Regarding the Nautilus property development, I notice that the editorial staff have allowed your reporting to be weighted in tenor toward the developer’s efforts. “Historical Commission Plans January Vote On Dome Residences” suggests a fait d’accompli or, at the very least, an enabling in terms of the perception of viability of the project.
But the real story at Falmouth Historical Commission last week was the vociferous back-and-forth on the appropriateness of the proposed development. It was clear to anyone present that this project has continued to sow discontent, and now between members of the very commission that holds its future prospects.
In the story as you present it, the densely populated condominiums in a historic district do not stylistically reflect the eclectic nature of the dwellings in Woods Hole nor the full support of the community, and are precedent-setting as there are no examples of high density residential development in a historic site anywhere in the state.
Instead, what is presented is a cookie-cutter take on nostalgic late-19th century gambrel style to appeal to an outdated perception of grandeur only as a lure to sales. Has no one learned that the grandiosity of the McMansion is antithetical to all that Fuller stood for?
The project aesthetically and stylistically flies in the face of the most historic structure on the site, a mid-century modernist, experimental, deeply original design. It begs a deeper look into Buckminster Fuller, and how his theories and futuristic worldview have predicted many current conditions, especially regarding housing density and the environment. Because clearly any research to back up their design decisions is cursory at best.
The scope of the historical commission is to make sure that historic structures are preserved and protected and given prominence. The preliminary designs clearly subjugate the ome to secondary structure status on the site, despite the deceptive branding: “Dome Residences.”
The developers face a confrontation with the reality of demolition by neglect and by the end of the evening, despite their bluster, were appearing desperate for a vote to move forward. The business model they have determined to support the renovation of the historical piece of that five-acre site forces the dome to be secondary/ancillary.
Commissioner Chris Warner noted the development was so loosely articulated that it had not convinced him to accept the precedence of dense housing in a historic district as appropriate. The design clearly intends “fundamental change,” said Warner.
Since Chris Wise’s single structure almost 13 years ago, the dome has only grown in significance, becoming more historic and decrepit. At 66 years old, it emphasizes both the importance of mid-century design and the need to recognize and preserve its direct integration of “doing more with less,” a Fuller mantra. Judging by the myriad of projects that the developer has undertaken around Falmouth, where design choices are bland and could be located anywhere, we need to ask, does money and ubiquity justify the complex skill set necessary to undertake dynamic historical restoration? We do not need expediency; we need an appropriate design.
All of this raises the question of respect to the process and the essential elements that process tries to protect; respect to Fuller, a Massachusetts native; respect to the architectural history of innovation; respect to a sense of place that is Woods Hole, a center of innovation, of deep history.