574 COAST GUARD WALK
Architect: HORACE GIFFORD, 1965.
While working on a home in Fair Harbor, Horace Gifford encountered the Miller House, Charles Gwathmey’s first commission (shown in black and white). A central living area, shielded by a pinwheel of shed-roofed spaces and sundecks, maintained privacy in a crowded landscape by selectively framing unobstructed diagonal views at the edges of neighboring properties. The Miller House was influenced by their common mentor, Louis Kahn, but Gwathmey soon abandoned this aesthetic in favor of the sleek interwar modernism practiced by Le Corbusier. In 1965, Gifford performed a series of variations on Gwathmey’s discarded debut. His Sprague/Geller House, at 574 Coast Guard Walk, harvested the pinwheel plan of the Miller House and elevated it an entire story off the ground. Views from the internal space were diagonally directed and framed by encircling towers. Narrow, slit windows and enclosed, cantilevered decks maintained privacy within the low-lying, hemmed-in site. Gwathmey’s squat, shed-roofed appendages became bold towers in Gifford’s hands. Elevating the house had a financial advantage as well, allowing a lower floor to be inexpensively added at a later date. Robert Sprague, a textile executive, marveled at how his home emerged from a freehand sketch that embroidered prevailing winds, sightlines, landforms, and sunlight studies. The publication of the Sprague-Geller residence marked Gifford’s debut in the critically acclaimed journal Arts and Architecture. It was also featured in The American Home, and Horace Gifford was photographed in front of 574 Coast Guard Walk for a May 1968 profile in Newsday.
This home is featured in Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction.
Color photo and Drawings: Horace Gifford courtesy Christopher Rawlins. Magazine spread: The American Home. Miller House: courtesy Alastair Gordon. Portrait: Newsday.