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Project Update: Russian Stone Makes Its Way to St. Kitts

As summer rises in Boston, our construction progress continues to accelerate in St. Kitts, whose splendid tropical allure is as welcome as ever (even if it is no longer quite such a necessary respite from the harsh New England winter). Our most recent trip to the West Indies coincided with a visit from our client—her first in several months due to the often prohibitively long journey from Russia. She was thrilled to see the house taking shape, looking more than ever like the vision we worked together to pin down on paper over the past few years.


Roofs clad in remarkable Ludowici tile are well underway, continuing to provide an understated complement to the lush tropical environs. (For more of this unbeatable view, see our blog post from February here.) As always, our design philosophy underscores highlighting the existent beauty of the site, rather than competing with it, to create a home that interacts with and responds to its environment.

On the lower levels, custom Russian stone manages to divert the gaze from the Caribbean skyline with its saturated hues of azure blue, emerald green, and warm gold. The mosaic to adorn the pool (pictured below with interior stone) consists entirely of tiles expertly cut using a CNC machine for the highest degree of precision.

Interior Tile and Pool Mosaic

Interior Tile St. Kitts Villa

Progress on the villa reminds us that this will represent a landmark project for Christophe Harbour. Refined European detailing intertwines with Caribbean sensibilities for a unique aesthetic that draws equally from our client’s culture, the natural beauty of the surroundings, and our global range of architectural influences.

We are immensely appreciative of Bennett Hofford Caribbean Construction, Source Consulting LLC out of Charleston, and our many other partners on this project as they help us bring it to life.

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

From Nevsky Prospekt to Nevis: Architecture Across Languages and Cultures

Looking out across Nevsky Prospekt, there is an overwhelming sense of being somewhere entirely other. The history and grandeur are palpable: you stand on an avenue designed by Peter the Great to reach the ancient city of Novgorod; you can glimpse the imposing (and imposingly named) Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood; you are acutely aware of traversing the same routes described by Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment. The sensation of vast difference is well-earned, both philosophically resonant and crucial to approaching business relations.

For the past four years, MMA has embarked on an exciting series of international projects for Russian clients. (Read more about Visualizing Projects in the West Indies for Remote Clients here.) Located on St. Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies, these projects’ myriad opportunities are matched by the challenges inherent in conducting international business. From the minutiae of negotiating a cross-cultural meeting to the infinitely tricky task of translating detailed plans, this new terrain has provided MMA invaluable insight into the intricate world of international business—and the experience to navigate it.

Language presents the most obvious roadblock in international business communications, and it can be deceptively difficult to surmount. Translation tools online (such as Google Translate or Babylon) are helpful for basic comprehension, but much is, quite literally, lost in translation. It can be disheartening to see carefully worded correspondence boiled down to the bare gist, technical terms unable to find an equivalent; using bilingual translators has been crucial to avoiding these issues and maintaining a high level of discourse with our clients. We are immensely grateful both to these translators and to our clients for their understanding and patience.

Beyond the more technical aspects of language itself, international business presents subtler challenges in cultural perception and etiquette. Business meetings tend toward a more formal tone, and what might be a lighthearted conversation for us may carry a different connotation given another cultural context. World Business Culture explains that in Russia, “formal meetings are serious occasions and should not be treated lightly. Any overly informal behavior [sic] could be construed as lack of respect.” At the same time, we make sure to engage with our clients on a personal level rather than jumping directly into business—formality in no way necessitates being impersonal.

And it is this personal touch that has made all the difference in our relationships with clients both near and far. Our efforts to learn some basic Russian phrases have been deeply appreciated by our clients, particularly given their high level of English fluency. Linguistic and cultural nuances aside, consideration and sensitivity have proved to be the most essential factors in creating and maintaining excellent working relationships with our clients. When both parties can contribute, compromise, and make a concerted effort, the results truly speak for themselves.


Exterior view St. Kitts project by MMA , as seen from the beach's sandy dunes.

Project Update: Construction Underway in St. Kitts

Construction is in full swing for our St. Kitts project, which you can see here nestled in among the dunes and indigenous flora. To honor and reflect the natural beauty of the surrounding seascape, our design incorporates neutral-toned Ludowici clay tiles for all of the home’s many roof planes. At present, the tiles are 50% installed, and already their impeccable craftsmanship is lending an old-world touch to the home—a worthy complement to the island’s breathtaking landscape. A base coat of stucco on the house adds another element of textural interplay with the layers of clay tile.

Rugged St. Kitts mountains as seen from the clay-tiled roofs of an MMA project.

The view from the roof says it all: pristine skies bathe the site in sunlight, while frothy waves—tinged an unmistakable Caribbean blue—fall ashore at the base of rugged volcanic mountains. Standing atop the structure and looking out over Christophe Harbor, there isn’t a breath of question as to why our client chose this destination.

To create a seamless flow from outside in, we have focused on crafting a cohesive design that incorporates elements of the exterior in our interior plans. Stonework arriving from Russia in March will comprise not only the plinth (base) of the exterior, but also a stunning mosaic feature within.

View of Christophe Harbor from the 2nd floor of one of MMA's St. Kitts projects.View of pool and jacuzzi structures for an MMA project with St. Kitts' mountains in the background.

The pool and jacuzzi, whose structures are now fully installed, will be the perfect spot to take in the sun-drenched vistas. From within the home itself, abundant mahogany windows made by Unilux provide a nearly unbroken view of the surroundings. Mechanicals for the home are also underway, ready to transition this structure into a functional home.

Pool and jacuzzi structures for an MMA project in St. Kitts.

We would like to express our continued gratitude to Bennett Hofford Caribbean Construction for their tireless work on this project from the ground up. Stay tuned; we will be back with further updates.

On the Boards: Designing around Conservation Constraints

We are currently working on a classic shingle-style home on a unique oceanfront property in Dennis, MA. The land sits atop a north-facing bluff replete with ancient dunes, magnificent weathered scrub oaks and an understory of bayberry and beach plum.
Although the setting sounds like something out of a storybook, designing this house has not been a simple process, as the property is protected by the conservation of eroding coastal dunes and indigenous flora and fauna. Along with the environmental constraints, our client had but one request for the home’s design: to be big enough to fit their growing family. They were initially a bit overwhelmed with the thought of building a house from the ground up, so we explained that our thorough design process would alleviate any stress or concerns.
Our main objective was to create a building footprint carefully thought out to maximize the clients’ wishes while respecting the fragile environment. Our team’s extensive experience building on and around the New England seacoast made solving the design challenges easier.
After developing the client’s extensive program, our team walked the property to get a better understanding of how to incorporate the home into its surroundings and develop a site analysis. To create the analysis, we took note of the property’s characteristics, orientation and views, noise issues, and adjacent neighbors. From this site analysis, we then generated a schematic that fits the site and satisfies the client’s program.

Every schematic goes through a number of iterations to ensure the final design best suits the clients’ needs. During this stage of the design process, there is in-depth collaborative discussion around the architectural styles clients are interested in – such as shingle style, contemporary, arts and crafts, etc. – as these styles can influence much of the floor plan. Some styles need more formal layouts, while others may work better with a sinuous or flowing blueprint.  Location and precedent also play a role in defining an architectural vocabulary.

For this Dennis home, our clients preferred a design with neo-classic influence, which informed much of the layout and interior.

Currently, our Principal, John MacDonald is working with general contractor, CH Newton, Inc., and landscape architect, Gregory Lombardi, to design this project and navigate the myriad local boards to gain approvals concurrent with project development.

We expect to break ground in early spring – stay tuned!

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