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Virgin Island

Far removed from the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square is a secluded private island in the Caribbean Sea. The owner, a notable mathematician, who enjoys his daily banter and debates amongst his Cambridge colleagues, chose his retreat 1,700 miles to the south. Seeking redemption, piano playing, motorcycle riding and a myriad of water sports, this property in the Virgin Islands proved to be the answer to his dreams. Like-minded friends are invited to share the bliss. The owner’s wife was happy to oblige and was provided with her private wing which was adequately appointed. She shares an equal and balanced existence in this rambling 50,000 square foot villa. .

The most crucial exercise for an architect involved in a project of this size it to always keep few things in mind. The villa with all its parts must fit within its surroundings; the scale of the parts must be in balance and harmony with each other. Lastly, the overall monumentality must be handled appropriately. .

Selim Koder joined forces with the Washington DC architect James McCrery to create a villa like no other. Emboldened by the dramatic terrain and its corresponding views, the design team agreed to set the structure at the highest point of the island, and conveniently used the special shaped topography where on three sides; the plateau descends dramatically towards a V shaped coast line. The composition called for a set of pavilions organically oriented following those grading. As a result, the steep slopes created a natural base for the villa. .

The pavilions were clustered in two distinct wings rambling across the landscape and separated by a vast courtyard. The balance was achieved without creating a strictly symmetrical façade. The northern wing housed the formal public functions ultimately leading to the owner’s bedroom suite. The southern wing housed the entertainment functions with the wife’s bedroom suite at the end. His and her suites are connected by a gracious airy portico overlooking the swimming pool. The portico also acts as a backdrop for the vast interior courtyard. With the portico in place, the villa of “parts” is now joined and complete. .

An approach ramp ascends dramatically towards an outer motor court lined with palm trees. A security building with a columned overlook flanks one side of the court. A sequence of entry starts through an exterior but covered loggia and through an uncovered entry courtyard with a four palms and a fountain. The entry courtyard is connected to two exedras in the shape of half circles, each of which negotiate the rotations of the living room wing to the north and the entertainment wing to the south. A vast uncovered courtyard with sixteen royal palms (twenty-four feet in height) organizes the circulation of the main distinct north and south wings. .

The design responded to the programmatic challenges and has avoided monumentality. With each twist and turn, and moving through the various wings, an element of surprise is always at hand. Even though the size of overall project is that of a public building, one can only grasp the local scale of the parts – composed in harmony as one composes a village.