Submarine Lookout Tower

Peaks Island, Maine
Photography: Darel Bridges, Winkelman
Builder: Bill Bunton
Whitten Architects project: Winkelman lead

Site Conditions
Existing World War II era 3-story 16' x 26' submarine look-out tower on a former military reservation. The lot is on Peaks Island's backshore with northeasterly water views.

Client Program
Contemporary residence for a couple using open plan living. Their goal was for a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath layout that maximized views, was daylighted and felt connected to the land.

Design Response
We chose to embed the new into the old with living and bedroom spaces integrated into the existing tower. The bunker proved resistant to development because of its low floor to ceiling heights, 12" thick concrete walls, 6" thick reinforced floor slabs that required mid-span reinforcement, and the fact that the tower's posture on the site set-up to block southerly daylight on this northeasterly view oriented site. In plan, the addition(s) is twisted 12 degrees to reorient properly to the water view and to articulate the new from the existing.

The rear 2-story addition captures southerly daylight and bounces it into the tower through large, flush cut openings cut on the bunker’s back wall. Functionally this addition contains utility spaces; bathrooms, laundry, a secondary bedroom, and the stair which is treated as a two story lightwell. The use of polycarbonate panels diffuses daylight while providing some privacy to the street. The natural finished pine framing warms up the concrete structure.

The forward 1-story addition was kept low to avoid blocking upper level views. Its living space flows from this addition back into the dining and kitchen space in the existing footprint. Its form is a direct response to the limited headroom in the existing structure; spatially expanding as one moves toward the view, opening up and out. The form also promoted capturing as much early and late (east and west) daylight as possible. Louvers were placed to the extreme west edge of the forward addition's porch as a privacy screen to the abutting neighbor - made translucent to glow and capture westerly daylight.