Keith Moskow & Robert Linn: View From The Vineyard
Keith Moskow and Robert Linn’s new book, Martha’s Vineyard: New Island Homes, offers a window into the properties sitting on one of the world’s great escapes.
Located off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., is Martha’s Vineyard, an island home to idyllic beaches, buzzing ecosystems and celebrity hideaways. In 2019, the Obamas purchased a house there, joining the likes of the former first lady, the late Jackie Kennedy, and film director Spike Lee. It’s also where Steven Spielberg shot his classic, Jaws.
For Keith Moskow, who co-founded Moskow Linn Architects with Robert Linn, the island’s real estate is so captivating that he and Linn decided to publish a book about it. Titled Martha’s Vineyard: New Island Homes (Monacelli Press), it’s an expansion of Moskow’s 2005 study of the area, presenting 25 new homes to explore.
With each, the home’s architect describes their goals for the project, letting the reader experience how they’ve integrated the island’s character into the property. It’s presented as a coffee-table publication for architects and design lovers alike.
“Martha’s Vineyard is very small as a land mass, but on it are so many distinct topographies and environments,” says Moskow, who shares memories of surfing on the island’s beaches as a teenager, when his parents rented a house there. “One area looks like it could be in the prairie, one looks like it could be in Vermont. There’s a historic, traditional town and there’s a town with gingerbread cottages. There are all these environments that people can draw from to make their house appropriate to the island.”
The book covers these, leading the reader through properties like Island House by Peter Rose + Partners, a contemporary building with generous views and sweeping panels of glass. You also have the Modern Farmhouse by Architecture + Indigo, designed with cathedral ceilings and generous helpings of natural light.
Choosing what to include in the book wasn’t easy, and Moskow explains how the number of submissions was so impressive that what’s featured only counts for a third of the work sent in. “They had to be well explained about what they did in the environment,” Moskow says, talking about the selection process. “They had to take architecture and make it different. Some simply replicate the past, but we wanted to see how architects thought critically about what they’re doing.”
While the properties featured in the book span different approaches and styles to design, there is, for Moskow, one thing that ties them all together. “The way they open the connection to the outdoors. All these homes are primarily summer homes. It’s so fleeting here in New England, so you want to be integrated with the outdoors, and have a house that has that interplay in interior and exterior.”
The book isn’t the first Moskow has worked on. It’s the sixth and follows volumes on sustainable facilities and creative solutions for better city living. The fact that Moskow Linn was championing sustainability in the early ’90s, before the term was universally understood or accepted, is telling of their influence on the design world. “We were one of the first to be awarded for sustainable design in Boston,” he says. “We wanted to get the word out, so we said we’d write a book about it.”
They also have the next in the works, which will act as a visual record of the commemorative spaces built to remember the events of September 11, 2001. It will be called Memorializing 9/11 and comes after Moskow Linn Architects designed a memorial in Boston’s Logan International Airport.
“They had to take architecture and make it different. Some simply replicate the past, but we wanted to see how architects thought critically about what they’re doing”
Prior to setting up his own studio with Linn, Moskow gained his architectural expertise on both coasts of the United States. In the late ’80s, he worked with an established architect in New York City before working for an avant-garde architect in Los Angeles. Afterwards, he started his own firm.
Today, he describes good architecture as something “that responds to the environment and takes clues from the past to create something of today.” He works with Robert Linn, someone he shares a close design esthetic with, to make the dream homes of clients a reality.
“We ask them to put together a program of things they want in their homes, which is easy,” he says. “Then we ask them to numerically list them from most to least important, which is hard. We’ll also ask them to build a digital file of things they find esthetically appealing, be it a fashion model, piece of furniture or a tree they like. With that, we get to see their esthetic, so the house becomes theirs, rather than ours.”
It’s this passion for design and collaboration with people that brought Moskow to architecture. It’s also what built the foundation for this book. As much as Martha’s Vineyard: New Island Homes is an exploration of craft, material and innovation with space, it also tells the story of an island and the people who live there.
Interview by Estelle Zentil