The Steamship Authority general manager and his architect fielded a volley of questions Monday night about the new Woods Hole ticket office, including the building site, its orientation, materials, size and energy efficiency.

Architect Liam Davis: “You can’t design an invisible building.” — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Energy efficiency is a major driver in this design,” architect Liam Davis said. “We are actively looking at locations solar [panels] could go.” Geothermal heating and cooling is another possibility, he said.

The comments came at a presentation on design alternatives for the next permanent ticket office building in Woods Hole. About 30 people attended the meeting at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.

Boat line general manager Robert Davis and architect Liam Davis (no relation) led the presentation.

The new ticket office, which is part of a $60 million overhaul now under way at the SSA’s shoreside terminal in Woods Hole, recently went back to the drawing board for new designs after the first design was sharply criticized as architecturally inappropriate and overly grand.

Since then, three alternative concepts have been developed.

Two are two-story buildings, one with a saltbox style roof and one with a gabled roof. A third alternative, with three stories and a crossing gable meant to evoke the rooflines of nearby Woods Hole Community Hall and the now-gone Cahoon’s Fish Market, is being removed from consideration as the least-popular design, Liam Davis said.

“It does not look like Sam Cahoon’s at all,” said Molly Cabral, who attended the meeting.

Two-story saltbox design is one alternative. — Courtesy Steamship Authority

“I would agree with you,” the architect replied.

Audience members repeatedly voiced concerns about the site of the structure, which will block views of Woods Hole passage from the Crane Street Bridge approach to the village.

“I hope this isn’t a done deal,” said Ms. Cabral.

But Mr. Davis and his architect repeated what they had told the public at design review meetings in October: After studying 26 different site plans, this is the only choice that fits the terminal’s needs for accommodating passenger, vehicle and freight traffic as well as shuttle buses, Cape public transportation and regional bus lines.

“We’re stuck with this site for functional concerns,” Liam Davis said.

A contingent of Woods Hole residents traveled to the Vineyard for the meeting, including the recently-appointed Falmouth representative to the boat line’s board of governors, Kathryn Wilson. Vineyard governor Marc Hanover was not present.

Bob Morris of Woods Hole asked the SSA to consider tabling the building project for two or three years while continuing to use the current temporary terminal, but the boat line manager said that won’t be possible.

“The temporary building is below grade,” Robert Davis said. “We have a variance for it, but the building inspector will not support extending that variance” unless a replacement building is under way, he added.

Gable design is another alternative. — Courtesy Steamship Authority

Several audience members challenged the use of stone to clad the first story of the ticket office. The second story will have cedar shingles.

Anna Edey of Vineyard Haven urged an extra layer of shingles on top of the stone, but Robert Davis said building codes prohibit it.

“In order to get the building as low as possible, it has to be flood-proofed,” he said. “It has to be something that would survive a submersion.”

“We are not designing a residential building,” added Liam Davis. “There are different codes.”

Stone was the only solution for the first floor, he said, and the architects are working with quarries to emulate the rosy, now-depleted Falmouth quartz seen on the historic Candle House in Woods Hole.

Capt. Robert Douglas, who owns the Vineyard Haven schooner Shenandoah, spoke warmly of the stonework at classic New England waterfront buildings like Commercial Wharf in Boston, and suggested the architects try to achieve that look.

All three of the design alternatives are five feet lower than the concept shown to the public in October, Liam Davis said, and all three are also 10 feet shorter, opening up some of the water view to the south of the planned building. “Each of these is not a finished product,” he added.

In the end the audience was generally unhappy with the alternatives. “Aren’t you building a building nobody wants you to build?” one man asked. But Robert Davis said the SSA has an obligation to its passengers to construct the building, and that of all the possible compromises, “this ended up least bad.”

“You can’t design an invisible building,” Liam Davis said.

Slides from the presentation are available online.

The boat line is taking public comments through April 12, by email at or by post to the Steamship Authority, Attn: Woods Hole Terminal Designs, 228 Palmer Avenue, Falmouth, MA 02540.

SSA governors hold their next regular meeting on April 16 in New Bedford.