Martha's Vineyard Commission says yes, but to hospital bricks
The Martha's Vineyard Commission last week approved the color of the brick that will clad the façade of the new Martha's Vineyard Hospital, with one request.
If it's not too late, the commissioners asked, would the hospital work with the brick supplier to make the darkest 10 percent of the brick used in the mix "somewhat lighter."
Yesterday, in a telephone conversation, Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, said, "I'm happy that the brick passed muster, and the hospital project is moving forward."
There will be no lightening of the bricks. Mr. Walsh said the selection of the color was made to replicate the Tisbury School, based on an analysis of Island buildings. He said unfortunately it is too late in the process, and any change would stray from the Tisbury model.
Tim Sweet, hospital vice chairman and chairman of the building committee, said, "I am pleased that they generally agreed with the red and the hues that we spoke about before."
Last month the hospital prepared a brick display wall so the commissioners could see the brick that would be used in the façade of the new, $42 million building now under construction.
It was the hospital's view that the Martha's Vineyard Commission's look at the brick was for review purposes. The Martha's Vineyard Commission saw it differently. Mark London, Martha's Vineyard Commission executive director, said that when the regional permitting body approved the project, the decision included a requirement that the hospital return to the commissioners with samples of the actual brick for a final approval.
Complicating the discussion was the fact that the brick had already been ordered, and any change would result in significant additional costs and construction schedule delays, according to the hospital.
The color of the brick was discussed at length prior to the Martha's Vineyard Commission approval of the hospital project, in December 2006. Following the decision, the Martha's Vineyard Commission formed an informal committee of Vineyard architects to advise the hospital's architects and make recommendations to the Martha's Vineyard Commission about the building design.
Hospital architect Mark Rowland of Thomas Miller and Associates said his firm conducted a very rigorous review of all of the brick buildings on Martha's Vineyard before settling on the Tisbury School as a good blend of characteristics.
The school provided the benchmark for the choice of brick used for the display presented to the Martha's Vineyard Commission last month, in anticipation of an Martha's Vineyard Commission vote.
The meeting before the meeting
Full commission meetings are often preceded by Monday night meetings of the land use planning committee (LUPC). The LUPC is an amorphous group that has no fixed number and is open to any commissioner who chooses to attend.
Meetings of LUPC are more informal than full commission meetings. LUPC often lead to influential recommendations to the full commission.
On Monday, Sept. 29, five of the Martha's Vineyard Commission's 17 voting members convened as the LUPC to discuss the brick color. According to the minutes of the meeting, Mr. London noted that the proposed color corresponds to the recommendations of the architectural review committee, "Namely a red brick with a soft orangey tone. The committee had recommended a varied range of middle tones, without any very dark colors. The mock-up shows most of the bricks were almost the same color, with a small number of dark ones."
The commissioners agreed that the basic color is what was expected, "but that the small number of very dark bricks might make the façade look spotty."
Mr. London suggested that the commissioners approve the bricks, but he recommended the hospital work with its suppliers to see if they can get the 10 percent that are the darkest bricks to be a little lighter.
The motion, approved unanimously, was that the LUPC "recommend that the commission approve the brick color as generally consistent with the earlier discussions. It was also recommended that the commission suggest that, if it is not too late, the hospital architect work with the supplier to try to get more of a middle range of tones, making the darkest ten percent in the mix somewhat lighter."
The earlier discussions referred to by LUPC included the final report of the project's architectural review committee, established at the request of the Martha's Vineyard Commission. That review committee presented its recommendations on May 21, 2007 to the Martha's Vineyard Commission, but they contain no reference to brick color.
In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. London confirmed that the architectural committee provided no written color recommendation. Asked about the basis for the LUPC's recommendation to omit the darker bricks chosen by the hospital's architectural firm, Mr. London said, "Based on my repeating for LUPC the oral recommendations of the architectural committee."
Mr. London said the Martha's Vineyard Commission approved the brick, and there is no longer an issue. "If they haven't been made, and the architect feels that a bit more of a range might be useful he can do it," said Mr. London. "If not, it doesn't matter."
The architectural review committee report lists four authors: Peter Breese, Ben Moore, Bob Schwartz and Mark London. All four are identified only as architects.
Although he is not a member of a professional architectural firm and represented the Martha's Vineyard Commission, Mr. London explained that many members of the Martha's Vineyard Commission staff have multiple areas of expertise and that in addition to being executive director he is also an architect. Asked if he also fulfills the role of the Martha's Vineyard Commission's in-house architect, Mr. London described his role as "in-house person providing staff expertise if needed."
In his capacity as Martha's Vineyard Commission executive director, prior to the September 29 LUPC meeting, Mr. London called Thompson and Rose to speak with the hospital's architects about the status of the bricks. The call was made without the knowledge of hospital officials.
Hospital CEO Tim Walsh told The Martha's Vineyard Times that the architects work for the hospital, and that the telephone call was not appropriate.
"It is out of line for him to do things like that," said Mr. Walsh. "If he wanted to speak to our architect he should have called us first or he could have given us the question."
Mr. Walsh said the whole subject involved too much detail. "You get to what kind of brick, is it a bright red brick or a sandy colored brick and then you get to a sandy colored brick and then you start taking it brick by brick, saying one is too dark," he said. "It just seems like it is a reach."
Mr. London said the architects referred him to the hospital project manager Connie Bulman. He said the Martha's Vineyard Commission often directly contacts project architects when seeking information. "Problem solving through open dialog is often the best way of getting to a good solution," he said.
The color of the bricks was the first item of business raised at the commission's Thursday night meeting on October 2. Doug Sederholm of Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard Commission chairman, began the discussion with a critical reference to a story published last week in The Martha's Vineyard Times (Oct. 2, "Martha's Vineyard Commission says it has final say in hospital brick").
Mr. Sederholm defended the Martha's Vineyard Commission's review. He noted that the hospital would be the largest building on Martha's Vineyard and that the Cape Cod Commission conducted a similar review of the Cape Cod Hospital.
The full commission approved the LUPC approval and recommendation without discussion.