MID-CENTURY ARCHITECTS WHO LIVED AND WORKED IN THE PINES
Harry Bates (1927-2022)
While working on prestigious corporate towers for Skidmore Owings and Merrill, a young Harry Bates began moonlighting as the architect of serene vacation homes on Fire Island. Following his departure from the Pines in 1969, the self-effacing architect maintained a relatively low profile. But after joining forces with architect Paul Masi, the pair embarked on a series of exquisitely crafted homes on the East End of Long Island. As Christopher Rawlins noted in the architect’s obituary, “Harry Bates proved that modernism is not just a spent force from another era. And his late-career renaissance marks one of the great second acts in architecture.” In 2014, Bates recorded an oral history with Pines Modern and identified his extant homes in the Pines. Bespoke Homes: Bates + Masi Architects (Oro Editions), was released in 2016.
Earl Burns Combs (1931-1991)
A Cornell graduate and a Fulbright fellow in Rome, Earl Burns Combs’ work is distinguished by highly formal geometries, including a series of elaborate octagonal homes across the Pines. The Virginia native’s colorful client list included the famous artist Jim Dines, and the infamous Steve Ostrow, founder of The Continental Baths. Two of his Fire Island Pines homes were featured as Playboy Pads. Combs died of AIDS in 1991.
Marcel Bretos (1931-1986)
Marcel Bretos was the architect of 616 Shore Walk, 230 Bay Walk, 122A Ocean Walk (addition, with Horace Gifford), and the original architect of the complex of homes that form 593-95 Ocean Walk. Bretos was born in Casablanca to a French father and a Greek mother. In addition to his architectural training in Paris, Bretos studied stage design and lighting in Italy. Partnering with interior designer David Napoli, Bretos and Napoli Associates was founded upon his arrival to the United States. Bretos died of AIDS in 1986.
Arthur Erickson (1924-2009)
Vancouver native Arthur Erickson was arguably the most important architect to hail from Canada. Over the span of a fifty-five-year career, Erickson successfully made the leap from highly crafted post-and-beam modernist homes to robust institutional buildings. Erickson was tapped by his friend, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to design the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, and The American Institute of Architects awarded its Gold Medal to Erickson in 1986. Though he only designed one home in the Pines, 557 Ocean Walk brilliantly embodied the apogee of Fire Island hedonism in the late 1970's. Seven books have been written about the architect and his work. Francisco Kripacz, his romantic and business partner, designed the interiors of his buildings. 557 Ocean Walk is featured on the cover of Francisco Kripacz: Interior Design, released in 2016.
Horace Gifford (1932-1992)
With forty homes to his credit in Fire Island Pines and twenty-three others across Fire Island, Horace Gifford shaped the architecture of Fire Island like no other. A native of Vero Beach, Florida, Gifford studied first at the University of Florida and subsequently at the University of Pennsylvania with Louis Kahn. He lived and worked in the Pines from 1961 through 1980, before moving to Bellport, New York, where he became an ardent preservationist. Gifford died of AIDS in 1992. Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction (2013, Metropolis Books/Gordon deVries Studio) charts the operatic arc of Gifford’s work, life and times.
Michael Kinlaw (1938-1995)
Michael Kinlaw designed a muscular composition of cedar and glass at 241 Bay Walk. Upon selling the home in 1989, he expanded Horace Gifford’s early project at 491 Bay Walk, where he lived until his death from AIDS in 1995. These are Kinlaw’s only known house projects, since he practiced at a larger scale in the office of Edward Durell Stone, ultimately serving as General Manager of the firm. The flamboyant architecture of both homes was matched by its architect’s appearance. Edward Durell Stone’s son, Hicks Stone, fondly recalls encountering Kinlaw on the subway, “thin, tall, and handsome… resplendent in a peach-colored pants suit with a flowing white silk scarf and round, rose-colored sunglasses.”