A New Wave of Modern Architecture
May / September, 2019
North Fork — treasured for timeless farm houses and barns and quaint village centers – is witnessing a veritable burst of creative energy in modern residential design. The houses displayed here, by eight of the most innovative design firms working in the area, are tucked away from view on the shoreline or down unpaved lanes. If the nearby Hamptons dominate the pages of life style magazines with spectacular houses, these understated projects from Laurel to Orient strike a balance between innovations in architectural design and materials and respect for local traditions and environments.
Modernism is not new here. A first wave of modern house architecture is associated with the artists around the legendary art dealer, and artist, Betty Parsons (1900-1982), who came to Southold in the 1950s. The architect/sculptor Tony Smith, trained at the New Bauhaus in Chicago and at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in the 1930s, built a house and studios for Parsons at Horton’s Point followed by a house for Abstract Expressionist painter Theodoros Stamos in East Marion in 1951. For Stamos, Smith designed a dramatically innovative variant on the American timber frame house, elevating a single story space sandwiched between two trusses, one upside down to create a large open floor plan. Elevated off the ground, the house’s living space afforded sweeping views over Long Island Sound from its bluff top site.
The turn from modernism to Post-Modernism is also represented on the North Fork by Charles Moore’s House for Simone Swan of 1975-1981 near Horton’s Point, a project that was first studied by Louis Kahn.
No less innovative are the experiments with structural openness and capturing views from elevated platforms set in the landscape in the projects exhibited here. New materials and forms of construction, such as experiments with pre-fabricated modular design or the energy saving principles of the “Passive House” movement, have opened a new era of innovation. Innovation often is a robust response to the fragility of the local environment, from the protection of wetlands and open views, to energy harvesting materials, to responses to the challenge of rising sea levels. No less has innovation been brought to the tight urban lots of Greenport. The creativity in North Fork architecture celebrated in this modest selection – of an ever increasing number of impressive designs – represent a rising tide of respectful innovative house design in which innovation is often the most sincere form of respect for the existing.
This exhibition is conceived in the spirit of the “pin-up,” the technique for architectural design and critique that accompanies a designer’s career from architecture school to presentations to clients. It is an expanded version of a display mounted last autumn at the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library and was conceived and created by the New York graphic design firm 2 x 4. Thanks to Michael Rock, Jane Friesen, Donnie Luu, Christ Kupski, and 2018 summer intern David Knowles, for their generous contribution of design services.
-Barry Bergdoll, Guest Curator
Visit www.oysterpondshistoricalsociety.org for further information.