24 June 2011

The Modernist Bird

Any bird, afflicted by the same modernist virus as their garden's owner, now has two more splendid options, one being this International Style feeder:

10 June 2011

Modernism on the Jersey Shore

This week, I am vacationing on the Jersey shore, in Avalon north of Cape May to be precise. I had never been to this small town or the barrier island referred to as Seven-Mile-Island before: a beautiful area, especially this time of the year, before the masses arrive (if you can speak of masses with a serious lack of hotels and most residential structures being single family homes).

What caught my eye right from the first minute in Avalon was the rather uniform building style, locally referred to as Nantucket architecture:

Nantucket style via Jersey shore: mostly two stories, steep roofline, lots of 
dormers, shingled roofs and siding (often vinyl, sometimes cedar), emphasized 
fenestration, covered porches, ocean-facing balconies.

(Do bear with me, we're getting to modernist houses soon...)

A lot of the area houses are now build as pre-fabs, with plumbing, wiring, windows etc. pre-installed:

 Prefab "upside-downer" with main living area on second floor and six bedrooms, 
constructed from 14 modules. Time between two shots: one day. Move-in date: 
approx. three to five weeks from photo date.

Long-term visitors told me that even in the 1960s, Avalon and its neighbour Stone Harbor were expensive. $300,000 for a house on an interior lot was not uncommon then. Currently, oceanfront starts at approx. $5m asking, a vacant lot on a high dune is available for $10.0m, a small interior single story ranch home with 3 bedrooms and no pool on 8,000 sf in walking distance to beach is $1.0m. Originally however, most homes were humble seaside cottages:

(Really interesting, but no modern architecture? Anywhere? Just one?

From that style evolved a slightly larger variant, sort of a ranch on stilts, to counter occasional flooding typical on barrier islands (please note the gable windows below, first sign of modernism):

And – deep sigh – as everywhere, there's always room for more bling and less taste:

Misplaced Italianate on the ocean, clad in white marble.
18,000 sf Nantucket Style on steroids in the dunes. Potatoe-chips build that residence.

After one or two days, I started to see hints and glimpses of modernist architecture: 

Modern interpretation of the salt-box? Geometrical fenestration 
is actually a residential version of a curtain wall, facing east.
Ensemble of three individual residences on a triangular oceanfront lot near the inlet.
Detail of above ensemble shows house 1 and house 2. All three houses utilise 
different exterior materials and colours to emphasise their separate structures.
Architect's remodel of a non-modernist home includes greening of garage roof plus new facade.
Oceanfront residence with roof terrace, facade in typical local color (stained wood? planking).
Fourth house from the ocean (on right); vertical emphasis of wood planking and fenestration 
countered by three massive horizontal blocks formed by retaining wall, balcony on 
second floor and roof terrace on third.
Contemporary but clean interpretation of the upside-downer, with main living areas on second floor. 
Upside-downer on the Bay with lovely cedar-shingled facade. House orientated 
west towards the Bay. Garage and closed front facing east and street.
Looking elegant at first glance at dusk.
West elevation however shows messy design, restless details, fenestration not 
lined up and overall neglect. Pity.
Unassuming oceanfront; narrow 5,500 sf lot necessitates a smallish front and deep 
footprint. Three stories visually compensated by emphasis on the horizontal through 
bands of windows and pale horizontal planking.
 My favourite, right next door to above home. Near-Neutra-like use of emphasising 
the contours and construction with gray timber, spaces filled with white vertical 
planking (wood?). Smaller windows to the west, large expanses of glass facing 
the dunes and the ocean (on the right).

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you had fun – and looking forward to your comments!