Beach Houses by Andrew Geller: Architect of Happiness
The New York Times reports that Andrew Geller, the architect of many of the seaside structures we spotlighted in our original article, passed away at the age of 87 on Christmas day. Geller’s work is distinguished by a very American sense of optimism and a whimsical conception of space, especially when it comes to his iconic beach house designs. No wonder they called him the “architect of happiness.”
After reading of his death, we were inspired to go hunt for more images of Geller’s work online. Unlike many traditional architecture photos, which can be very staid and composed, vintage images of Geller’s work are full of life and color and people. They are snapshots of an era in American history when the middle class flourished and the beach house was a representation of a generation’s hopes and dreams.
It’s a good thing such images exist since, as the New York Times obituary poignantly notes, the houses themselves have fallen victim to time and over-zealous development. From the obit: “In recent years Mr. Geller’s playful houses were the subjects of books and articles, but most of those houses now exist mainly in memories and black-and-white photographs. Mr. Gordon recalled driving around the Hamptons with Mr. Geller in 1999, trying to find some of the scores of houses he had built there. Altogether, they located fewer than a dozen. Mr. Geller said he felt like he had lost his children.”
We invite you to re-read our original article and ponder the legacy of Andrew Geller.
The beach house occupies a special place in our hearts. It represents warmth, fun, relaxation, and total freedom from the daily stress of urban living, even if it’s just for the weekend. From the sunny sands of California and the rocky eastern seaboard to the balmy beaches of tropical islands and the azure Mediterranean coastline, anywhere you find a gorgeous stretch of beach and someone who appreciates it, you’ll find a beach house.
Commander’s Keep Newfoundland, Canada From a historical perspective, the beach house plays an important role in the American consciousness. The prospect of owning a second home specifically for the purpose of leisure became a reality for the newly prosperous middle classes of the United States in the post-World War II boom years. They suddenly had the means to hire architects to quickly design and construct small, economic summer getaway homes that could be easily closed up when not in use. The seaside vacation home swiftly became assimilated into the American dream as a must-have item, at least for a while. Images of the beach house still abound throughout our culture, inevitably tied up with thoughts of summer, family, picnics, good times, and, most significantly, sunshine. Above all, the beach house is a construction dedicated to the worship of the sun. This is not strictly an American conception. Beach houses around the world come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share one overarching design principle: let the sunshine in. Here are a few different beach houses to give you an idea of what I mean.
Frank House designed by Andrew Geller Fire Island Pines, Fire Island, NY, 1958 Geller was inspired by the Franks’ pictures of the Mayan Ruins at Uxmal, Mexico to design this glazed pyramid, set among the rolling sand dunes of Ocean Bay Park. The result is a house with panoramic views of the Atlantic ocean and the Great South Bay.
Villa Miramar Theoule-sur-Mer, Cote d’Azur, France
Marion Davies Estate designed by Julia Morgan Santa Monica, California, 1926 Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst commissioned Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan to design this 34-bedroom Georgian beach estate for his mistress, actress Marion Davies. Once reserved for luminaries such as Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, the estate is now open to the public as the Annenberg Community Beach House.
Casa Moderna Todos Santos, Mexico As you can see, the form taken by the beach house changes radically based on the desires of the owners, as well as the coastline itself. Just as the beaches of the world differ in climate and topography, beach house architecture must adapt to the needs of the environment – or possibly get blown away by a thunderous storm in certain regions. However, no matter where in the world it may be located, the beach house begins and ends with the desire to create a seaside residence within steps of a stunning strand; the perfect place to soak up the sunshine in the summer and to dream about in the midst of a bitter winter. So dedicated to the worship of the sun is the beach house that Arts & Architecture Magazine astutely noted in 1955: “Most vacation houses are designed to work, roughly, like a camera: a box, glazed on one side, with the glass wall pointed at the view.”
YL Residence Koh Samui, Thailand In short, the proper beach house is made up of sweeping sea views, fresh breezes, and good times, all illuminated up in the warmth of the sun. Though actually owning a second beach home isn’t in the cards for most, finding the perfect beach house rental is as easy as clicking here. MT.