Eye of the Storm, Charleston’s Egg-Shaped Monument

The Eye of the Storm

photography by: Omri Westmark

Formerly the main entry point for African slaves into the North American continent, the town of Sullivan’s Island ultimately developed into one of Charleston’s most affluent suburbs. What started as a hurricane shelter in a storm-prone area, quickly became an iconic architectural gem along the island’s scenic coastline, triggering a sheer amount of curiosity among locals and visitors alike.

Once the epicenter of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Sullivan’s Island used to function as the place where tens of thousands of Africans entered North America on their way to a life of thralldom. As of today, the town replaced its sinister past with an affluent present, mirrored by zillions of lavish houses all across the island.

 

Tucked away on 2851 Marshall Blvd, about 70 meters away from the nearby ocean, a white ellipsoid dome conspicuously breaks the monotony of the district’s suburban homes. Often Dubbed as the “Eye of the Storm”, the egg-shaped structure was planned by George Paul, a designer who specializes in domed buildings.

 

Following the Category 5 Hurricane Hugo in 1989, Paul’s parents lost their summer house to the violent storm which wreaked havoc throughout the entire island. Determined to rebuild their home to withstand any future calamity, Paul designed a massive reinforced concrete structure that serves as a hurricane shelter thanks to its semi-spherical shape and building materials.

 

While the 34 feet tall and 80 feet wide building (10.4 meters and 24.4 meters respectively) is first and foremost a stormproof bunker, it also features an elaborate architectural design that over time, drew the attention of countless magazines and fashion agencies. Completed in 1992, the unusual house was inspired by the curvy shape of a shell, a tribute to its adjacent coastal environment.

 

Weighing roughly 650 tons, the equivalent of more than 4 full-grown blue whales, the building has 4 floors, each of which plays a crucial role that makes this coastal monument structurally resilient and architecturally inspiring. With multiple openings, the domed house’s first floor provides a clear passage for strong winds to bypass the rest of the floors, where people actually live.

 

Most of the Eye’s 3,571 square feet of living space is concentrated at the second floor, including a kitchen, a designated area for breakfast, a dining room, 3 washrooms, a pair of bedrooms and a series of spacious ocean-facing balconies. Additionally, two staircases and an elevator link the ground, second and third floors. The fourth floor is a loft featuring an ovoid skylight.

 

Recently sold for a whopping 4 million USD, the house underwent a thorough renovation in 2021, adjusting its facilities to the 21st century. While this quaint home is definitely worth a visit, its close-by beach is an attraction by its own right too. Besides the golden sand and the Atlantic Ocean’s bluish waters, the shore is also home to a myriad of strikingly colorful flowers and seabirds, making any trip to the area a multifaceted experience.

The Eye’s entrance and parking area

photography by: Omri Westmark


Whitish and elliptic, the house’s iconic dome as seen from Marshall Blvd

photography by: Omri Westmark


The house’s mailbox

photography by: Omri Westmark


A pathway on the western side of the building that leads to the nearby beach

photography by: Omri Westmark


The eye, partly obscured by the tall vegetation

photography by: Omri Westmark


The sandy path to the beach with the Eye on the background

photography by: Omri Westmark


The house’s seaside facade

photography by: Omri Westmark


The building while undergoing a massive renovation in 2021

photography by: Omri Westmark


Bordering the premises is a speck of sandy land, dominated by a coastal shrubbery

photography by: Omri Westmark


The Eye and its neighboring estate

photography by: Omri Westmark


The main beach of Sullivan's Island, facing the Atlantic Ocean

photography by: Omri Westmark


The beach is regularly frequented by sunbathers and seabirds alike

photography by: Omri Westmark


A beach morning glory, aka Ipomoea stolonifera

photography by: Omri Westmark


A firewheel, aka Gaillardia pulchella

photography by: Omri Westmark


A sole firewheel flower on the backdrop of the Eye

photography by: Omri Westmark