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Saving Modernism in the Hamptons

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Southampton-based interior designer Timothy Godbold was an enthusiastic fan of the angular modernist home on the dunes near his home. And sometimes, when he discovered an early architectural gem that really excited him, he shared a photo with his followers on Instagram.

However, in March 2020, after he posted an image of a house known as the Lloyd House designed by architect Norman Jaffe in 1977, fellow designers responded with comments that surprised him. I knocked it down a few years ago, “said Godbold, who believed that Jaffe’s house was a masterpiece.

Godbold said he began looking for conservation groups working to prevent similar dismantling in the future. He could add his name and give them hundreds of dollars a year. “

However, he soon learned that such a group would not join. To make matters worse Many important homes were already gone and were regularly demolished to spread new mansions. He learned from journalist, writer and curator Alastair Gordon, who has recorded Hampton’s architecture in books such as “Weekend Utopia.” In 2001, “Romantic Architect: The Life and Work of Architect Norman Jaffe” in 2005.

Miles Jaffy, Jaffy’s son, said: Little remains of what he designed, and what he does is often slaughtered. “

Godbold decided that he couldn’t just drop it, and reluctantly picked up the Hamptons conservationist cloak. By June 2020 he had started Hamptons 20 Century ModernThe organization started as an Instagram account and website aimed at introducing modern architecture in the 20th century in the Hamptons, but soon evolved into a registered non-profit organization with a wide range of activities.

Over the past year and a half, Godbold has given presentations and panel discussions on the Hamptons’ modern architecture. He promoted a modern home real estate list on his Instagram feed in the hope of finding sympathetic buyers and began planning dinners for Hamptons homeowners designed by prominent architects. (The first was for the owner of a house designed by Andrew Geller last September).

We also partnered with the Hamptons Cottages & Gardens to organize a modernist home tour on August 14th. It hopes to grow into a few days event in the future.

“My goal is to create something like Palm Springs’ Modernism Week,” Godbold said.

“These homes need marketing and public relations so that people know about them, respect them, admire them, and want to save them,” he said. “Unless people know about them, that won’t happen. They will just disappear.”

Last summer he had the opportunity to try this theory.

Orest Bliss, owner of an oceanfront home designed by Jaffe in 88 Meadow Lane, Southampton village, He sought permission to demolish a house built in the late 1970s, featuring a bold triangular roof.

Prior to making the decision, the village’s Building Review and History Preservation Commission asked journalist Gordon to write a report on the historical importance of this property. When Godbold asked what was happening, he became a follower on social media (currently Hampton 20 Century Modern does not have a formal membership and instead consists of a loose group of stakeholders). I urged them to write a letter expressing their vigilance.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote a letter. Goldberger’s 1986 book, “Hampton’s House” It was the inspiration for Mr. Godbold. Sarah Kautz, Conservation Director of PreservationLong Island, wrote another article. And so was Daniel Arsham, an artist who owns a house designed by Jaffe just outside the Hamptons.

“The fact that these places are unprotected makes me think that Jaffe had a large retrospective of his work at the Parish Museum, just a few miles from this house. I’m confused, “Arsham said in an interview (the 2005 exhibition was curated by Gordon). “If it’s celebrated locally in a community or museum, why isn’t it worth the savings?”

After writing his letter, Arsham appealed to Instagram followers for more. “I posted what was happening to my account and encouraged my followers to write a letter,” he said. “I think that was the case with hundreds of people.”

In December, the village board resolved to allow the demolition of the house so far and reject the certificate that effectively preserves it.

Ironically, when Jaffe first announced the design of the house in 1978, village officials were angry with its avant-garde shape and landscaping around the structure “permanently” to cover the building. Requested to maintain. The same design is now recognized as worth the savings.

Of course, the decision includes only one house by one architect. Many other structures were not so lucky. That’s why Godbold is equally interested in celebrating the building by various other architects who worked at the Hamptons, including Peter Blake. Charles Gwasmei Robert Siegel, Myron Goldfinger, Julian and Barbara Neski..

One of the major challenges in preserving modern buildings is that many municipalities are not equipped to consider such modern structures.A survey of historic buildings was done later National History Preservation Act of 1966.. She added that these surveys usually examined buildings that were at least 50 years old.

“If you did a survey in the 1970s, it would put you in the 1920s, so you’re not even going to get closer to this modernist one,” she said. “We need to see what’s there. We need to catch up.”

However, due to the surge in the Hamptons’ wealth, many modern homes have been demolished before they became old.

“A great mid-century home in a relatively modest but great location is being snapped up, demolished and transformed into a McMansion,” Goldberger said. “Unfortunately, it’s all about land.”

Goldberger lamented the loss of innovative early modern homes, including a home completed by renowned French architect Pierre Chareau. East Hampton Artist Robert Motherwell in 1946When Philip Johnson’s Ferney House in SagaponackCompleted in 1947.

Yes, early modern homes were often small, cheaply built and designed as a summer escape, he admitted, but most even for money buyers who now want vast real estate. There are still ways to save a notable home.

One option is to maintain the original structure as a guesthouse or studio and build a large one next to it, as CookFox Architects did recently when he moved and restored it in 1959 by Geller. Double Diamond Pearl Ross House To build a new big house in the same property at Westhampton Beach. Alternatively, it can be restored, updated and expanded in a sensitive manner, as Roger Ferris + Partners recently did for families purchased in 1980. House designed by Jaffe At Bridgehampton.

But size is not everything. Goldberger was disappointed to see large recently built homes collapse under the excavator shovel, including those designed by Jaffe and Gwasmei.

“There is such an incredible tradition of modernism that is literally and figuratively drawn to money,” Goldberger said.

The Hamptons are at a crossroads, as the history of architecture in the 20th century is lost. “The question is, do we want the community to reflect this great wealth that has arrived in the eastern part of Long Island over the last two decades, or do we want to somehow maintain the diversity and mix of the economy as well as the economy? ?” He said. “I think a culturally rich community wants diversity.”

Godbold wants more people to agree soon. “Maybe someday everyone else will love them again, so there’s no reason for me to jump about these houses,” he said. “But until then, just wave the flag as much as possible.”

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