The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 11

THE GREY LADY
by ALEX TEMPORALE OAA, FRAIC

IMAGES: ALEX TEMPORALE

odd was five. He couldn't stop screaming. He wasn't in pain or having a
tantrum; it was joy. It was his first experience jumping in the waves crashing onto an ocean beach. The shoreline seemed to extend forever below
an endless horizon. The trip began as an invitation from an old friend who
was spending a year on sabbatical in Martha's Vineyard. It was the year
I started practice on my own. I was tired and emotionally exhausted and, for the first
time in my career, I took three weeks off. I would return many times, not to Martha's
Vineyard, but to Nantucket, the "Grey Lady," as it's known, the island further off the
coast of Cape Cod we visited on that trip.
I like to say that it was the two-hour ferry ride that made it my special place, but it is
more than that. There is everything that one reads about the attraction of the ocean
and island living. In an all-consuming profession such as architecture, detachment from
the daily demands of practice at times seems rare. After the long drive down to the
coast of New England, the ferry ride is a wonderful decompression. There is something
symbolic about leaving the mainland behind. As you pass the red lighthouse at Brant
Point and enter Nantucket harbour, filled with sailboats and yachts, you are enclosed
by a ring of 17th- and 18th-century grey, shingle buildings, with church steeples and
towers in the background. The sound of gulls and waves lapping against the pier, the
smell of salt water, the ocean breeze and then the slight rock of the ferry as it nestles
into its slip signal your arrival. It is postcard picturesque.
The beauty of Nantucket Island relies on more than grand buildings. Rather, it's finegrained human scale. Even though you are on vacation, you cannot help but be moved by
its unspoiled beauty and become an observer recording the fine details of this historic
place. The main street is cobblestoned, the sidewalks are brick, the curbs are granite
and the larger trees branch over the walkways. The streets are narrow and bordered on
both sides by historic buildings, dating mainly back to the Island's whaling days. The
roofscapes are still dotted with widow's walks, but no one is awaiting the return of the
whaling fleet. There are no McDonald's. Gas bars don't have big flood-lit canopies, but
are nestled into the island landscapes and usually have a shed or shingle-style building
to serve customers. In general, most of the grim and gaudy commercial development
that dominates the North American landscape does not exist on Nantucket. There is
no Learning from Las Vegas here.
There is enormous pride in the heritage of the island and the maintenance of its
heritage buildings. Every summer, crews of painters and workmen can be seen stripping back the wood clapboards and repainting siding and trim. The islanders know the
innate details and methods of construction that began with the first saltbox homes
of early 18th century. Traditions have been retained that began in the mid-1800s. In
the early settlements, trees began to be planted, picket and balustrade-style fences
became the norm, as well as hedges to define public and private property. The tradition
of the deep green hedges continues to the present day in the town and hamlets of
Nantucket. They have become an art form, shaped and punctured to provide framed
views of the water or the entrance to a home. The formality of the townscape is in
sharp contrast to the island countryside, an environment best described by sand
dunes, moraines, grasses, and scrub growth, largely untouched even where there
is development. Strict design guidelines have been set, dictated by the surrounding
topography and location for development. There is no suburbia allowed.
Nantucket is also a place where the architect must park his or her ego. You cannot return as many times as I have and not become a conservation advocate. Almost

Nantucket
is also
a place
where the
architect
must park
his or
her ego.

The Right Angle | Fall 2017 | 11



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017

Message from the Board
Introduction to The Right Angle Journal
Places
Allied Arts & Professions: Light-Colour-Darkness
Index to Advertisers
Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - Intro
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - cover1
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - cover2
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 3
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 4
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 5
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 6
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - Message from the Board
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 8
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - Introduction to The Right Angle Journal
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - Places
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 11
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 12
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 13
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 14
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 15
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 16
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 17
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 18
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - 19
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - Allied Arts & Professions: Light-Colour-Darkness
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - Index to Advertisers
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - Locations
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - cover3
The Right Angle Journal - Fall 2017 - cover4
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