Gatehouses: Little Structures, Big Design
October 4, 2017
One of my favorite aspects of designing house projects in Fire Island Pines is distilling the “big idea” of a house into the little gatehouses at the front of the property.
Fire Island Pines is a community located on Fire Island, one of several thin barrier islands off the coast of New York’s Long Island. Development of the island began in earnest in the 1950’s, and one of the earliest gestures in the design of the community has had the most profound impact on its built form.
There are essentially no paved roads; the built world is almost entirely lifted above the sand dunes on wooden piles. Sidewalks are a collection of interconnected wooden boardwalks sliding through the tall grasses and pine trees, over sand dunes, connecting to houses built in the same fashion.
Residents often put up small sheds or gatehouses at their walk connection. These hold beach chairs, umbrellas, garbage cans, and the ubiquitous handcarts used to lug everything around on the wooden boardwalks. Gatehouses also serve the basic function of letting your neighbors know “someone lives here.”
By emulating the visual language of the main house, these gatehouses give a passerby a clue as to the identity of the often-concealed house beyond. They are like little windows peeking through the thicket on the hidden houses that lay beyond.