Nimble Migration: Herring Cove Bathhouse
07.11.2013, 5:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

image_3The new Herring Cove bathhouse, all images this post FOP 2013

Around this time last year, we wrote a post about the soon to be demolished, 1950s era, two-story monolithic-style, Herring Cove Bathhouse at the Cape Cod National Seashore (“Architecture for Retreating Edges“).

Over the past 60 years, erosion, storm damage and overall deterioration rendered the cement fortress-like architecture of the original Bathhouse no longer viable on this coastal edge. The old bathhouse was demolished last November and enjoyed an artful farewell. The new beach house, designed as a collaborative effort between the Park Service’s Denver Service Center, BH+A Architects and the Cape Cod National Seashore, opened in late June and celebrates its official grand opening today, July 11, 2013.

Herring Cove beach is a wildly popular destination — the most visited beach at Cape Cod National Seashore (876,000 visitors in 2012). Last year, with the old structure being demolished and the new bathhouse yet to be built, we wondered (in our post) what kind of structure should be built on a stretch of land that will inevitably disappear, whose grounds are in a constant state of drifting elsewhere? What kind of design must be invented for a place where geologic change doesn’t just unfold in centuries, but also in days, or mere hours on the occasion of a major storm?

We’ve been in communication with the Cape Cod National Seashore and gathered specifics about the new structure, which is intentionally designed to respond to the local configurations of forces that compose Herring Cove today, and into the future.

Building anything on this sandy edge is daunting, given the fact that the annual shoreline erosion rate is about one and a half feet per year. Answering this challenge, the new buildings are modular: four shingled cottages about 400- to 600-square-feet each. To lessen the impact of storm surges, they rest on pilings and are connected to wide decks. Despite the buildings and decks being placed at least 100 feet back from the existing edge of the coast, and raised about four feet off the sand, 50 years from now the new facility is predicted to stand a mere 18 inches above the approximate mean high tide. Remarkably, the structures are capable of being disassembled, moved further back from the shoreline and reassembled as needed. Strengthening materials and stabilizing “hurricane clips” were incorporated into their frames so that as erosion threatens, they can be moved back from the shoreline by crane.  The process would take about a month.

The technical specifications testify to the fact that the structures were built as much, if not more, to address the uncertainties of a changing natural world as they were to afford human recreation. Building surface area minimizes lateral and uplift wind loads.  The roof overhang is minimal for less uplift.  The sheer walls of the small square buildings provide more stability than the previous single long structure. Fiberglass window frames have been installed with hurricane glass. The posts for the trellis can withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds. In many ways, the new structure is a stealth fortress:  its strength lies in its nimble flexibility rather than in any attempt to battle the pummeling forces that are part of the seasonal realities that compose the Cape.

Ninety-nine percent of the debris from the former bathhouse has been recycled and the new structures meet Silver LEED requirements. There has been a 30% reduction in overall square footage in the new bathhouse and a 30% reduction in water use. The project includes open air, naturally ventilated spaces. High efficiency toilets use 20% less water and require no chemicals to clean. The landscaping requires no irrigation because established plantings are drought tolerant and allow dunes to migrate naturally. There is a grey water system that drains to grade and water is tied to the town’s sewer system. A solar thermal system is used to heat hot water for the bathroom and concessions stand.  The solar panels will work year-round to “offset power used during the summer to reduce fossil fuel use and achieve net zero energy use.”

Last year the Cape was subject to particularly  harsh winds and storm surges during storms Sandy and Nemo. With added financial pressure brought by sequestering, the Seashore faces significant challenges to keep the beaches open, safe and maintained. Luckily, the new Herring Cove bathhouse has survived the cuts.  Now, these remarkable, humble and beautiful structures can provide inspiration for navigating the uncertain futures that we share with them.


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1 Comment so far
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Great pictures and descriptive commentary. I really like the images of the whales and the sea turtle!

Comment by Carol Hollowell

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