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Architect, Christopher Rawlins, recently launched a new site dedicated to a little known part of design history. Pines Modern is an exploration of Fire Island Pines, a travel destination off the coast of Long Island, NY that offered a safe space for members of the LGBT community in the 1960s and1970s. With members of the community building their own private homes, the travel destination also became an incredible source of mid-century modern architecture, filled with one-of-a-kind homes that can still be viewed to this day.
Rawlins, author of the book, Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction, has launched the new site as a way to inform the design and architecture community of this incredible history. Presenting the architectural and social history of Fire Island Pines, the predominantly gay summer resort, audio-visual tours produced and narrated by Rawlins, can be discovered with just a click. The site features four dozen tours that can be viewed virtually or by those visiting Fire Island Pines, offering insight into the modernist architecture and cultural relevance of the area.Continue to 2 of 7 below.
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Bates Masi Architects
Thanks to the new site, visitors can now explore the modern design and history of homes like this one at 274 Bay Walk. Designed by architect, Harry Bates of Bates Masi Architects in 1967, the home had an elite clientele. Angelo Donghia and Halston stayed in the home as guests of interior Designer Melvin Dwork who rented the interior. "A wooden house always seems more primitive, more thrilling to me than stone. I remember as a child always wanting a tree house," are Melvin Dwork's words, captured on the Pines Modern site.Continue to 3 of 7 below.
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Early in his career, Bates, who was already becoming a prolific architect at the time, focused on designing a home that offered privacy, as well as view out to the bay. His grown-up tree house offered a mix of public spaces and private elements. The home featured a Brutalist structure, Rawlins writes, similar to those found in buildings like Marcel Breuer's Whitney Museum. However, according to Rawlins, it was elements like the cypress siding that softened the space. More than fifty years later, Bates still continues the use of marrying Brutalist structures with natural elements for a refreshing take on modernism.Continue to 4 of 7 below.
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Harmony With The Environment
Located in a travel destination surrounded by trees, the home's design focused on harmony with the outdoors. Oak floors were bleached to a pale shade. Black and white furniture was used to create a neutral color palette for a minimalist effect.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Water stains on the cypress walls and other signs of age were celebrated natural elements in the interior. Stained wall created a texture and patina in the interior. The woodgrain itself become a statement in each room, needing no art or other decorative objects to be placed on the walls. The home had a focus on modern minimalism, half a century before we were even beginning to think about it in the 21st century.Continue to 6 of 7 below.
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An Historic Treasure
Now, more than fifty years later this incredible home in Fire Island Pines is not only a historical treasure, but a precursor to the work of an architect who has created stunning private structures throughout New York. A look at Bates' portfolio, and it's clear that his work continues to explore the line between private and public spaces within interiors, as well as the importance of using natural materials as way to soften and create warmth in modern architecture.Continue to 7 of 7 below.
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It's the most exciting about Rawlins' Pines Modern project. The fact that in looking back, we can also look forward to see how modernist design was shaped, and how it grew in Fire Island Pines. With a virtual tour and exploration of the history that Rawlins sets down, we can step inside this unique design history and be introduced to how it has influenced modern design in New York and beyond today. A gift for the architecture and design community, with Pines Modern, we can study how culture shaped a design revolution in the Pines.