The Gwathmey Residence, Long Island
Charles Gwathmey

Charles Gwathmey, Gwathmey Residence & Studio, 1967, Amagansett, NY

In 1965 American architect Charles Gwathmey designed the Gwathmey Residence & Studio for his mother Rosalie, a photographer and textile designer, and his father Robert, a painter.[1]Gwathmey, 27, was not a licensed architect at the time and had never designed a home before. His parents allowed him full control of the design so long as construction cost no more than $35,000.[2]It was important to him that the project embody his philosophy: that good architecture is reductive, abstract, and minimal.[3]After his mother’s death in 2001, Gwathmey renovated the space and used it as his weekend home until his own death in August of 2009 at age 71.[4]

The project reflects the architect’s admiration for Le Corbusier’s houses of the Cité Henri Frugès, and in a similar way emphasizes the three-dimensionality of space through the volumetric interpenetration of solids and materials like glass and wood.[5]Located on a one-acre field in eastern Long Island, the 1,200-square-foot residence was designed to look like a sculpture on the site.[6]Its geometric shape is composed of cubes and cylinders that appear to be carved from a solid mass and are arranged in response to site and solar orientation.[7]Across the facade is a bright yellow steel beam that horizontally intersects a red mullion at a right angle.[8]The structure’s interior consists of three floors that divide the building’s program into public and private spaces.[9]

On the first floor are a workroom, terrace, and guestrooms; on the second the kitchen, living and dining rooms; on the third the master bedroom and studio with a balcony that overlooks the second level.[10]Creating upper-level living areas on floors two and three provided extensive views and created a dynamic relationship between the home’s public spaces and the ground plane.[11]In 1967, Gwathmey added a two-story building to the property that contained a new guest room and studio.[12]Using the original blueprints as a point of reference, he designed the 480-square-foot structure as a similar geometric sculpture that precariously stands across the field at a 45-degree angle to the original building.[13]Both structures are covered in cedar siding on the interiors and exteriors, and each window frame is painted either red, yellow, or black, or left in exposed cedar.[14]In 2002, Gwathmey made limited renovations to the residence, such as replacing the concrete floors with white marble and adding more windows, in hopes to preserve the structure’s original elegance.

The Gwathmey Residence & Studio was completed in 1967, the year Gwathmey teamed with Robert Siegel to build a notable practice centered in New York City, especially in the area of residential architecture that included commissions from Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Michael Dell.[15][16]Architecture critic Kenneth Frampton described it as “more convincing than anything else in the Hamptons,” and featured it in his 1995 book American Masterworks: The 20th-Century House.[17]Gwathmey shared the finished project with architect and former architectural curator at the Museum of Modern Art, Philip Johnson, who told him it was an important work and helped get the house noticed through publications.[18]Even at the time of its mid-1960s construction, Robert A. M. Stern, dean at the Yale School of Architecture and a friend of Gwathmey’s, admitted his jealousy of the young Gwalthmey’s refreshing design which set the standard for future homes in the area.[19]

The Gwathmey Residence was a symbol of parental confidence in a son. Today it stands as a modernist icon that has attracted design fanatics for decades and is a proud landmark of its Long Island neighborhood.[20]

[1]“Charles Gwathmey’s Modernist Masterpieces.” Architectural Digest.
[2]Adelyn Perez. “AD Classics: Gwathmey Residence and Studio / Charles Gwathmey.” ArchDaily.
[3]Julie V. Iovine. “Polishing Up a Well-Cut Gem.” The New York Times.
[4]“Modernist Masterpieces.” Architectural Digest.
[5]Perez. “AD Classics.”
[6]Perez. “AD Classics.”
[7]“Gwathmey Residence and Studio.” Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects.
[8]Julie V. Iovine. “Polishing Up a Well-Cut Gem.” The New York Times.
[9]Perez. “AD Classics.”
[10]Perez. “AD Classics.”
[11]“Gwathmey Residence and Studio.”
[12]“Gwathmey Residence and Studio.”
[13]“Gwathmey Residence and Studio.”
[14]Perez. “AD Classics.”
[15]Iovine. “Polishing Up a Well-Cut Gem.”
[16]One of his homes is now owned by art dealer Larry Gagosian.
[17]Iovine. “Polishing Up a Well-Cut Gem.”
[18] Iovine. “Polishing Up a Well-Cut Gem.”
[19]Iovine. “Polishing Up a Well-Cut Gem.”
[20]Iovine. “Polishing Up a Well-Cut Gem.”

Leave a Reply