On the North Shore of Martha’s Vineyard, on an oceanfront three and one-half acre lot overlooking the Elizabeth Islands, a striking example of biophilic design has recently been completed. The 5,260 square-foot contemporary house, designed by Tom Tate of the Vineyard’s Tate Builders, is called Minawetu, loosely translated from the Algonquin language to mean “Island Home.”
“Major corporations have been incorporating biophilic design into their new buildings,” Tate says. “Now it is beginning to be used by residential architects and designers as well.”
American biologist, theorist, naturalist and author Edward O. Wilson popularized the term Biophilia in the 1980’s, when he observed how increasing rates of urbanization were leading to a disconnection with the natural world. Bio– means “life or living things”, –philia means “love”. Biophilia refers to “love of life or living systems.”
“The idea is to create an environment where we connect with nature,” Tate says. “Biophilic design emphasizes human adaptations to the natural world that, over evolutionary time, have proven instrumental in advancing people’s health, fitness, and wellbeing. Each element of biophilic design stimulates a physical response from the body.”
Minawetu is built of Chelmsford granite, glass, red eucalyptus and coral from the Dominical Republic to form a contemporary, horizontally-massed building. The entrance to the home leads across enormous granite stepping stones that bridge an expansive water feature with two waterfalls cascading to a lower-level pond. The entry leads into open and dramatic living spaces with 10 ft ceilings and large expanses of glass facing Vineyard Sound and the surrounding landscape. With over 247 feet of private beach frontage just up the way from beautiful Lambert’s Cove Beach, Minawetu features a rooftop pool, decks, cantilevers, an exterior glass circular staircase, solar panels and one of the best sunset views on the East Coast.
The interior has five bedroom suites, five full baths and one half bath. The kitchen, which features a floating island that echoes the exterior cantilevers, is outfitted with top-of-the-line appliances by Sub Zero and Gaggenau. Substantial additional square footage on the lower level can become a yoga studio, gym, home theater, more bedrooms or any number of uses. There is also the possibility for a detached structure that would offer additional living space.
The landscaping is an incredible blend of open, natural settings complimented by the botanical gardens which grow on and around the house.
“As spectacular as this house is,” its designer-builder says, “It is, at best, a platform for a botanical garden.