Project Architect


FEATURE-November/December 2011

by Susan Grisanti

Twenty of Maine’s latest, most inventive, and striking architectural projects reveal their designers’ philosophies, approaches, and styles.

How they handle challenges. How they interpret how clients want to live, or work, in a space. Thoughts on budget, on the environment. Do they edit down to bare minimalism or create opulent detail? Are their plans thoughtful, inventive, and controlled? Do they push the limits of the imagination?

In every issue we share the extraordinary work of Maine’s immensely talented architects, but once a year—in our special Architecture issue—the MH+D team offers a comprehensive look at architects and their compelling projects around the state. On these pages you will see everything, from the highest international standards of energy efficiency and innovation to incredibly creative projects on limited budgets to beautifully preserved classic cottages. We hope to whet your architectural appetite with a wide range of approaches and styles to inspire you—whether you have grand ideas for designing your state-of-the-art dream home or hope to make small-scale improvements.



The warning was music to Chris Briley’s ears. “Our tastes are more modern. We don’t want a New England farmhouse.” What the clients did want was a green home that looked like it belonged on Pemaquid Pond in Bremen.

The directive yielded a design of natural materials expressed in modern ways. Synthetic finishes were avoided as much as possible, and instead the emphasis is on warm wood, offset by the cool concrete and stone.

The house incorporates a passive-solar design in which overhangs were designed to allow in the low-angle winter sun and cut off the higher summer sun. The first-floor radiant slab is polished concrete that has the added benefit of providing substantial thermal mass to the house. A 90-tube solar collector array provides all of the domestic hot water and approximately 50 percent of the remaining space heating. In extended periods of overcast cold days, an efficient, gas condensing boiler provides the rest.

The roof of the home is very special, because it has a living plant material on it. A vegetated roof manages storm water. It also respires, so in the summer, the heat gain from the roof is zero. But best of all, it looks gorgeous!




Last August, 10 Unity College students moved into a unique campus residence: TerraHaus, designed and built by GO Logic, an architecture and construction collaborative between Alan Gibson and Matthew O’Malia. TerraHaus is expected to be certified  according to the Passive House standard, the highest international standard for energy efficiency, which would make it the first U.S. college residence to receive this certification. This 2,000-square-foot residence is designed to use the equivalent of 80 gallons of oil per year for space heating, less than 10 percent of the average heating load for a home of its size in our climate. In fact, in zero-degree weather, the heating load for TerraHaus could be met almost completely with a standard hair dryer. The house achieves this remarkable level of efficiency from four key components: superior air sealing, superinsulation, solar orientation, and triple-glazed windows. Also noteworthy is its creative use of space, comfortably housing 10 students in an apartment-style dwelling, greatly reducing the average area and energy use per person for a student residence of this size.

TerraHaus is the first of three residence halls that will make up the SonnenHaus village of highly energy-conscious dorms on the Unity College campus, breaking new ground for green building in college communities.




John Gillespie’s love of the Maine coast and the architectural style that is indigenous to the region made him the ideal architect for this classic shingle-style summer home. Sited near the crest of a large sloping meadow running to the ocean, the home’s southeasterly exposure provides views to the islands beyond. Gillespie worked within a stringent set of site restrictions and took view corridors, ledge outcroppings, tree locations, and solar orientation closely into account to develop the configuration of the house.

The owners expressed their commitment to land and wildlife preservation practices and, despite an ambitious plan, wanted the project to be as green as possible. To that end, as many nonformaldehyde-based products were employed in the construction as possible, along with Forest Stewardship Council–certified wood products, non-CFC sprayed-in-place insulation, high-density polyethylene conduits and footing drains, noncopper flashing, cast-iron sanitary stacks, and Pex domestic water lines—all coupled with a closed-loop geothermal heating system, dual pole-mounted solar array, radon mitigation system, energy recovery system, and fresh-air ventilation and humidification systems.

Although grand in scale and rich in detail, the house, with its comfortable and understated interiors, exudes a simple elegance that befits its shingle-style heritage.




Caleb Johnson loves a challenge. He believes that a beautiful and functional design should also respect the environment, the budget, and the client’s vision. When asked to recreate a one-hundred-year-old family cottage that had been all but destroyed in a storm, he happily accepted the opportunity to responsibly rebuild within the fragile dune environment. And he delivered, with a 1,600-square-foot four-bedroom house for under $250,000, including design, pier engineering, and construction.

Johnson and his team embraced the challenges of working within the frontal dune site. Regulations dictate that all new buildings within a flood hazard zone be elevated at least three feet above the high-water mark, which prevented the use of standard foundation systems. Collaborating with structural engineers, Johnson and his team implemented a design using heavy timber piles to create a flow-through foundation.

Weathering cedar siding on the exterior and knotty pine on the interior help preserve the feeling of the original cottage. The floor plan maximizes ocean views from each room, includes four bedrooms, and provides oceanside gathering spaces within the four porches that make up one third of the square footage.




The idiom, “Still waters run deep” comes to mind when viewing this project, and the body of work of Carol Wilson and her team in general. “Our design philosophy is to edit, edit, remove and remove, rather than add more and more ‘special features.’ In Maine, the view and the landscape are the special features,” says Wilson.

Wilson calls the house construction “very simple,” and admittedly, the materials used are straightforward: the beams are laminated timbers; the walls and ceilings are of simple gypsum wallboard; the floors are Maine ash and pine milled from trees on the site; and the cabinetry is lacquered flush doors on hidden European hinges. However, behind those doors lies all that one needs and uses everyday—at hand but not in sight—creating a quiet, elegant space for the beauty of the views to come through as well as a mental rest for the home’s occupants.

There is a corridor with paneled walls hiding closets that runs the length of the house. The homeowner’s dog, Chloe, runs the length of the corridor.  When Chloe leaves the house, she heads for the tidal mud flats. The floor of the back hall is slate, and behind large rolling panels is a dog bathtub, complete with leash hook and handheld shower. Chloe jumps in, and homeowner Mary Kilmon sits on the wide tile edge and rinses off the dog.




Architect John Gordon is well versed in developing creative, sustainable design solutions on limited budgets. He worked with a couple who are both members of the overseas U.S. diplomatic corps to design their summer home. Together they decided to build smaller in order to stretch their budget for higher quality materials. The 1,020-square-foot home has one small bathroom, a simple kitchen, and a small combined laundry/utility room. A stained concrete floor throughout the ground floor saved on foundation and finished-floor costs. A sleeping loft overlooks the open, combined rooms of kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Arguably the most distinctive feature of this house is its large screen porch with openings on all four sides. This wonderful outside room is a sleeping porch, dining room, and extended living room all rolled into one.

Another benefit of the building’s summer-only use and optimum solar access was the ability to include a small solar photovoltaic (PV) array. As a result, this building uses nominal electricity when unoccupied, then the sun converts the house into a micro power plant for nine months a year.




Born of the multiple needs of a busy, growing family and the desire to create a home that would be as energy-efficient as possible, the owners of this Lincoln County farm worked closely with John Morris Architects to reorganize their farmstead. The original barn, a large three-story timber-frame structure, had a ground-floor llama stable below the water table of an adjacent pond, and was subject to flooding during high-water periods. By relocating the old barn and supplanting it with a large, watertight house addition, Morris’s design accommodated a variety of demands without visually overpowering the existing Cape and ell. A high priority was to reuse the former barn site to visually anchor the farmhouse and take full advantage of the sunny views over the pond. To this end, a new, waterproof foundation was engineered and built to accommodate a new living room, master suite, guest suite, game and exercise spaces, home office, and a greatly improved entrance and mudroom.

The house is heated by a surprisingly small modulating propane boiler with carefully tuned and balanced radiant loops. The shading effect of the large enclosed porch on the adjacent dining room is greatly diminished and offset by large argon-insulated glass skylights. The addition and ell renovations capture the sunlight and views to the southwest that pervade every main space with warmth. Just to the north, the owner, architect, and ReVision Energy gracefully sited a large photovoltaic array that supplies all electricity to the farmstead.

Richardson & Associates of Saco assisted the owners and architect with multiple grade transitions to create a cohesive and pleasing landscape design.




The design process for this lakeside second home was intensive. The Lassel Architects team gathered much information from their client’s specific vision. The result, an open-concept plan with Greene & Greene–inspired timber framing, provides large, open spaces for entertaining, generous views to the lake, and sleeping lofts that comfortably accommodate extended family overnight. The building’s footprint is a Y-shape: the two shorter wings pivot off the staircase, which winds around a natural tree trunk up to a tower room with 360-degree views of the surrounding lake and forest. The main structure is of Douglas fir, while the white oak splines and pegs contrast in color, in keeping with the home’s Japanese joinery.

The family enjoys the home throughout the year, so careful attention was paid to insulation and efficient mechanical systems. Solar orientation allows for shade in the summer and takes advantage of passive-solar gain in the winter. The design also takes into account cross-ventilation for each bedroom and a variety of high- and low-awning windows to allow cool air to move through the home and replace the warm air in the upper floor.

And all that careful planning has yielded many gathering places, including the fireplace on a cool fall evening, the screened porch on a summer day, and the tower to experience a blizzard.




The new 140,000-square-foot, $28.6 million Falmouth Elementary School designed by Oak Point Associates’ principal architect Robert Tillotson is expected to achieve LEED Gold status from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Low-impact development strategies—bioretention basins, grassed soil filters, porous asphalt pavement, vegetated roofs, and rainwater harvesting for flush fixtures—were utilized. Strategically placing the school on the existing middle and high school campus allows administrators to be in close proximity; places less impact on adjacent sensitive land; and enables schools to share staff, educational spaces, newly relocated athletic fields, parking and circulation routes, and a central heat plant. The use of renewable energy sources, including solar, geothermal, and biomass, further reduces the facility’s environmental impact.

Falmouth students and staff are provided a healthy interior that features extensive views, low-VOC finishes, excellent ventilation, and adjustable lighting in a dynamic educational environment that merges architecture inspired by nature with effective learning technologies. Interior finishes include irregularly placed cedar on the lofty entry ceiling (reminiscent of forest landscapes) and rolling wave patterns in the cafeteria. The 72 classrooms are outfitted with Wi-Fi, LCD projectors, document cameras, and sound amplifying systems. During everyday lessons, students and teachers utilize portable iPads and laptops, which can easily be brought to the green roof “classroom.” This roof garden features decks, benches, and a variety of local plants, offering a unique and engaging learning environment.




The Bosarge Family Education Center is Maine’s greenest building—LEED Platinum–certified and the first commercial net-zero building in the state, only the second in New England. Designed by a team led by Scott Simons Architects of Portland and Maclay Architects of Waitsfield, Vermont, it is built to the highest standards ever achieved in the nation, yet it looks completely at home in this coastal botanical-garden setting. It is a wonderful fusion of modern technology and design with vernacular form.

The transparency of the entry hall allows one to see through the center of the building, and in the summer, the gardens appear to flow right through the building, connecting the entrance side of the building with the garden experiences behind it. The multipurpose room can accommodate 150 people at round tables and nearly 200 people in rows of chairs. When the moveable wall panels are pulled across, and the acoustical panels in the trusses above are closed, it can function as three classroom spaces, each with great views to the gardens out the front and back of the building. Each interior classroom has a corresponding exterior space, so the doors can be open in nice weather and the class can literally move outside into the gardens.




Wright Hall is a renovated structure designed for the National Park Service on their new campus on the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park. Over the past four years Roc Caivano and Geoffrey Fraser have been working to convert an abandoned naval base into an education and research center. The original building, a military dispensary, was gutted, decontaminated, and then wrapped in layers of SIPS insulation. The exterior siding is made up of flat-seam pre-patinated copper panels and eastern white cedar treated with a 50/50 mix of bleaching oil and weathering stain. The interior includes three large classrooms, two large laboratories, six offices, and a library. Solar-collector windows were added to the south side, and photovoltaic collectors to the roof.  The 20 kilowatts generated is shared with neighboring buildings when not needed by Wright Hall.

In the course of the project, many old buildings were removed, and their salvageable parts were recycled. Concrete was crushed and used as a sublayer for new roads and parking. Fraser coordinated eight consultants from landscape architects to engineers, hazmat specialists to signage designers. Construction for the entire project—five structures and the entire landscape—took less than a year.




The new kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school, tucked away inside Portland’s Back Cove neighborhood, is targeted to achieve LEED for Schools certification based on its high-efficiency HVAC equipment, solar hot-water collectors, and use of local and recycled materials. Local materials used include Angela Adams–designed carpet patterns. The sculpture artists at May & Watkins Design were selected through the Maine Percent for Art Program. The angled granite along the entry plaza—a design feature developed by landscape architect Peter Biegel to follow the tapered concrete piers at the bases of the entry-canopy columns—is constructed of recycled granite curbing from the City’s salvage yard.

The reused site, with no street frontage except for two existing drives, slopes to a single City manhole. The design includes 10,000 square feet in vegetated roof that attenuate and treat the runoff on the site.

Open, flexible space with natural daylighting enhances the comfort of the elementary school. The classrooms in each wing link together allowing flexibility in teaching methods. They also surround shared small group activity spaces that further enhance educational program possibilities. All classrooms have large windows looking out on the wooded parcel, wetlands, and bio-retention beds that enhance the outdoor- and sustainability-education features of the school’s curriculum.




The inspiration for this elegant estate began at the shoreline. Set slightly back from the water, a high point of ledge offers views of a lighthouse and sailing school to the north and island-studded ocean views to the south.

A central gambrel form draws you into the grand entry where a domed ceiling floats above a graceful double stairway and the intricate marble floor inlay. Ahead, 16 feet of curved mahogany doors disappear into hidden wall pockets, but the greatest feat of the design team is the flush stone sill that allows for uninterrupted flow from indoors to out. With curves meeting curves in every room, the intricate wood moldings were individually designed by Knickerbocker Group architects and Urban Dwellings designers, who carefully detailed each piece to smoothly transition to the next and provide continuity throughout the home.

With much of the property dedicated to shared spaces for entertaining, privacy was a key concern in the design of the master suite. Thick mahogany arched wooden doors open to a private gallery. Ahead is a richly appointed office just off the master bedroom, where windows frame the lighthouse view. A private stone terrace ends at the ledge where the inspiration for the property first began.




After completing a renovation to the main house and a barn expansion previously, architect Carol DeTine returned to the Casco Bay Cottage project this year for phase two. DeTine’s work on the project remained true to her mission in phase one: to integrate thoughtful, inventive, and controlled expansions in order to update this home for modern living. Where there were once small windows, cramped rooms with low ceilings, and obscured water views, there are now open living spaces that face ocean views to the south and east. Second-floor dormers maximize headroom yet fit within shoreland zoning rules limiting height and volume.

Her charge in phase two was to revamp the kitchen and mudroom, and to integrate a solar energy system. Kitchen cabinets were hewn from two-hundred-year-old Maine maple salvaged from Moosehead Lake by the DeadHead Lumber Company. Solar panels for electricity and hot water exploit the barn roof’s southern exposure. Insulation was added to the kitchen, the mudroom was rebuilt, and triple-glazed windows were installed. While the changes to the living space feel monumental, the footprint expanded just two hundred square feet, nicely exemplifying a strategy that DeTine has termed, “adding inward,” creating new space without adding square footage.




Eric Chase is a good listener. And he has built a firm that values client input as well as collaboration from others working on the project. On the Oceanville House, Chase worked with landscape architect Bruce John Riddell on what was a seemingly ordinary wooded site to transform it into a truly stunning property with views off the east side of Deer Isle, looking north into Southeast Harbor and east out to Stinson Neck and Jericho Bay.

The owners, a couple with two young daughters, have a family history of coming to Maine in the summer and wanted a shingle-style house that would comfortably embrace extra family and friends. Inside, the finishes reflect a contemporary tendency while still relating to a traditional cottage. Extensive use of wood enhances the cottage feel of the house but, being more finished and sparsely detailed, it feels more modern.

Chase also collaborated with Lawson Builders. Both the builder and architect worked closely with the client on choices throughout the project. This is especially apparent in the choice of materials, from the copper roofs to the ash ceiling in the living/dining area.




Richard Renner Architects was called on to create a roomy home within a small footprint in a Portland downtown neighborhood. The completed project is one that the designers themselves say they would love to live in. The perfect size for a couple but large enough to entertain a group, one can imagine a quiet winter evening in the home or a summer afternoon with guests on the roof deck and spilling out from the kitchen/living space into the backyard.

There is one office/bedroom, with a lovely view to Casco Bay, one bathroom, and an office on the second floor. On the first floor is the kitchen, living and dining room, a half-bathroom, and an entrance space. Although only 1,200 square feet, the home accommodates the owners’ many interests—gardening, music, and woodworking (there’s a shop in the basement). The exterior is clad in galvanized steel roof shingles, which require little maintenance. The repeated horizontal dimension is consistent with the wood siding typical of the neighborhood. The form recalls the classic New England triple-decker, and the parapet is a modern translation of a historic parapet. In addition to being a design element, it screens and serves as a rail for the roof deck.

In the evening, the character of the house changes as this silver box begins to glow, revealing a silhouette of the homeowner’s collection of cacti in the window.




In 1915 Grand View Cottage was built in Boothbay Harbor. As a kid, Rob Whitten spent summers in Boothbay and always enjoyed seeing the old cottage. He recalls noticing how it looked like it belonged right there and nowhere else.

Coincidentally, when the current owners wanted to create a four-season home, they called on Whitten Architects for a design solution. Carefully concealed structural repairs were made to the existing cottage, preserving the classic details. On the exterior, high-performance windows, new insulation, and new cedar-shingle siding were added.

An energy-efficient master quarters was added in a new wing with a glass porch connecting it to the cottage. This unit allows the owners to visit in the winter without needing to heat both structures. Interior spaces include a small living area with stone fireplace, a kitchenette, and a master bedroom suite. Nestled into the trees, the addition is intentionally set into the background, allowing the original cottage and its entry porch to remain the prominent feature.

A new garage and apartment is thoughtfully located so as to screen the home from the road. The space between the new garage and the original cottage creates a well-defined arrival courtyard. This welcoming space allows guests to leave their cars behind and move toward the view, and the waterside porches.




Kevin Browne is not looking to rethink traditional architecture—he just wants to add an edge to it. His goal is to take traditional detailing and blend it with more contemporary features. The premise for this house, which he worked on with long-time collaborators Jonathan and Catherine Culley of Redfern Properties, started with a common architectural theme: the shingle style. Browne has worked with the Culleys on numerous homes and other rehab projects, but this home was designed specifically for them and their growing family. They worked together on ways to incorporate modern features into the traditional design, such as black trim, a distinctive entryway with tumbled rather than polished black and white marble, and a floating curved staircase with stainless-steel balusters and a large Noguchi pendant lamp. The kitchen cabinetry is traditional in form but painted a very dark, bluish gray. Glass matchstick tiles and a light gray concrete countertop also denote a more modern approach. In the living room, coffered ceilings feature a markedly simplified trim detail and a larger scale. Three sets of French doors drench the house in south-facing natural light throughout the day.

Radiant heat is used as an efficient heating system. Low-e windows, water-sensible plumbing fixtures, low-VOC paint, and the positioning of the house on the site to maximize its solar gain round out the list of the sustainable features found in this home.




The existing camp on the banks of the New Meadows river in Brunswick was cramped and dark, propped up on concrete blocks and sagging dreadfully, when the owner of the property approached Winkelman Architecture. She had the desire to create a modest, bright, comfortable, and energy-efficient new structure on a tight budget that respected the beautiful site. The result is a 1,090-square-foot, single-level, two-bedroom dwelling.

Zoning constraints had a strong influence on the shape and plan of the new camp. Since the permitted volume was greatly constrained by the zoning, a traditional gabled roof form seemed wasteful. The new structure has flat and shallowly pitched roofs to squeeze the overall volume down into the living spaces. Toward the back, where the bedrooms are located, the roofs are almost flat, but over the living and dining areas the roof twists and angles up more dramatically to let the panoramic river views and sunlight flood in. Traditional roofing materials don’t lend themselves well to flat, twisting roof forms, and a planted roof was an attractive and obvious choice to blend in with the natural surroundings, reduce runoff, and bolster the already superinsulated building envelope.

Nearly all of the interior and exterior finishes were sourced from local mills and quarries, which fit in nicely with the green spirit of the house and had the added bonus of keeping costs low. The scale of the finishes was deliberately exaggerated to emphasize the small structure’s relationship to its natural surroundings.




This is a unique home, a simple and modest living space built over a horse barn. The horses are retiring to Maine along with their owners to flee the Texas heat, and they all end up with the best view in Oxford County.

A mud and tack room sits on the ground floor with an open staircase that leads to the main living space above. The kitchen and living room are expansive and open, with a full master suite and a sleeping loft above.

The house was oriented to pull in as much winter sun as possible along the long south side through the mudroom and dormer windows, while carefully aligning the gable end and suspended balcony straight at Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington, a favorite hiking spot for the couple.

The project was meticulously built by Warren Williamson to withstand the harsh wind and cold that sweeps across from the White Mountains. The entire house was wrapped in two inches of rigid foam insulation on top of cellulose-packed walls and was carefully air-sealed to ensure that the house won’t leak water or heat.
There might eventually be a main house on the property, but for now this house seems to be just the right size.