IPSWICH COUNTRY CLUB, IPSWICH, MA 1986

In golf, a mulligan is a shot that is replayed from the location of the previous stroke without penalty, due to an errant shot made on the previous attempt. Outside of golf, a mulligan has become known as a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first action was not at the level typically expected of the player. In architecture then, it could be seen as a second or third scheme when the client does not like the first one. As Eric Gould, a young designer working on the project, tells the story, it took a couple of attempts to get the right image for the building, but first some project history.

BACKGROUND

World renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones owned a plot of land in Ipswich for about 15 years. Jones had designed a golf course for the property that he wanted to build, but was never able to get it off the ground. Ace Eaton, with whom we had done Loon Mountain, had a friend who knew Jones and mentioned that Jones was looking for partners to develop the land. Ace and his partner Ed Keating formed a limited partnership in which Robert Trent Jones was a 50% partner. Jones put up the land as equity which enabled the deal to go forward. The originally designed course was short so they bought an additional 50 acres in order to build a championship length course. John Exley, the land planner who also worked on Loon Mountain, worked with Jones to develop the master plan. Huygens and DiMella were brought in to design the housing and clubhouse.

Ipswich, Massachusetts an historic seaside community

The project is sited on 350 acres of wooded landscape in Ipswich, Massachusetts, an historic seaside community. The rolling hills are covered with century-old white pines, stately oaks, and birch trees surrounding fields and marshes.

THE HOUSING

The increasing trend in the mid 1980’s to unite golf clubs with luxury residential communities was the inspiration for this residential development. It was designed to appeal to busy professionals looking for recreation facilities close to home. Single-family houses and duplex residences are clustered in the wooded areas around the golf course creating privacy for both residents and golfers.

Left:  Fairway side of two of the duplex types 1988.   Right:   Street side of duplex 2015

Left:  Fairway side of two of the duplex types.  Right:  Street side of duplex 2015.

THE CLUBHOUSE

Eric begins:

“The Ipswich Country Club Clubhouse was originally envisioned as a tree house inside by one of the golf course consultants working for the developers, Ace Eaton and Ed Keating. The plan handed to Huygens and DiMella had it all worked out, and had the building surrounding a full-height atrium. Situated at the top of the rise behind the 18th hole, trays of floors were shown stacked up and around with stairs jutting in and out. It rose four or five floors — a blocky box capped by a large, hipped pyramid with a cupola on top — like a cherry on a ice cream sundae. Being a young designer, I took what was given to me by the client, and began trying to lay the plan out to scale, trying to make something out of the exterior — much to the puzzlement and amusement of Rem, Frank, and my studio head, David Carter.”

Eric

Eric’s rendering of the first scheme.

Ace and Ed were not enamored with this version of hanging a façade on the golf consultant’s plan, so the design team took a mulligan and went to work on massaging the plans and elevations into a more cohesive whole that responded to the clients idea of it being “more traditional.” Rem liked the hipped roofs so that idea remained in the new scheme seen in Eric’s perspectives below.

Entry View

Entry View.

View from the course

View from the course.

While there were things in the revised scheme that the clients liked, they still did not find the image to represent what they had imagined for the clubhouse. Frustrated and with some impatience, the clients eventually expressed affection for old-school shingle-style clubhouses, and so did the design team. So we took yet another mulligan.

Eric continues the story, “We continued to work on the double wing scheme – a clapboard styled double-bay idea, but of course, modernized in the style of the office. We laid out a long columned porch with dining rooms facing the fairway, marked by square white piers that extended to each side with decks and pergolas, making the whole thing a long, wide, welcoming gesture to the surrounding landscape below it.” As is often times the case, a small change, an unspoken preference of the client’s is finally teased out and a simple change from hipped roof to gabled roof forms captured the vision Ace and Ed had for the clubhouse. The blending of the two roof forms captured the picturesque quality of the historic clubhouses that everyone cherished.

Eric

Eric’s rendering of the accepted design.

As the design process continued Eric remembered, “The Ipswich Country Club evolved as many of the wood buildings I worked on for the office. It had its basic set of architectural rules, and rigorously kept to them – the white piers define planes of clapboards or glass between them. The piers making up the lower porch extended up to the decks above and became the defining rhythm of the infill guard rails between them. Long, skinny clerestory windows repeated and wrapped the front and hid locker rooms and kitchens but still let light in to them.

And the traditional double gables — now bold triangles with decks punched into them — bookended a long, nested flat dormer between them, facing the fairway, that felt both reminiscent of old-school country clubs and the abstracted wood architecture that the office loved.”

Entry side showing design elements Eric discusses above.

Entry side showing design elements Eric discuses above.

Similar view in 2015.

Similar view in 2015.

The central atrium originally given to us remained, but was pushed to one side, with glass that opened up majestic views of the golf course — and the main stairs definitively spilled down through it.

Left:  Atrium, note the built-in furniture typical in the firm

Left:  Atrium, note the built-in furniture typical of the firm’s work.   Right: Remodeled atrium 2015, built-in seating removed.

Main Level Plan

I chose to write this blog because I think it is important to use the passage of time to reflect on the work and to understand that we internalize the lessons we learn along the way, even if they were hard to learn at the time. We might rebel against them initially, but ultimately they become part of us going forward. I greatly appreciate Eric’s valuable insight that informed this week’s post. I asked him to reflect on his time in the office and his work on this project, and I think he captures the essence of his experience with a sense of maturity.

“The best part of working for the office on projects like these was learning how to reinterpret classic New England elements – wood shingle roofs, dormers, shingled and clapboard exteriors – and merge them with modern ideals established by Wright, Marcel Breuer and others.

We learned how to offset corridors, avoiding long cannon-shots and made space move and flow through a building. We made glass corners at the corners of buildings, like Wright, to dissolve the boxy containers of standard New England colonials. Tiles spilled from room to room in running brick patterns. We extended patios and low walls from the building out into the landscape to merge the inside with the outside.

Maybe most important, we learned that the eave detail set up the whole roof framing, and how it would basically determine how the whole thing went together.

I left Huygens and DiMella in 1987, a young man restless to work on what seemed at the time more daring, exuberant buildings. In hindsight, those all now look hopelessly dated and victims of fashion rather than buildings grounded in steadfast principles as they were at Huygens & DiMella.

I don’t often return much to the ideas I worked on at those other firms. Instead, when I sit down to sketch out a plan with the young architects that work for me, I try and make the space move and flow, with materials running through to blur the boundaries between inside and out… just as I learned at Huygens & DiMella.”

Eric Gould, 2015
Principal and Founder, The Helicon Design Group