603 TUNA WALK
Architect: HORACE GIFFORD, 1965.
Renovation Architect: ANDREW FRANZ ARCHITECT PLLC, with JAMIE BUSH AND CO., 2019. Décor: PETER DUNHAM DESIGN, 2019.
With his customary dry humor, Horace Gifford began his design presentation to his client Murray Fishman by declaring, “You will now have twenty closets to come out of.” Twelve robust columns, containing closets above and below, lifted the Fishman residence into the air. Early Fire Island cottages squatted akimbo upon skinny pilings, evoking the architectural equivalent of “martini legs.” Gifford composed and selectively clad his own version of these posts, realizing a muscular base in harmony with the architecture that it supported. Gifford was indifferent, hostile even, to having all these closets in a beach house, except when they served his desired formal effect. On that basis, the home was a breakout success that made its way into the pages of several magazines and a traveling exhibition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects.
Health issues caused Murray Fishman to sell his home shortly after its completion. Its next occupants were Marvin and Jo Segal, who called on Gifford to add terraces to the ground level. Marvin Segal would distinguish himself as an attorney for the most notorious of defendants, including Nixon administration Attorney General John Mitchell and numerous Mafia figures. Perhaps his rough-and-tumble milieu made him feel invulnerable, as he neglected to pay Gifford for his work. Undeterred, the architect got his money after a series of characteristically terse and fearless letters demanding payment. Segal’s accomplished wife, a fashion editor for Women’s Wear Daily, Sports Illustrated, and Look, was part of the Pine’s fashion coterie that included John Whyte, Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, and Diane von Furstenburg. She also became quite a fan of her architect, organizing the first Horace Gifford house tour in 1975.
Segal kept the home for the rest of her life. By 2016, 603 Tuna Walk was worse for wear. Fortunately its new owner, the distinguished infectious disease doctor Michael Giordano, “wanted a project.” He oversaw much of the work himself, while enlisting a talented roster of designers in a spectacular renovation that includes a new guest house, a pool, and a muscular stair to the roof deck that improves upon the original.
This home is featured in Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction, and Summer to Summer: Houses by the Sea.
Vintage Photos: Bill Maris, Horace Gifford. Plans: Christopher Rawlins. Black and White article: New York Times. Color article: House and Garden. Renovation photos: Albert Vecerka/ESTO (dusk photos), Tria Giovan (daytime photos). Scale model: Andrew Franz Architect PLLC.