Meet the people saving The Hamptons’ modernist architecture
The newly established Hamptons 20 Century Modern vows to celebrate and preserve eastern Long Island’s wealth of modernist architecture
The series of hamlets and seaside communities that form New York’s Hamptons region in eastern Long Island is no stranger to hidden gems, but probably most elusive of all is the plethora of modernist architecture homes that lurk in plain sight. Possibly thanks to furiously private owners, or because the properties have simply been forgotten, these historic houses are difficult to find, especially without a governing body in place to help preserve them. The newly established organisation, Hamptons 20 Century Modern, is committed to changing that.
Founded by interior designer Timothy Godbold in early 2020 with a mission to raise awareness and recognition for preserving these modernist gems, the organisation is dedicated to preventing historically relevant homes from being lost to real estate development.
Hamptons modernist gems
‘I first became aware of Hamptons modernism casually, over many years of living there. From time to time, you come across a Jaffe or Gwathmey, and they immediately strike you,’ recalls Godbold. ‘After I was given the book The Houses of the Hamptons [by Paul Goldberger, 1986] last year, I posted some images of homes on Instagram, including a Norman Jaffe house on Meadow Lane in Southampton. It was then that someone mentioned that it had been torn down just a year before, and that really struck me. I went online to see what preservation societies were doing to protect these houses. I assumed there was a society for everything out here, but it turns out there was nothing.’
After consulting the writer Alistair Gordon, who has written extensively on the subject, Godbold began forming the concept for Hamptons 20 Century Modern, which intentionally functions at the grass roots level. Met with a wave of positive feedback since its launch, including the support of the multidisciplinary artist Daniel Arsham, who owns a Norman Jaffe house himself, the organisation is currently approaching architectural review boards and pleading for historical modernist buildings not to be demolished. ‘We presently have an important Norman Jaffe up for demolition review at Southampton council,’ Godbold says.
‘The Hamptons is home to some of the most iconic American-designed modern architecture,’ he emphasises. ‘From the 1960s through the late 1980s, many of top 20th century architects built homes in a modern beach vernacular. We believe there is still time to further acknowledge these buildings and their place in history through awareness. We presently have over 260 addresses of these houses in the Hamptons area of Long Island. I’m excited to take things to the next level, which would include house tours. I’m already working on a list and hope to have something ready by next year.’ §