A few principles guided the planning for the Independent’s new office on the first floor of Provincetown’s Whaler’s Wharf: simplicity, versatility, and cost. The challenge was to create quiet work spaces within an open space big enough for staff meetings — without spending much.
Peter McMahon, the Wellfleet architect best known for creating the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, offered a solution in the form of modular boxes. McMahon confessed he is obsessed with boxes and their countless configurations. He admires their geometry and their utility.
“I have a definite idea about the best way to set them up for now, but they can be moved as you grow into the space,” McMahon said. An idea that suits a startup. —Molly Newman
“There is no problem that cannot be solved by a plywood box,” said McMahon. His vision turns a basic cube into the foundation for diverse uses: the boxes serve as shelves, room dividers, and support bases for desks. They can be easily rearranged and moved. Newspaper archives fit easily into their deep dimensions. When filled, the boxes provide effective sound absorption in an open office. (Photo Nancy Bloom)
Accessible design allows for an element of DIY: Independent staff and volunteers put the final touches on the cubes. The ¾-inch Baltic birch plywood requires only a light finish. Volunteer Eric Borg (left) and Harrison Fish, Independentadvertising associate, brush on the nontoxic, water-based polyurethane McMahon recommends. (Photo Nancy Bloom)
McMahon’s “Y” tables will be central in the office. “The workingman’s version” of a Jean Prouvé design, he says. The flying V shape of the steel legs is stable but never in the way. The tops are plywood finished in phenolic resin, which makes for a good work surface. (Photo Nancy Bloom)
McMahon’s main contractor, Paul Rosen, built the boxes in his large Eastham shop. The carpentry of gluing and screwing the pieces together is straightforward, but careful craftsmanship makes for more durable finished pieces. Left to right: McMahon, Rosen, and David Darakjy, who assisted in construction. (Photo Molly Newman)