chip webster & associates, nantucket, mass.

Chip Webster couldn’t stifle his inner geek. When hired to create a public gathering place for the Overton Retreat, a 1,300-acre residential/recreational haven nestled atop Long Mountain in central Tennessee, the MIT graduate decided to fashion a “mathematically coherent” design that would foster a sense of community and openness. To that end, he and development partner David P. Bohman (a fellow geometry buff and MIT alumnus) laid out a circular site and built its pavilion and two gazebos using scissors trusses that resemble isosceles triangles.

“Programmatically, we wanted a fire pit, a swimming hole, a dock, and a [protected, open space] that could accommodate several hundred people,” Webster says of the design, which incorporates air, earth, fire, and water elements. Drawing from rural Gothic, Adirondack, Tennessee vernacular, and contemporary influences, the partners created a natural materials-laden design that the judges hailed for its “anthropomorphic quality” and successful interplay of “order and chaos.”

Perhaps one of the retreat’s future residents said it best when she described the pavilion as having “leapt out of the lake and landed on the shore.” Webster says she was so taken with its movement that she asked him to design her own private Overton retreat, which will be completed this summer.

principal in charge / project designer: Chip Webster, Chip Webster & Associates
developer: James A. Webb III, Overton Mountain Development Partnership, Nashville, Tenn.
general contractor: David P. Bohman, Overton Mountain Development Partnership
project size: 2,500 square feet
site size: 0.34 acre 
construction cost: $140 per square foot
photography: David P. Bohman