House on a Dune

Inspired by 400-year-old island architecture, this dwelling connects jungle to sea, celebrating the changing light and passage of time.

Our objective for this family retreat on Harbour Island was to connect residents intimately with the unique setting, to create a way of life based on daily and seasonal experiences. The rise and setting of the sun. The sounds of the sea and jungle. The ocean breeze, the tropical heat, and everything that goes on in this Bahamian paradise.

Designed with the land, not on the land, the building becomes a frame for nature—shapes, textures, and spaces that respect and celebrate their surroundings. This inherent beauty and humility come from a profound understanding and deference to the location, and the sensitive engagement with local builders and vernacular materials.

Harbour Island has a rich record of tropical colonial architecture—simple, elegant buildings designed for natural climate control. With their steeply pitched roofs, deep overhangs, and shuttered windows, they provided an architectural language and devices proven in this environment, while allowing for something new and unexpected.

Consideration of storm surge and sea level rise led us to set the house 33 feet above sea level, atop a sand dune. Its large shingle roof shelters an internal ‘verandah’ that runs through the center of the house—essentially an open breezeway. From its landside approach, stairs emerge from the jungle floor to reach this main living space, which reveals a spectacular ocean view, drawing people through the house and on to the dune and ocean beyond.

By contrast, adjacent bedrooms and bathrooms are enveloped in shutters for a soft, filtered light and feeling of privacy.

The retreat deals with the architecture of feeling. It is not simply about aesthetics; it is the experience people have in this particular place. By understanding the power of the site, and diurnal events and rhythms, we look through a more primitive lens to create silent and monumental architecture to bring people closer together and closer to the world around them.

Harbour Island, Bahamas
2,800 SF
Architecture, Interior Design
Project Team
Chad Oppenheim, Juan Calvo, Juan Lopez, Carolina Jaimes, Jacobus Bruyning, Jose Ortez, Kevin McMorris, Robert Gallagher, Francisco Llado, Sebastian Velez, Manuel Morales
Image Credit
Karen Fuchs

House on a Dune