June 20, 2024


Comfortable residential structure

In Southampton, a Beach front Property Not Like the Other folks

AS YOU Change On to Southampton’s Meadow Lane, the green bulwark of privet hedge — a signature of this moneyed enclave — gives way to dune grass, seaside goldenrod and skeletal pines. The 5-mile-prolonged finger of land concerning the Atlantic Ocean and sleepy Shinnecock Bay may be the most prized strip of genuine estate in the country, so there is building almost everywhere: A new billionaire moves in, tears down the last billionaire’s palace and commences work on still a different Ozymandias. Even now, tucked amid these dunes are a handful of modest architectural triumphs, crafted all through a brief gust of Modernism that swept by the space in the mid-20th century. A single of them, identified as the Sugarman Property, a hyperminimalist 1963 concrete shrine of jutting rectangles — part sand castle, portion bachelor’s lair — serves as a circumstance analyze of the do the job of the underrecognized American designer Ward Bennett.

The mainly self-taught Bennett, who died at age 85 in 2003, was not a accredited architect, and designed just a handful of homes in his multidisciplinary five-ten years profession. He is greater acknowledged for the workplace home furnishings that described the aesthetic of 1950s- and ’60s-period glass-and-metal skyscrapers, like the Landmark, a pared-down reimagining of an English facet chair, and the Scissor, which evokes a 19th-century folding beach lounge, but he also made almost everything from textiles and flatware to Tiffany glasses. Even now, it may perhaps be his interiors and the homes he designed from the floor up, these kinds of as the Sugarman House, that finest express the totality of his aesthetic.

In those people household projects, Bennett designed a warm American Modernism, one that eschewed the shiny metallic angles and concrete planes of the Worldwide type. Whilst he abhorred excess and cultivated a simplicity that could border on the monastic, he was amid the initial to blend antiques with modern day artwork, and to use utilitarian components, such as cork flooring and metallic-mesh room dividers, in his interiors. And though his neutral-toned environments appeared tranquil, they have been covertly subversive, awash in radical juxtapositions: the previous and the new, the affordable and the opulent, vintage glass vases put atop a stainless-metal clinic trolley. He was sought out by the standard-bearers of higher Modernism, which includes David Rockefeller, who had him layout the 1961 company offices of Chase Manhattan Bank, with boxy, oat-colored upholstered seating and lower-slung floating shelves. Approximately a ten years later, the Fiat president Giovanni Agnelli and his spouse, Marella, commissioned Bennett to function with the architect Philip Johnson to rework their Rome condominium into a loftlike expanse that includes objects and materials that typically had been relegated to the back garden: wicker, hammocks, coco matting.

Even though many European architects and layout theorists of the era, which includes the Swiss-French Le Corbusier and the Finnish Alvar Aalto, were driven by philosophy, religion or social constructs, Bennett’s pared-down, human-scale Modernism was formed by his have peripatetic life. Born Howard Bernstein in the Washington Heights community of Manhattan to a father who was a vaudeville actor, Bennett still left house at 13 and supported himself pushing shipping carts by means of the garment district, ultimately landing a task sketching women’s apparel. Throughout a stint in Europe in his 20s, he sought out a conference with the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, who turned a lodestar. Back again in New York, Bennett dressed home windows and built furs for the vogue designer Hattie Carnegie, shared a studio with the artist Louise Nevelson, took night time courses taught by the German-born Summary Expressionist Hans Hofmann and experimented with ceramics and jewelry. (Bennett’s jewellery was integrated in a 1946 group exhibit at the Museum of Modern-day Art.)

By the late ’40s, he experienced become a sought-soon after inside decorator, as nicely a skillful home furniture maker (his gently curved College chairs are located all through the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential library in Austin, Texas). But it was in Bennett’s interiors that you noticed the designer at his most ground breaking. In 1962, he purchased an condominium at the top rated of the Dakota on Central Park West, a warren of maid’s quarters beneath the seriously raked mansard roof he opened the room totally, with vertiginously sloping walls of home windows, a daring alternative in an era in advance of lofts grew to become common. The retreat he created for himself a several a long time later on in Springs, N.Y., a wooded bohemian area of East Hampton that captivated artists which include Willem de Kooning, also included then-novel layout idioms, with a 20-foot-sq. peaked skylight and a pair of floor-to-ceiling, accordionlike redwood doorways that opened to the sea.

BUT IT Wasn’t Until Marvin Sugarman, the producer of the landmark children’s clearly show “Captain Kangaroo,” and his spouse, Ronnie, commissioned a seashore property, that Bennett was equipped to totally understand his severe eyesight. Although he was a notoriously prickly character who typically labored on your own, the venture was ambitious more than enough for him to hire as an assistant the 22-year-previous Joe D’Urso, who would later on grow to be the progenitor of Substantial Tech, an industrial type synonymous with the early 1980s.

The Cubist home of stucco-clad concrete on 2.75 seafront acres was intended to be a peaceful melding of form and landscape. Held over the sand by 9-foot-significant stilts, which produced it just one of the taller buildings on the seashore at the time, it offered unbroken sights of the Atlantic. Bennett’s technique was prescient: The dwelling also had a crafted-in hedge against climbing sea stages.

From a length, the construction would seem to emerge organically from the dunes, its stucco membrane mimicking the texture and hue of the sand. The public parts of the house are attained from the seaside by a pair of rail-significantly less, zigzagging teak staircases with treads jutting from an angled wall. After these precarious steps have been scaled, the impact of the Mexican Modernist architect Luis Barragán, 1 of Bennett’s idols, gets obvious. The partitions are unbroken besides for deep-set home windows, and the products are limited to teak, stone tile and plaster. Like Barragán, Bennett adopted an pretty much pious visual austerity in which purely natural light and shadow, not furnishings or decoration, determine the milieu. But in contrast to Barragán, Bennett opted for monochromatic gildings: Within, there are ebony orbital glass doorknobs, hardly-there keep track of lighting and a black metallic spiral staircase that sales opportunities to a private third-floor eagle’s nest-like room. “Ward was included with just about every aspect,” says D’Urso, now 77. “Most architects never care about interiors. Ward cared about anything from the household furniture to the sheets and towels. He believed the placement of mild switches was as crucial as the windows.”

The residence has passed via a number of owners since the Sugarmans offered it in 1978. Its present-day entrepreneurs, longtime admirers of Bennett, bought the property in 2012 and put in a few decades restoring it, even stripping the lacquered-in excess of millwork to its original matte grain. Just one of the number of important alterations they built was annexing and masking a deck to extend the tiny galley kitchen area that was common of Bennett’s houses — he regarded cooking an afterthought. Earlier owners had enclosed the ground amount with glass (it now includes an additional bedroom and a den, bringing the total residing space to 7,000 sq. toes) and installed a rectangular pool. Operates by Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha and Cy Twombly cling on the off-white walls of the key level, and various Bennett pieces, including a Sled chair, with its X metal base and wicker seat, are scattered about. (Geiger, a subsidiary of Herman Miller, continue to generates a number of of his chairs, which are deceptively cozy Bennett had back difficulties, so he engineered them with great sensitivity to pitch and angle.) There’s also an oblong metal eating area table created in the 1970s by D’Urso that the house owners identified in a area antiques keep.

The constructing could have a complex severity, but the homeowners say the household is truly astonishingly informal. “The issue of the residence is that it is intended to be chill,” suggests 1 of them. “It’s a beach property. You can trek sand through it, you can knock it all-around.” In actuality, to join the assets extra explicitly with its location, as Bennett had envisioned, they covered the patio tile all-around the pool with sand. The East Hampton-based landscape designer Edwina von Gal, who designed gardens close by for the fashion designer Calvin Klein, the cookbook creator Ina Garten and the artist Cindy Sherman, largely relied on indigenous species when she reimagined the home’s surroundings — mostly hardy pines and grasses, dune thrivers that can get a toehold in the unstable terrain. A Hollywood juniper, with its twisted, irregular boughs, stands sculpturelike by the pool. “I tried to make the landscape glimpse like it is normally been there,” says von Gal. “The home is especially conducive to that due to the fact it seems to be like it floated down from the sky.”

A couple of a long time following Bennett completed the Sugarman abode, he finished a considerably grander Hamptons property, his previous in the place, for a stockbroker named Hale Allen in Amagansett. That fortresslike concrete edifice would become better known — Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone, and his then-spouse, Jane, acquired it in 1990 and hired the 72-calendar year-old Bennett to restore it, introducing a pool dwelling, elaborate grid walls and Asian antiques. Nevertheless, it is the property on Meadow Lane that may well be the designer’s most passionately austere generation. It stands as a refined rebuke to modern day excess and gaudiness, etched like salt spray on the sparse landscape: silent, transparent, elemental.