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Interview with boathouse architect, Jeff Peterson

Recently, Douglas Lumsden, owner and founder of Space Saver Rowing Systems, caught up with Jeff Peterson of Peterson Architects … read more

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Recently, Douglas Lumsden, owner and founder of Space Saver Rowing Systems, caught up with Jeff Peterson of Peterson Architects and asked him a few questions about designing boat houses.

Douglas: You design boat houses can you name some of them?

JP: I’ve been at this for 23 years now, and it has been over 10 years since starting Peterson Architects.  Our main focus is designing facilities for rowing; not just boathouses, but anything related to the sport.  I believe we are the only firm with this specific focus.  Being a specialist, we work all over the place, wherever the work takes us.  If the project is not near us, we can usually find a way to do it.  Sometimes we partner with local firms.  Sometimes we act as consultants, although that is not our preference.

We’ve done boathouses for Tufts University (Medford MA), St. Paul’s School (Concord NH), Episcopal High School (Jacksonville FL), Bolles School (Jacksonville FL), University of Kansas (Lawrence KS), Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley MA), and the Anacostia Boathouse in Washington DC. We are currently working on a boathouse for Marietta College (Marietta OH) and a “package building” that we are calling “Simple Boathouse,” geared to smaller rowing programs, which will be sold through Timberpeg, a timber framing company that works across the USA.

I have done quite a few powered rowing tanks, either directly or in affiliation with fabricator Still Water Design: University of Wisconsin (WI), Washington State University (WA), University of Limerick (Ireland), Oklahoma City University (OK), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA), Culver Academies (IN), and the University of Louisville (KY).  These are really interesting to work on.  The fluid mechanics challenges are pretty complex.

We have also done feasibility studies for Brandeis University, Kent School, Syracuse University, Princeton University (a finish line structure), Clemson University, the town of Northampton MA, and for a private client in Tennessee.  We were also hired to design repairs and alterations to Princeton’s boathouse after it flooded in 2007.  In addition, we’ve done a bit of consulting on requirements for FISA courses and how to plan for them.

I also worked on several boathouses at my previous firm, including Princeton University (my alma mater), Boston University, and Phillips Exeter Academy.

Douglas: What is the most important part of designing a boathouse?

JP: There are a bunch of important specific needs but I think the most critical thing is to understand the sport; not just the nuts and bolts of how boathouses work on typical practice days or race days, but also the mindset of the rower–the kind of maniacal, masochistic focus that most people cannot relate to.

Of course, those specific requirements are really important too.  You’d hate to hear a crash and find out that your inexperienced architect didn’t plan enough clearance between a door and the bow of your new Empacher.

Douglas: We first met during the USA Coaches Conference in Tampa FL.  After having the time to review some of SSRS storage solutions what is attracting you to our products?

JP: We are always looking for ways to meet the needs of our clients.  Boathouses have some unusual storage requirements.  Oar storage is one of them.  The SSRS oar storage solution looks like a good solution, particularly for those with real space constraints.  We talked about some of the other storage challenges confronting boathouses and I’ll be interested to see what will happen in the future.

Douglas:  What makes an architect’s job easier when designing a boathouse?

JP: That is a tough question because each project comes with a different set of constraints.  What may be a challenge on one project may not be an issue at all on another.  In a general sense, it is great to have a client who has realistic expectations and a realistic budget, and who trust us as experts to make design decisions that are in their best interest.

Peterson Architects is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Jeff Peterson can be contacted via email or check out the website here.

Space Saver sells boat racking, oar and scull hanging racks and wing rigger racking – all available in the Rowperfect shop.


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