Saving Modernism within the Hamptons

Timothy Godbold, an inside designer based mostly in Southampton, used to only be an enthusiastic fan of the angular modernist houses perched atop dunes close to his home. And, generally, when he found an early architectural gem that actually excited him, he’d share a photograph together with his followers on Instagram.

However in March 2020, after he posted a picture of a house designed by the architect Norman Jaffe in 1977, often called the Lloyds Home, a fellow designer responded with a remark that shocked him: “He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we knocked that one down a few years in the past,’” stated Mr. Godbold, who believed the Jaffe home was a masterwork.

Mr. Godbold stated he started on the lookout for a preservation group that was working to forestall related tear-downs sooner or later, “pondering there needed to be, like, 20 nonprofit conservancies out right here, like a Norman Jaffe conservancy and a midcentury conservancy, and that I may simply add my title and provides them a number of hundred bucks a yr,.”

However he shortly realized there was no such group to affix. Even worse, many vital houses had been already gone and extra had been being routinely demolished to make method for sprawling new mansions, he realized from Alastair Gordon, a journalist, writer and curator who has spent a lot of his profession chronicling Hamptons structure in books, together with “Weekend Utopia” in 2001 and “Romantic Architect: The Life and Work of Norman Jaffe, Architect” in 2005.

As Mr. Jaffe’s son, Miles Jaffe, described it: “Norman is an enormous a part of the non-preservation story. Little or no of what he designed stays, and what does is commonly butchered.”

Mr. Godbold determined he couldn’t simply let it drop and, considerably reluctantly, took up the mantle of Hamptons preservationist. By June 2020, he had began Hamptons 20 Century Trendy, a company that started as an Instagram account and web site devoted to showcasing twentieth century trendy structure within the Hamptons, however shortly developed right into a registered nonprofit endeavor a wider vary of actions.

Over the previous yr and a half, Mr. Godbold has given shows and arranged panel discussions on trendy structure within the Hamptons. He has promoted actual property listings for contemporary houses on his Instagram feed in hopes of discovering sympathetic patrons and has begun organizing dinners for house owners of Hamptons homes designed by notable architects (the primary one, final September, was for house owners of homes designed by Andrew Geller).

In partnership with Hamptons Cottages & Gardens, he has additionally organized a modernist dwelling tour for Aug. 14, which he hopes will develop right into a multiday occasion in future years.

“My purpose is to create one thing like Palm Springs’ Modernism Week,” Mr. Godbold stated, which celebrates that metropolis’s design historical past with a variety of excursions, lectures and different occasions that entice throngs of vacationers yearly.

“These homes want advertising and marketing and P.R., so that folks find out about them, respect them, admire them and need to preserve them,” he stated. “Except folks find out about them, it’s not going to occur. They’re simply going to vanish.”

Final summer time, he had the chance to place this idea to a check.

Orest Bliss, the proprietor of a Jaffe-designed oceanfront home at 88 Meadow Lane within the village of Southampton, was in search of permission to demolish the home constructed within the late Nineteen Seventies that featured a daring triangular roofline.

Earlier than making a call, the village’s Board of Architectural Assessment & Historic Preservation commissioned Mr. Gordon, the journalist, to write down a report on the historic significance of the property. When Mr. Godbold heard about what was afoot, he urged his social media followers (at current, Hamptons 20 Century Trendy has no official membership and as a substitute consists of a unfastened group of events) to write down letters to precise their alarm.

Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and former structure critic of The New York Instances, wrote one letter. Mr. Goldberger’s 1986 ebook, “The Homes of the Hamptons,” had been an inspiration for Mr. Godbold. Sarah Kautz, the preservation director at Preservation Lengthy Island wrote one other. So did the artist Daniel Arsham, who owns a Jaffe-designed home simply outdoors of the Hamptons.

“The truth that there’s no safety for these locations is baffling to me, contemplating that Jaffe had a serious retrospective of his work on the Parrish Artwork Museum, which is just a few miles from this home,” Mr. Arsham stated in an interview (the 2005 exhibition was curated by Mr. Gordon). “If it’s celebrated regionally locally and museums, how is that not one thing value saving?”

After writing his personal letter, Mr. Arsham appealed to his Instagram followers for extra. “I posted on my account about what was happening and inspired my followers to write down letters,” he stated. “I feel tons of of them did.”

In December, the village board voted to disclaim a certificates that may have allowed demolition of the home, successfully preserving it, for now.

Mockingly, when Mr. Jaffe initially introduced his design for the home in 1978, village officers, upset by its avant-garde type, required that landscaping be maintained across the construction “in perpetuity” to obscure it; now, that very same design has been acknowledged as one thing value saving.

After all, the choice entails just one home by one architect. Quite a few different buildings haven’t been so lucky, which is why Mr. Godbold is equally fascinated by celebrating buildings by a variety of different architects who labored within the Hamptons, together with Peter Blake, Charles Gwathmey and Robert Siegel, Myron Goldfinger and Julian and Barbara Neski.

One of many large challenges in relation to preserving trendy buildings is that many municipalities are ill-equipped to think about such latest buildings, stated Ms. Kautz at Preservation Lengthy Island, as a result of they had been newly constructed, or nonexistent, when the massive push to finish historic constructing surveys occurred after the Nationwide Historic Preservation Act of 1966. These surveys, she added, usually checked out buildings that had been not less than 50 years previous.

“In case you did a survey within the Nineteen Seventies, that’s going to place you into the Nineteen Twenties, so that you’re not even going to get near this modernist stuff,” she stated. “We have to look and see what’s on the market. We have to catch up.”

However as property values within the Hamptons have skyrocketed, many trendy homes are being torn down earlier than they actually have a probability to develop previous.

“Nice midcentury homes which can be comparatively modest however on incredible websites are being snapped up, torn down and changed into McMansions,” Mr. Goldberger stated. “It’s all in regards to the land, sadly.”

Mr. Goldberger lamented the lack of revolutionary early trendy homes, together with a house that the celebrated French architect Pierre Chareau accomplished for the artist Robert Motherwell in East Hampton in 1946, and Philip Johnson’s Farney Home in Sagaponack, accomplished in 1947.

Sure, early trendy houses had been often small, cheaply constructed and designed as summer time escapes, he allowed, however there are nonetheless methods to protect essentially the most outstanding ones, even for moneyed patrons who now need expansive estates.

One possibility is to maintain the unique construction as a guesthouse or studio and construct greater subsequent to it, like CookFox Architects not too long ago did when it moved and restored Mr. Geller’s 1959 double-diamond Pearlroth home in Westhampton Seashore to make method for a brand new, bigger home on the identical property. Or, it’s doable to revive, replace and increase in a delicate method, like Roger Ferris + Companions not too long ago did for a household that bought a 1980 Jaffe-designed home in Bridgehampton.

However measurement isn’t every little thing, and Mr. Goldberger has been disenchanted to see even giant, not too long ago constructed homes crumble beneath the excavator’s shovel, together with ones designed by Mr. Jaffe and Mr. Gwathmey.

“There’s such an unimaginable custom of modernism there that’s simply being each actually and figuratively run over by cash,” Mr. Goldberger stated.

With a lot twentieth century architectural historical past being misplaced, Mr. Gordon stated the Hamptons is at one thing of a crossroads. “The query is: Would you like your neighborhood to be simply reflective of this nice wealth that has come over jap Lengthy Island within the final 20 years, or do you need to one way or the other retain a variety and a mix of not simply financial, but in addition architectural approaches?” he stated. “I feel a culturally wealthy neighborhood needs variety.”

Mr. Godbold hopes extra folks will quickly agree. “Perhaps at some point there received’t be any motive for me to leap up and down about these homes as a result of everyone else will love them once more,” he stated. “However till then, I’ll simply wave the flag as a lot as I can.”

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