Pond House takes its name from its site, at the edge of a tidal saltwater pond on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Architect Matt Elliott took advantage of the grandfathered location to replace a decaying 1950s residence with a family vacation compound that turns the clock both backward and forward. For the site plan and building forms, Elliott drew inspiration from the old wharves and fishing shacks that dot the shoreline here, using decks to connect the compound’s three pavilions and mediate between the buildings and the landscape. “We love the spaces created between the buildings when you do that,” Elliott says.

Inside, however, the exterior’s subtly abstracted vernacular gives way to a modern composition that mixes natural, local materials with select bits of stainless steel. “You see this sort of fishing village complex of buildings,” Elliott says, “and you walk inside and see something entirely different.” The central pavilion, which contains the kitchen, dining, and living spaces, projects over the pond, carrying at its center a 12-ton boulder that serves as the fireplace hearth. Wide sliding doors allow the living spaces to spill out onto decks cantilevered above the water.

Our jury praised “clean execution” and “exquisite details,” noting a “clear, simple relationship between indoors and outdoors.” The judges particularly admired the compound’s close reading of and respect for its unique site. “It relates to its environment incredibly well,” said one. “It captures the spirit of its context—and the sentiment of traditional, regional housing—but it modernizes it.”

On Site

The rafter cavities for the tongue-and-groove cathedral ceiling are filled with high density blown-in-cellulose. The house has radiant heat which the team finds better for cathedral ceiling spaces. “You’re not heating large quantities of air that collect where people are not,” says architect Corey Papadopoli.