’s solar power array below, this camp becomes a symbol of local resilience. In its architectural expression, the project thus invites rediscovering a utilitarian local vernacular while avoiding  the clichés of seaside houses of the wealthy. There is much about this basecamp project that invites simple artisanal building, particularly in a dialogue among two or three complementary forms. Many noteworthy architects have had their turns at this very distinct genre. With an appropriate work of architecture, this project affirms and advances the identity of the maritime academy, a green new deal, and Cuttyhunk Island alike.

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The power of wind is hard to quantify at a glance. It can be easily seen during a raging storm when the rain falls sideways and trees threaten to topple. If we look closer we notice the power of wind in ocean waves. We notice it in the rocks around us, eroded over the course time. Quite often, the products of wind are destinations to visit, natural wonders to see. People take trips, stepping away from the luxuries of daily life to camp out and experience these locations, in many cases encountering others on a similar journey.

Island Winds Studio frames an alternative sight, bringing people to the New England coast to see the wind farms and think about the modern, clean, and ever-growing industry of wind power. The retreat center is embedded into a southern facing slope of Cuttyhunk Island, MA and reminds the user of the erosive power of coastal winds by having the structures slowly emerge as the site elevation declines. The exteriors are intended to be flush and clean in form, reminiscent of sustainable wind power, but established and weathered by its environment. These stepped structures are also arranged around a core courtyard which reinvigorates this idea of camp by setting up a shared gathering place to witness the cape and experience the wind.

The individual buildings themselves are set up to have a single program; two dormitories, one meeting hall and dining space, and one staff building. This promotes the use of the meeting hall and outdoor spaces as places to congregate and saves the private space for individual use. The dormitories also orient themselves to provide a large but singular view of the coast. This leaves further visual exploration of the site to happen outside.


In the coming decades, humans will need to rethink how energy is used and consumed with respect to our planet’s health. Turn to the New England island of Cuttyhunk, where specialists in the field of renewable energy sources are relying on wind and sun to power one of the first island microgrids in the country. To present and discuss research in the field, an outpost and retreat for those involved displays the power of Earth’s energy through architectural form.

The buildings act in dialogue between the solid, rooted, residential dormitory spaces and the carved, geometric, gem-like structure of the meeting hall. One looks to the dense, protected dormitory structures as an escape from the exterior elements. Yet, the wind still slices into the structure, serving as breezeways or covered entrances for the public. Meanwhile, the meeting hall has been shaped and sculpted by the elements, an abstracted crystal symbolizing the space where clean energy sources are heavily discussed and communicated.

The courtyards unify the otherwise distinct and different buildings by grounding the project within the island vernacular. The courtyards emphasize the need for scientists and specialists to participate in cyclical research. The pathway through the architecture embodies the temporary nature of this retreat. As new researchers come, previous users leave to pursue their own interests. Like the breeze, research must travel quickly and efficiently; the courtyard enables this key idea to stay constant throughout the project.

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