In 1997, at the end of my second decade of Architectural practice, my client Gordon Cooke was tapped to head a company holding the licenses of a number of high end women's fashion catalogs, J.Jill among them. Having seen the results of my work for Fanny Farmer in Boston, Gordon asked for my participation in designing a corporate image for the company in keeping with his vision. Thus began an association with J.Jill spanning 11 years.
My first assignment was to design a new Fulfillment Center on a sprawling 120 acre environmentally significant site in Tilton, New Hampshire. The facility was to be state of the art and encompass the newest technologies to take the company into the 21st century with aplomb.
The campus would include a 60,000 square foot Administration Building, and a vast 400,000 square foot Fulfillment Center covering 20 acres. I asked my good friend Dan Trimbach of Trimbach Design in Manhattan to assist in the process of space planning and selection of office systems.
Shown here, an exterior view of the “Link” connecting the Administration Building to the Fulfillment structure, which houses a communal entrance hall, cafeteria and gym for the 400 employees, as well as interior photography of the Administration Building and the 20,000 square foot Call Center. The neon construction at the top of the staircase was executed by LA artist Lili Lakich, and was among numerous works of art commissioned specifically for this facility.
Having lived in the house I designed for her mother, and having worked in a corporate office environment that I designed for her family's business, my dear friend Elisabeth Hardin called one day out of the blue and asked me to design a new home for her.
She found a marvelous piece of property just outside of our home town of Gadsden, Alabama, overlooking a small lake, replete with towering pine trees and dogwood. Knowing of my great admiration of Frank Lloyd Wright, she asked for a house in keeping with his use of space, horizontal lines, and materials.
I found a local quarry that was the source of the perfect stone, and met with the masons and showed them photographs of many of Wright's most celebrated projects including Fallingwater.
The resulting residence was a marriage of stone, and glass used inside and out to great effect. Here, exterior photos of the home and environs.
In 1998 I was commissioned to design a home for a client for whom I had worked previously, Elena Ford. This project, in Sun Valley, Idaho, provided the unique opportunity to design a log home so prevalent to the area. This would be no typical log home however, but one crafted from logs salvaged from abandoned railroad trestles in the Arizona Desert.
I designed the structure with 30 inch diameter freestanding logs articulated from the building mass with a backdrop of Brancusi inspired hewn logs as the wall mass infill. A foundation skirt and patios of locally sourced stone, large glass panels, and a cedar roof completed the material selections.
The use of stone and wood carried into the interior, which is anchored around a double height Living Room (shown here) with a towering fireplace flanked by second floor balconies.
My homage to Frank Lloyd Wright can be seen in the antique Native American carpet casually draped across the parapet.
With the success of my design for The J.Jill Fulfillment Center in 1998, CEO Gordon Cooke asked me to design a new Corporate Headquarters to "bring the company into the 21st Century". A new office park was being built in Quincy, Massachusetts in 2000, and the top two floors were available. Each floor plate featured 40,000 square feet of raw space and a vast curtain wall of glass on all sides.
With the top floor I was able to add a large vaulted skylight, under which I designed a dramatic Entrance Atrium space opened to the floor below, and across which I installed a glass bridge. To complete the composition, I then added a gently curving terrazzo stair that Ginger Rogers would have embraced.
Having just returned from a trip to Rome where I revisited my long-held admiration for Borromini, an Italian Baroque Architect of great geometric and sculptural dexterity, all elements in this volume were derived of arcs, radiuses and oval shapes including the oculus below the skylight.
Here, images of The Atrium including the glass bridge as seen from the Entrance (which follows the Renaissance concept of forced perspective), The Stair descending to the floor below sans Ms. Rogers, The Board Room with commissioned artwork by Dan Rizzie, and a typical Workspace for the J.Jill Design Team.
In 2000 my longtime client Elena Ford asked that I create an indoor pool for a home she owned in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
The design criteria called for both a lap pool and a play pool where her young children could learn to swim during the long Michigan winters, as well as an entertainment space for large family gatherings.
Using the water repellent materials of stucco, stone, fiberglass and glazed brick, I fashioned an interior volume with a serrated roof plane of solid and translucent skylight sections which bathed the interior with a soft white light.
Three separate seating / gathering areas were spaced throughout the interior with artwork evoking a water theme. A commissioned neon sculpture by LA artist Lili Lakich provided the perfect touch of familial history and whimsy.
In late 2000, my close friends Ken Kuchin and Bruce Anderson asked if I would be interested in designing a small 1000 square foot residence on a 5 acre parcel on the beach in East Hampton, NY.
The budget was as modest as the house size, $150,000. The structure was to be temporary, to last perhaps 3 years, and to provide a place at the beach (they lived a scant 2 miles away in East Hampton Village) for BBQ's and an occasional dinner party, but mostly a beach retreat in the tradition of farming families throughout Long Island’s South Fork who decamped to the beach over the summer.
These "beach camps" dotted the shoreline of Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, Wainscott and Amagansett from the 1940s. Most had no running water and were "seasonal" in the truest sense of the word. Thus began a design exercise, like none other in my career, and an end result that no one could have predicted.
Shown here, the plans, and rendering of the proposed structure, (later published in Architectural Digest) which featured a galley kitchen, two story living space, sleeping porches, a balcony bedroom on the second floor, and a perspective enhancing entry ramp to the first floor which was perched 6 feet above grade to catch the prevailing winds and resplendent views across the sites ancient double dune.
Alas, the $150,000 budget (which equates to the cost of a typical Hamptons' kitchen), was not realized with the project coming in at $450,000, and my friends asked that I give it one more try.
Little did any of us realize at the time what awaited this project in terms of international recognition and publicity.
In an above the fold half page photograph in The Home Section of The New York Times, The Butterfly House made its public debut in the summer of 2001 under the banner headline "Small Wonders".
Written by the noted Architecture Critic Alastair Gordon, it was referred to as "a poem on the beach". Thus began the public persona of this modest, 1000 square foot "temporary" cottage on East Hampton's Two Mile Hollow beachfront.
The footprint was 20 X 50, and the interior volume was composed of one interconnected space, differentiated by a soaring center section of roof from which The Butterfly House derived its name. A stuccoed two-sided fireplace created a visual break from the open plan bedroom beyond, further defining this vaulted space with towering window walls to either side.
The materials had to be modest to meet the $150,000 budget. Aluminum siding used on prefab barn buildings was selected for the exterior, but installed horizontally to create a more linear effect, stock windows were employed to create the various window arrangements, finished plywood was used for the interior walls and minimalist cabinetry in the galley kitchen. The only extravagance was my insistence on cork flooring, and I had to track down the owners who were in the midst of an African Safari to approve its cost.
The resulting interior blended seamlessly with the color of the East Hampton double sand dune seen thru the windows. My biggest design triumph however was to paint the underside of the vaulted "butterfly" roof an iridescent blue color to echo the color of a butterfly found only on Dunk Island in The Great Barrier Reef. It was as if the sun was glinting off the ocean and reflecting the blue onto the ceiling.
The home was an instant local and international sensation, with shelter magazines and film crews descending on the project, and remarkably each finding a new way to showcase the residence and its environs. It was without question the most photographed home at the beginning of the 21st Century.
It was such a success that the owners added a large pergola space off the entrance ramp, and held fund raisers each summer attracting thousands of visitors over their 12 year ownership. When they eventually sold the house, it was determined by The NY Post to be the most expensive one bedroom residence on record.
The structure was eventually used as a construction office for the new home being built on the 5 acre site, then removed. The contractor called me before demolition to tell me what a joy it had been to work in the building over the two years of construction.
Much credit must be given to my clients, Ken Kuchin and Bruce Anderson, not only for their vision, and perseverance, but also for their stewardship of this albeit temporary work of art.
Having designed two modest additions to a barn moved to Bridgehampton from Vermont in the 1980s, the owner, my friend Chad Leat, decided it was time to take the next step. He asked that I triple the size of the existing 1800 square foot structure and create an "urbane barn" for his ever increasing use of the property and burgeoning art collection.
His requirements were few, a sunken living room with a heated stone floor, a large banquette for reading, and a see through fireplace between the living room and kitchen. Thus began my modernist interpretation of "post and beam" as related to the new building and its connection to the existing structure.
I recreated the exact footprint and exterior profile of the existing barn and located it 30 feet behind so that as seen from the entrance the home appears quite modest. It is only upon entering that one is thrust into the juxtaposition of new and old with steel beams and columns replacing wood, and a glass bridge spanning the two story sky lit dining atrium.
Beyond, the sunken living room opens onto a vast exterior entertaining patio, beyond which lies the pool. The pool was conceived as integral to the design as it draws the eye across the lawn, and through the use of its perspective enhancing trapezoidal shape, to the landscape beyond.
The home has been extensively published with a cover story in Met Home and with articles in both HC&G and Hampton's Magazine. It was also featured in Dominic Bradbury's definitive book simply entitled "Barns".
From the year 2001, The Barnyard.
Late in the year 2000, having designed homes for her in Southampton, NY, Sun Valley, ID, and Grosse Pointe, MI, my longtime client Elena Ford, asked if I would oversee the design and construction of a 135 foot tri-deck motor yacht. Thus began a 2 1/2 year sojourn unlike any other in my career.
Beginning with Nautical Engineers in Fort Lauderdale, Fl, the GA or General Arrangement was established laying out the 3 boat levels plus a sundeck. The legendary boatyard of Palmer Johnson in Sturgeon Bay, WI, was selected, one of two aluminum hull boat builders in the United States.
The boat was to meet the highest standards for safety and seaworthiness, including both US and British Coast Guard standards for open ocean crossings. I had to learn a completely new language as nautical terms such as "galley", "head", "staterooms" and "wind heel criteria", among others, replaced our standard generic labels used for residential design. The latter was a particular nuisance as it kept me from adding 2" in height to the overhead (read ceiling) in the Main Salon!
The boat interior was to be light in color tone and informal as Elena and her young family of 4 children would use the vessel year round including in The Great Lakes Region. I selected pecan, which has a warm golden tone for the interior wood paneling and had a custom carpet made with 6 different pastel colors, each keyed to a different stateroom. From there, the interior design scheme fell into place.
I oversaw each detail down to the selection of linens and cutlery, but one of the high points was shopping for art for the project. Matisse, Picasso, Hockney, and Lichtenstein were just a few of the artists whose work was selected.
Here, photographs of the "M/Y Unity" launch from October of 2002, the boat at anchor in Sag Harbor, NY, and interior views of The Main Salon and VIP Suite.
Having traveled to Egypt for my 50th Birthday in 2000, I read with great interest that Egypt was holding a competition for the design of a new "Grand Egyptian Museum" on the outskirts of Cairo to replace the antiquated and overwhelmed National Museum downtown.
Here are the watercolor renderings of my entry from 2002 which featured towering granite pylons and angled gold reflective glass walls with traditional Egyptian motifs applied with patterned film. An obelisk rises thru a skylit atrium courtyard to take visitors to the pinnacle for a panoramic view of the nearby Great Pyramids.
There were 1557 entries from Architects in 82 countries, making this competition one of the most sought after commissions of all time. The winning entry by Heneghan Peng of Dublin, Ireland, is opening late 2018 with an inaugural exhibition of what else, The Tutankhamun Collection. It might be time for a return visit...
Pleased with the aesthetic success and positive employee reaction to my designs for The J.Jill Group, CEO Gordon Cooke asked me to oversee the transition into brick and mortar to augment the company's overwhelmingly successful catalog business. Gordon also had a unique vision for the store unrelated to typical retail design.
Each location would feel as if one were walking past a building. Thus I designed a recessed entryway anchored by two freestanding obelisks with leaf and fern patterns imprinted into their surface. A drapery pulled back to one side provided a sense of mystery as one crossed a pebble stone floor to the Entrance. The primary exterior material was a wire brushed gray oak which formed the storefront windows and door frames, and could very well have been reclaimed from some Parisian storefront. The door hardware resembled a piece of petrified wood.
The subtle tones of sand and gray carried inside where upon entering one heard the sound of water trickling across ledges of the same material used in the obelisks. Used again at the cash wrap, these fossil like imprinted forms set a tone of texture, also found in the J.Jill garment line, where texture was preferred over color or pattern.
Lighting was key to the projects' success, and as often as possible the lighting was tucked into coves and ceiling recesses to minimize its visual impact on the shopping experience. The garments became the art, illuminated so that their refined details could be realized in a muted setting.
Between 2002-2006 there were a total of 190 stores built under my supervision in 35 states. Here, one of my favorites from Portland, OR, which had an interior entrance from the mall as well as an exterior street entrance.
Following the successful renovation and addition to The Barnyard in Bridgehampton, NY, in 2001, Chad Leat asked that I renovate his Fifth Avenue apartment in a Landmark Building at 11th Street in Manhattan.
Working with the dynamic team of Randy Kemper and Tony Ingrao was added incentive, as the backdrop I created acted as a foil for the many treasures procured for the project across Europe and at auction.
This was to be the first of three such collaborations, all for Mr. Leat, the most recent of which is featured in Chapter 4.
Anytime I receive a commission to add onto an existing home I have always taken the position to make the addition as seamless as possible. This is often harder than it sounds as the interior volume must also blend seamlessly to achieve the ultimate goal of harmony.
When it was time to add onto my own Bridgehampton residence, it was even more difficult given the minimalist nature of the design, and thanks to Donna Hanover on House Beautiful TV, its status as a "Modernist Masterpiece". After the cover story in Architectural Digest in 1997, numerous television profiles, and more house and garden tours than I can count, the residence was among the best known in The Hamptons.
I was 36 when I designed and built RYB, and the ensuing years called for not only a larger home, but more comfort. Thus in 2003, I undertook a major renovation / addition that encompassed the entire residence, specifically the Kitchen and Master Suite.
Here, images from a recent article in Hamptons Cottages & Gardens which provides a thorough accounting of the addition and its context to the previous design and environs.
RYB 2.0 from 2003.
In 2003 I was one of 5 Architects selected nationwide to participate in a most unusual closed competition. The building program was a book, over 300 pages, and I was provided a site survey and a general location (The Pacific Northwest). All questions were to be made in writing and through the law firm in Denver, CO overseeing the competition.
The program called for both a "Public Home" and a "Private Home", a Greenhouse, a freestanding Library, the requisite Spa, Screening Room (for 50), and other amenities too esoteric to mention all connected through an elaborate system of bridges and tunnels, hence the code name I gave the project, "Medici".
The total square footage was not to exceed 75,000 square feet. The site covered dozens of acres and encompassed the top of a mountain and was accessed by a mile long serpentine private drive. A 10 year non-disclosure agreement was required regarding all aspects of the project. The six figure Architectural fee was generous, particularly since the competition was to only cover the concept design phase of the project.
Here, watercolor images of various aspects of the project including The Public House Great Room, The Library Rotunda, The Spa, and Greenhouse. The model was one of the largest and most complex of my long career, and is included as well. Scores of sketches were produced for each structure.
The clients arrived one evening at Westhampton, NY Airport on their own 727, spent the night at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, came for the presentation the next morning and were never heard from again. The law firm sent the remaining Architectural fee. To this day I have no idea what ever became of the project...
In 2004, my friend of many decades Bill Jorgensen, for whom I designed The Fanny Farmer Headquarters in Boston in 1985, as well as a home in Hyannis Port, MA, asked that I design a new home on Dilido Drive in Miami.
The site was a pie shaped postage stamp of a piece of property with an equally small pie shaped building envelope. Designing a 3 bedroom residence was not an easy task, particularly with a lap pool, garage and orchid garden in the program. I set out to squeeze every inch from the site, and use the rooftops for sun decks as there was no room left on the ground level.
Here, photographs of the scale model of the un-built work, which features the lap pool as an integrated focal point of the ground floor, and a towering two story street facing orchid garden tucked behind a stone latticework providing privacy to the Living Room and Master Suite above from the nearby street.