There’s a Class for That!

Cape Cod Home  /  Winter 2020 / ,

Writer: Christina Galt / Photographer: Michael J. Lee and Taylor Ahearn 

Architect Patrick Ahearn shares his vast knowledge, insight and experience with an online audience.

Edgartown has a rich commercial core thanks to restaurants, shops, waterfront views and classic New England architecture. But, Edgartown would not look or feel the way it does today without the historically driven vision of renowned architect Patrick Ahearn.

Ahearn started his firm, Patrick Ahearn Architect LLC, in 1978 and began in Boston, redesigning townhouses and famously lavish homes on Newbury Street in Back Bay. He even worked on the incredibly successful adaptive reuse of Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Ahearn practices what he calls “non-ego driven architecture.” He explains, “At the end of the day, it’s not about me; it’s really about the context and place. I call that the ‘greater good theory.’” Although he is not a pure preservationist, he employs “implied history,” meaning he relies on the history of a place to create narrative-driven architecture, a signature of his work.

Timeless materials at a Patrick Ahearn project in Edgartown, MA.
Taylor Ahearn Photography

When he first stepped foot in Edgartown, Ahearn’s vision was to create a more viable village. In the 1990s he began renovations on his own historic Edgartown home that he had purchased with his wife and expanded his practice to the island. His plan was to revitalize Edgartown with public access to the waterfront and sidewalk cafés, while eliminating fluorescent lights, vinyl sidings and the overabundance of t-shirt shops. 

To his satisfaction, he has seen much of his vision actualized. Ahearn has had the opportunity to work on over 200 projects in Edgartown in the last 47 years. He has renovated the Edgartown Yacht Club; worked on the conservation of the 1960s harbor-side Navigator Building, transforming it into the Atlantic restaurant and Boathouse Club; reinvented the 1904 Carnegie Library as a visitors’ center for the Vineyard Trust, where he is chairman of the board; and he has even worked on the Edgartown Fire department pro bono, to name a few projects. What began with a vision turned into a legacy for Ahearn; he has restored and reimagined landmarks, historic homes and even created new ones. “I’m really quite proud to have Edgartown as a legacy project,” he says. 

Ahearn’s hand drawings as part of the Studio course.

At this point in his life and career, Ahearn has come upon a time of reflection: “I asked myself, ‘How can I give back to society? How can I give back to the profession?’” he elaborates. “How can we really improve the way people in our communities live, educating them about what architects do and how they can help people?” 

An award-winning renovation of an 1888 Cape retreat in Osterville.
Michael J. Lee Photography

To achieve this, Ahearn has developed a free 15-episode studio course, entitled “Patrick Ahearn’s Studio,” covering topics such as “Respect for History,” “Designing for Today” and “Building a Practice,” allowing him the opportunity to show how something as simple as architecture can improve the lives of a community. “As architects, we sometimes don’t celebrate that opportunity enough or share it with the public,” he explains. “The communities around us all have unique character, and people should really understand why those communities attracted them in the first place.” Ahearn’s wish is to give others the tools to better understand what makes a place truly significant in the hopes of encouraging them to continue his legacy of designing for the greater good.

To find more information about Patrick Ahearn’s Studio and Patrick Ahearn Architect LLC, visit studio.patrickahearn.com.

Christina Galt is a contributing writer for Cape Cod Life Publications. 

Christina Galt

Christina Galt is the Digital Editor at Cape Cod Life Publications. Born and raised on the Cape, Christina has always had a love for the ocean and everything "Cape Cod." She found herself the perfect home away from home at the University of Rhode Island and double majored in Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies. After graduating, Christina came back to the Cape and started her journey at Cape Cod Life. She spends most of her free time with her family, especially her chocolate lab Sadie, and enjoys spending summers on her family’s boat.