Wellman Ledge

Marblehead, MA

Project Description

The rocky coastline, beaches, and inland terrain of the Marblehead landscape continues to evolve through natural processes, human activity, and the erosion and recomposition inherent to this coastal environment. These natural elements and cycles are made legible in heightened form on this shorefront site. Outcroppings of ancient stone serve to structure the design both in plan and vertically. The rock forms and material are keys to unlocking a complex choreography of spaces at different elevations, with grading design consistently balancing close-in privacy with recurrent sea views.

The unexpected addition of an adjacent parcel opened new possibilities for the combined site; we were asked to help imagine the basis for a renewed landscape. With a complementary strategy of embracing and creating context, the site decisions succeed in respecting the main house and its environs, while sculpting the built landform so that the new guest house and pool seem to emerge from the hillside’s stony underpinnings. The new pool, the largest outdoor gathering space, commands the brow of the site at a spot that offers the widest views yet the greatest privacy from beachgoers below. A new, radial wall of native stone tethers the treehouse-like guesthouse pavilion to the main house, embracing the natural rock outcropping. Moving through the site and descending to sea level, the language continues to loosen until resolving at the natural boulders on the shoreline. The adjacent terrace is finished in carefully fitted stone, while the seating area below is shaped from rustic boulders taken from the site, arranged like puzzle pieces to embrace the natural stone remaining in situ.

Echoing this progression in reverse, our planting design starts with salt-tolerant native grass meadows and stormwater rain garden, at the lowest elevation near the beach, then incorporates a broader range of trees and understory shrubs as it moves up the hillside, with carefully selected specimens and beds nearest the guesthouse pavilion and pool.