Search­ing for an ar­chi­tec­tural soul

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page - Joseph Pu­bil­lones

Many think that the ar­chi­tec­ture of Palm Beach is one that never changes — build­ing in Palm Beach is no easy task. It is but for a for­tu­nate few who can first and fore­most af­ford it, and sec­ondly jump through Ar­chi­tec­tural re­views, neigh­bor’s ap­provals and some­times a law­suit or two. Ar­chi­tec­ture is not taken lightly, and while some see the is­land as a place where things never change, the ar­chi­tec­tural his­tory begs to dif­fer.

In its early days, Palm Beach was noth­ing more than a col­lec­tion of wood­frame ver­nac­u­lar build­ings. All were rooted in classical styling, some grand in stature such as the Royal Poin­ciana Ho­tel and the orig­i­nal Break­ers Ho­tel. Found­ing fa­ther Henry Fla­gler was more fo­cused on get­ting the place es­tab­lished than on aes­thet­ics. The wood ver­nac­u­lar build­ings were easy to build and adapted well to the sub-tropic cli­mate, ex­cept for the pow­er­ful spo­radic hur­ri­canes. Rel­a­tively few of these build­ings are around for sam­pling.

Palm Beach has al­ways been char­ac­ter­ized by the Mediter­ranean ar­chi­tec­ture of the wind­ing vil­las and the miles upon miles of man­sions. Mediter­ranean re­vival has al­ways been the pre­ferred ar­chitec- ture be­cause of the link to the mae­stro Ad­di­son Mizner. Mizner’s vi­sion cre­ated the idea of an ex­otic place to visit with­out the need to travel abroad. Af­ter the fi­nan­cial crash of 1929, ar­chi­tects sought to re­place the for­mal­ity and ex­pen­sive Mediter­ranean style for some­thing af­ford­able and ca­sual.

Through­out the 1930s, the Mon­terey, Ber­muda and Mod­ern styles emerged as a sen­si­ble and eco­nom­i­cal ar­chi­tec­ture in keep­ing with the times and eco­nom­ics. With­out the tur­rets, tow­ers, and iron and stone dec­o­ra­tions, these newer, more mod­est homes were eas­ier to build and were am­ple enough for fam­i­lies. Some of these homes were built with brick and wood, and oth­ers con­sist en­tirely of plain stucco and flat-tiled roofs, which helped cre­ate the frame­work for what con­sti­tutes the ar­chi­tec­ture of cen­tral Palm Beach.

In­tro­duced into the is­land dur­ing the 1940s, the Palm Beach Re­gency style — in­spired by the Beaux -Arts move­ment — was trans­lated into less costly stucco con­struc­tion for a trop­i­cal clas­sic ar­chi­tec­ture. The style was most pop­u­lar dur­ing the 1950s and 60s, de­vel­op­ing in to en­tire neigh­bor­hoods. This ar­chi­tec­tural style cat­a­pulted the theme of an An­glo and Franco Euro­pean el­e­gance to Palm Beach. This style has en­dured the test of time and is per­haps the sec­ond most rec­og­niz­able Palm Beach style.

Although at about the same time, the mid-cen­tury ranch was all the rage in the ma­jor­ity of the United States, Palm Beach did not catch on to this less glam­orous and min­i­mal ar­chi­tec­ture. A smat­ter­ing of these ranches did de­velop on the north end of the is­land of Palm Beach. To­day, many of these have re­ceived facelifts in every kind of fla­vor.

Palm Beach has had a love/hate af­fair with con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture. Star ar­chi­tects have come and gone and left some beau­ti­ful build­ings, and neigh­bors have em­braced them or feuded with ar­chi­tects and home­own­ers.

With each new home, the ques­tion of fit­ting in is al­ways the con­ver­sa­tion at every cock­tail party or town meet­ing. To­day, the ar­gu­ment of tra­di­tion ver­sus con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture is more rel­e­vant than ever, both sides with equal fer­vor. One thing for cer­tain is that Palm Beach is al­ways in a quest for the best.

Joseph Pu­bil­lones is the owner of Joseph Pu­bil­lones In­te­ri­ors, an award-win­ning in­te­rior de­sign firm based in Palm Beach, Florida. His web­site is www.joseph­pu­bil­lones.com. To find out more about Joseph Pu­bil­lones, or to read fea­tures by other Creators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit the Creators Syn­di­cate web­site at www. creators.com.

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