Kauth House, 1964, Fair Harbor, Fire Island, NY. Photograph by Michael Weber.
Horace Gifford (1932–1992) was a celebrated beach house architect of the 1960s and ’70s, who led a twenty-year modernist transformation of Fire Island. His precociously sustainable structures and theatrically layered spaces, all produced with modest means, resonate anew with today's sensibilities. Growing up on the beaches of Florida, Gifford forged a deep connection with coastal landscapes. Pairing this well of sensitivity with modernist techniques, Gifford perfected a hedonistic modernism in cedar and glass, as attuned to natural landscapes as it was to our animal natures. Gifford's serene 1960s pavilions provided refuge from a hostile world, while his exuberant post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS masterpieces orchestrated bacchanals of liberation. Blending the literary imperatives of an architectural monograph and a cultural history, Fire Island Modernist ponders a fascinating era through an overlooked architect whose life, work, and colorful clientele trace the operatic arc of a lost generation.
Christopher Rawlins is principal of Rawlins Design, a New York-based architecture and interiors firm whose projects have recently expanded to encompass new beach houses and midcentury modernist restorations. He majored in architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology, studied abroad in Paris, and was the recipient of a full merit-scholarship to Princeton University, where he obtained his MArch degree. Rawlins has taught at Lehigh University and has worked with Alexander Gorlin, prior to founding his own practice. Rawlins wrote the cover story for the Summer 2010 issue of Modernism magazine and has spent the past two years giving lectures about Horace Gifford to a widening audience. He is also a summer resident of Fire Island Pines, where he discovered and has lived in the homes of Horace Gifford. Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction is his first book.