Thursday, May 15, 2014

Palm Beach & Miami Social Diary

Sunday night fireworks over Palm Beach, view from corner of Peruvian and Cocoanut. On Palm Beach, the political fireworks have been non-stop since the Royal Poinciana Way zoning referendum was voted down and the Town Council purged the Zoning and Landmarks Commission. Sunday night's aerial shells of chrysanthemums, spiders and waterfalls marked the end of West Palm Beach's annual SunFest along Flagler Drive.
Palm Beach + Miami Social Diary
Night life + Wild life + Luxe life

By Augustus Mayhew

"If only a scandalous divorce had captivated everyone, the PUD-5 zoning might have passed," observed a seasoned Palm Beacher, commenting about the uncommon public rancor during the street fight over accommodating a zoning overlay along Royal Poinciana Way. The proposed enhancement was relatively harmless, especially when compared with the anomalous plate-glass and asphalt Royal Poinciana shopping center and the nearby super-sized 40,000 square-foot Publix.

Since it is Palm Beach, those who supported the big-box chain grocer were among the opposition to any shot-in-the-arm that might have allowed a mixed-use complex like Joseph Urban's Paramount Theater or Addison Mizner's Via Mizner. For weeks, residents denounced each other, resorting to fear tactics, even though the late Whitney Cushing decreed during the early 1970s that the final nail was driven in Palm Beach's coffin when the zoning was changed on Royal Palm Way.
In an unprecedented shakeup, extreme even by Palm Beach's yardstick, though perhaps mild by Tang Dynasty standards, the Town Council dismissed twenty resident members from its volunteer advisory boards. ARCOM members were advised to muzzle extraneous asides and derogatory observations as to whether someone's new mansion looked like an airplane hangar or might be more appropriate in Boca Raton. Or else, they too would be ousted, their microphones unplugged, and forced to spend more time with their nine-irons than their gavels. Testa's applied for a demolition permit.

The Shiny Sheet
proclaimed the "Season of Division." And as much as beach erosion, the Flagler Bridge closing, and the projected inlet expansion threaten the unearthly composure of Happy Valley, there are those who have expressed doubt about the future effectiveness of the venerable Palm Beach Civic Association. With as many as 20 board members being appointed to the Planning and Zoning Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission at the Town Council's next meeting, either things settle down for the off-season or its back to battle stations.
Barbara "Binny" Joseph Jolly (1955-2014)

"Oh, my watch stopped …" I imagine this might be how my friend Binny Jolly would have described her own death this past week following complications from a tragic misadventure.

Binny Jolly. She painted clouds, vegetables, portraits, faux murals, bridges, and gates, but her great art might have been her simply sensational sense of style.
Binny was an original, a Californian who brought her understated unorthodox Pacific hip to Palm Beach and Gulf Stream. I met Binny 30 years ago. There were years when I think we spoke almost every day, and times, like at the end of her life, when we grew apart.

Content with her paintbrush and sketch pad, and maybe a Joni Mitchell song playing in her heart, she would probably be most proud of her children, Caroline Kling and Putnam Kling, who spoke admirably about her last Sunday at a gathering of family and friends.

Remarkable in presence, I sensed her casual nature might have masked the unsettling push and pull of past lives. So that now, I picture her on an island of calm in an easy chair on a beautiful stretch of sunlit beach. Binny's life was filled with so many things to do, problems to solve, family and friends to help, that I hope the wind, the water and the waves give her peace of mind. Adios Binny!
South of the Border Do at the Zoo
Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society

On Friday night, resident animals at the Palm Beach Zoo's Tropic of Americas habitat must have been buzzing about what was going on in their backyard, ablaze with tiki torches, clouds of smoke wafting from fired-up grills, and the sounds of DJ Vlad and mariachi music filling the air, during the Zoo's annual spring fundraiser held "South of the Border." There were more than 200 guests, nine participating restaurants, fiesta-themed cocktails, a silent auction with a stay-cation theme, and the life of any party, sloths, snakes, parrots, bears, and a jaguar. The Malayan tiger is pregnant and sent regrets.
Friday night's annual spring fundraiser at the Palm Beach Zoo was staged among the Mayan ruins recreated as part of the Tropic of Americas habitat.
The evening event was headed by Whitney Bylin, Thomas C. Quick and Samantha Storkerson. The sponsors were Michele and Howard Kessler, Thomas C. Quick, Christie's, Palm Beach Kennel Club, Whitney and Eric Bylin, Maura Ziska Christu and Eric Christu, Lillian and Luis Fernandez, Susanna Hager, Samantha and Chris Storkerson, John and Eddy Taylor, Rod and Carole Hartless/The Hartless Foundation and Lucia Musso. The host committee members were H. Loy Anderson, Mary and Kane Baker, Fletcher Baker, Lori Bernstein, James Berwind, Amanda Boalt, Mary Cheatham, Maura Ziska Christu and Eric Christu, Kevin Clark, Alex Coleman, Lillian and Luis Fernandez, Susanna Hager, Ashley and Scott Harcourt, Debbie Dunkin, Lourdes Fanjul, Mary Freitas, Annabelle Garrett, Mei Sze and Jeff Greene, Michele Kessler, Patrick Killian, Lilly Leas, Emily Mateer, Minnie and Kevin McCluskey, Jeremy Myers, Ashley Schiff Ramos, Lauriston and Richard Segerson, Maura Smith, Lizzi and Trey Sned, Linda Soper, and Kellie Stenzel.

Along with Echo, Imoto, Nick & Johnnie's, Paneterie, PDQ food truck, Rooney's Public House, Table 26, Table 427 and the Palm Beach Zoo's Tropics Café, BACARDÍ provided the full bar with specialty cocktails, made by BACARDÍ's own bartenders, and served by BACARDÍ models.
Robin Azqueta and Whitney Bylin.
A local mariachi ensemble provided the evening's entertainment.
Kim K. Campbell, right, admires one of the Zoo's colorful parrots.
Eric Christu, Maura Ziska Christu, Susan Malloy, and Tim Malloy.
Some guests secured tables.
Tables were set up on the bridge overlooking several habitats.
Elizabeth, one of the Zoo's expert curators, with a feathered friend.
Two of the evening's honored guests.
Guy Bevilacqua and Chef Clay Conley, representing Imoto at būccan, Palm Beach.
Pam and Ted Rauch. Pam Rauch is chairman of the Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches board of directors.
Leslie Diver and Laurie Bernstein.
Jack Hufty and Kendall Wheeler.
Bacardi provided an array of beverages.
Guests enjoyed a variety of cuisine.
Tom Quick, one of the evening's sponsors.
The Mayan pyramid is part of George and Harriet Cornell's Tropics of the Americas exhibit.
The smoke from tiki torches and grills soon filled the air.
The zoo's tropical landscape is spectacular.
Angela Cruz Ledford, the zoo's media relations manager.
Linda and Jared Soper.
Dr. Joseph Costello and Rena Petrunova.
Robin and Norberto Azqueta.
Palm Beach After Dark

When the sun sets and Worth Avenue shops shut their doors and stash away their charms, the street's shadowy labyrinth of courtyards and cul de sacs, some as illusionary as a de Chirico, transforms into tableaus appreciated as much for their relaxed ambience and mood as venues to admire handbags and shoes. Entered along stone walkways, brick paths, and tiled staircases lit with overhead lanterns and ground lights, the iconic runway's various asides offer a kaleidoscopic palette of white stucco walls, wrought-iron gates and grilles, pecky cypress ceilings, projecting balconies, evoking centuries past in faraway places.

If you linger long enough, whether a candle-lit dinner or a fountain's bench seat, these secluded settings become passageways between the past and the present, the real and the imaginary, places to remember the incomparable personalities and their innumerable follies that have given Palm Beach a cachet far beyond anything found inside a shop window.
Via Mizner, courtyard.
Via Mizner, courtyard.
Peruvian Avenue.
Peruvian Avenue.
Renato's courtyard.
Garden fountain.
Courtyard garden. Courtyard statue.
Courtyard garden.
Entrance doors. Entrance gate.
Courtyard staircase. Courtyard staircase.
Courtyard entrance. Arcade.
Via Parigi, courtyard.
Via, tableau.
Storefront display. "Diamonds Are Forever."
Window display.
Window display.
Via Parigi, courtyard.
Via Mizner, courtyard.
Worth Avenue façade.
Mizner Memorial Park at Town Square.
Miami Social Diary

Every other day, local headlines announce the arrival on Miami’s Monopoly board of the latest NYC developer, at play on South Beach, the Design District, or the Brickell Avenue corridor. That is, when they don’t have another David Beckham  soccer stadium story. Tommy Hilfiger closed on The Raleigh; if only he’d bring back the key lime meringue tarts that were once served numerous owners ago. With a new batch of City Commissioners,  Rem Koolhaas is out at the designer for the $1 billion remake of the Miami Beach Convention Center home to Art Basel; Denver-based Fentress Architects is in for a more modest $500 million redo. Construction on the Apple Store is finally underway on Lincoln Road. Oleg Baybakov is still buying. The Faena penthouse has reportedly sold at a record price; asking was $50 million. And then, there is the development of the legendary Surf Club by Miami-based developer Nadim Ashi, along with architect Richard Meier and the Four Seasons Hotel management team, known as “the world’s leading luxury hospitality company.”

The Surf Club: 1930 + 2014
9011 Collins Avenue, Surfside (Miami Beach)

Although financier Walter Scott Hammons, the Surf Club’s president from 1930 until 1951, established what he decreed as “a stronghold in which our privacy could not be invaded,” in 2012 members changed their tune when Fort Capital Management’s developer Nadim Ashi offered them a reported $116 million to transform the property into a 21st century Four Seasons complex while allowing members continued access to the club’s oceanfront facilities.  

Following acquisition of the designated-historic landmark, a bastion of social history dubbed “General Motors South,” Ashi spent the next two years gaining a maze of governmental approvals and putting together a unique plan, restoring the original Russell Pancoast-designed oceanfront Mediterranean building while introducing two modernistic 12-story buildings designed by starchitect Richard Meier.

With the Four Seasons on board to manage the 80-room hotel in the South Tower and Meier’s visually exhilarating plan for the North Tower approved, construction is now ongoing with a 2016 completion date. With nearly 1,000 feet of oceanfront on a nine-acre site, the Surf Club Four Seasons will incorporate the hotel, two residential towers, a private membership club, two restaurants, four swimming pools, a state-of-the-art spa and fitness center, beach cabanas, and an expansive park and oceanside gardens.
The Surf Club, aerial, looking west towards Miami. c. 1950s. The Surf Club was the first building in what would become the Town of Surfside. With the membership filled at The Bath Club, sixty blocks south, the Surf Club was conceived during the late 1920s and opened in 1930. In March 1930, the Surf Club's 100 founding members announced the club's opening with Alfred Barton as secretary and general manager. Located opposite the entrance to Indian Creek Golf Club and sited on a near nine-acre stretch of beach, the facility was built for a cost of $600,000. The club's main building included an entrance lounge, an enclosed loggia surrounding the open patio adjoining swimming pool, an oceanfront terrace, patio and loggia for luncheon and dinner dancing, and a cabana for every member. The club owned two blocks on the west side of Collins Avenue, reserved for tennis and parking. Courtesy State of Florida Archives.
The Surf Club, staff. The Four Seasons development will provide hotel access to The Surf Club's facilities, a private enclave for more than 80 years, while retaining the standards of service and luxury the club once provided its members. Courtesy The Surf Club.
Surf Club, aerial. The Surf Club's legendary cabanas are being rebuilt.
Last week, Fort Capital Management, the Surf Club's developer, acquired The Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach.
2014. The Surf Club, aerial projection. The new Surf Club as it will appear when construction is completed, inappropriate additions removed, and the original club restored, along with a Four Seasons Hotel in the 12-story South Tower and Private residences in the North Tower, conceived and designed by Richard Meier. "The Surf Club offers a unique opportunity to create an important addition to the built environment, one which affects a balance between the natural beauty of the expansive oceanfront site, and the desire for a new definition of luxury," commented Meier. "Incorporating the historic structure; remaining sensitive to the gracious, low-rise context of Surfside, Florida; and further exploring the relationship between structure and sea has been a wonderful project for the firm. With the addition of the Four Seasons, I feel confident that the homes and penthouses we have created will be enjoyed to their fullest," Meier added. Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP.
The Surf Club, Collins Avenue original entrance. C. 1930. Courtesy The Surf Club.
The Surf Club, projected façade entrance on Collins Avenue with Four Seasons Hotel and residences addition. The project's design team is headed by architects Richard Meier and Bernhard Karpf; project architects Jerome Engelking and Amalia Rusconi-Clerici; associate architect, Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design (KKAID); and landscape designer Fernando Wong/Outdoor Living Design. Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP.
May 2014. The Surf Club, façade entrance on Collins Avenue under construction. Designated by the Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board on 19 May 2010, the Surf Club's original floor is being restored that features a central entrance lobby and corridor, now called Peacock Alley, that runs completely through the building, Peacock Alley bisected the building with the dining and ball rooms to the north, and the pool and loggias to the south. This central corridor leads to the building's oceanfront where a grand staircase extends onto the beach sand. To the east of the pool, a simple loggia was all that existed between the pool and the beach. Two inappropriate additions covered the original east elevation of the Surf Club, on both the north and south side of the exterior grand staircase. A long restaurant space was added to the beach side of the lounge and main dining room to the north. The simple loggia to the south was enclosed and made into significant meeting and ballroom space.
May 2014, under construction. The Surf Club, façade wall stabilization.
May 2014. The Surf Club's entrance leads into the Peacock Alley loggia that opens onto the various courtyards, patios, pool, dining room, leading directly east to the Grand Staircase overlooking the ocean.
2012. Surf Club, original dining room. Courtesy Miami-Dade Historic Preservation.
May 2014. Surf Club, dining room. The dining room's terrazzo floor will be restored.
May 2014. From Peacock Alley looking south through the French doors that once led to the swimming pool that will now accommodate the South Tower Four Seasons Hotel. "The main challenge of the project is to balance the relationship between the existing courtyard of the historic Surf Club and the new vertical buildings of the residential and hotel complex surrounding the Surf Club. This is achieved through the careful calibration of architectural proportions and of functional requirements," commented Bernhard Karpf, associate partner at Richard Meier & Partners.
The Surf Club, courtyard. Fashion show luncheons were a popular diversion during the 1930s and 1940s. Courtesy The Surf Club.
The Surf Club, courtyard dancing-in-the-daylight. Courtesy Surf Club.
The Surf Club's circus gala featured live elephants on the patio and its carnival planted a ferris wheel in the courtyard. Between 1932 and 1942, Alfred Barton's visions were facilitated by the club's noted art director Granville Fisher. The Magnolia Ball reflected the social restraints of the 1930s, followed by an "air of spontaneous gaiety" at the Mother Goose Ball. The 1936 Satin Ball was followed by variously themed parties, including The Midnight Sun, Bal Musette, Arabian Nights, Saratoga, County Fair, and Waikiki. During the Eisenhower Era, members gathered in the Bonanza suite for cocktails followed by dancing in the Nightcap Room. In 1954, the club hosted Miami's first official debutante ball where debs were turned out in layers of "Gone-with-the-Wind crinolines." Courtesy Surf Club.
The Surf Club, January-March 1946. Winston Churchill painting a Surf Club cabana. Churchill's residence at The Surf Club made international headlines. Before departing, Churchill attended one of the club's gala events and personally greeted all 300 guests, thanking them for allowing him his privacy. Courtesy State of Florida Archives.
The Surf Club, aerial model showing additions to the original. Courtesy Miami-Dade Historic Preservation.
May 2014. The Surf Club, east elevation oceanfront with additions removed and restoration underway. Fernando Wong, pictured above, the project's landscape designer, collaborated with Meier on the landscape composition of the project's most significant architectural elevation with its Grand Staircase and arched rows of openings overlooking the sea. They devised a simple blend of coconuts, sea grapes, pigeon plum trees and zoysia grass to create a relaxed resort like atmosphere.
The Surf Club, projected landscape plan. Courtesy Fernando Wong/Outdoor Living Design.
The Surf Club, projected landscape plan. Detail. Courtesy Fernando Wong/Outdoor Living Design.
Pencil sketch, Fernando Wong/ Outdoor Living Design.
Pencil sketch, east elevation oceanfront. Fernando Wong/Outdoor Living Design.
May 2014. The Surf Club, east elevation. Grand Staircase, under reconstruction. The original east elevation also featured a two-story tower with gabled-roof, and a large arch trimmed with engaged columns and a metal screen with radiating spokes in the fan light.
2012. The Surf Club, model, looking south to north. The inappropriate additions have been removed. Courtesy Miami-Dade Historic Preservation.
May 2014. The Surf Club, looking south to north, under construction. "The unifying strategy for the whole project is the consistent introduction of natural light, and the establishment of visual corridors both of which will connect the old with the new buildings," stated Richard Meier.
May 2014. The Surf Club, looking from north to south towards Peacock Alley. The North Tower will float four stories above this existing courtyard.
Richard Meier
Cornell - Naples – Palm Beach -Surfside

The Four Seasons at the Surf Club is not architect Richard Meier's first building in Florida, but it will probably become his most visible, as his previous projects were either unbuilt or secluded private residences — the Alfred and Judy Taubman House in Palm Beach's North End, and two decades later, the Klaus and Ursula Neugebauer House in Naples' exclusive Port Royal.
October 2008. Weill Hall & Institute, Cornell University. Richard Meier, architect. The Surf Club's architect Russell Pancoast was a Cornell graduate, as was Meier ('57). Because of car trouble on the road to Ithaca, we arrived at Cornell shortly after the dedication of Weill Hall during the fall of 2008.
1977-1979. 958 North Lake Way, east and west elevations. Palm Beach. Framed by a thick wall of hedges, the A. Alfred Taubman House was one of Richard Meier's earliest residential designs. For the Taubman's and their art collection, Meier designed a functional interplay of opaque building materials and reflective enameled metal and glass panels expressed in linear and curvilinear forms. As much as the Taubman house is a collage of space and light structured by functional organizational logic, its harmonious simple cubic forms transform the interior into an ethereal architectural experience. Separated from the street by a stone motor court, the east elevation is composed with segmented white panels divided by a recessed central entrance. Designed for more dramatic impact, the lake side elevation features a pavilion and an open pool sheltered by immense hedges.
1995-1998. Neugebauer House. Port Royal, Naples. Set on a wedge-shaped waterfront lot, the Neugebauer House is as functional as it is architecturally dazzling. Several years ago, I spent an afternoon at the house, making for a remarkable experience. The inverted wing-like cantilevered roof, laminated glass curtain walls, and skylights are the house's state-of-the-art features. From Doubloon Bay, the wing-like roof appears to float above the house, bringing together the interior spaces that open onto the pool's podium that frames the reflecting pond and lap pool.
2004. Beach House, Surfside. Several years ago at an oceanfront location five blocks north of The Surf Club on Collins Avenue, Meier designed the Beach House, a 12-story condominium featuring ground-floor triplexes fitted with infinity-edge whirlpools, private elevators, and access to a beachfront sunrise pool. Slated for completion in 2009, the Beach House featured a cathedral-height lobby with a grand staircase, reflecting pools and a waterfall, a health club, a wine-and-cigar lounge, and an additional rooftop pool.
2014, conceptual rendering. Four Seasons Residences at the Surf Club. Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP.
2014, conceptual rendering, Four Seasons residences at the Surf Club. "The design for the buildings utilize Richard Meier's clear and iconic visual vocabulary —transparency, capacious volumes of space, a sensitivity to the movement of natural light throughout the day, and sumptuous yet elemental materials." Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP.
Bal Harbour Shops
Bal Harbour

After touring the Surf Club, I dashed five blocks north to La Goulue for lunch with landscape designer Fernando Wong and his business partner Tim Johnson, who also have an office on Palm Beach.

Bal Harbour Shops. Dolce & Gabbana.
Having studied architecture and design in his native Panama, Fernando Wong has been an established landscape designer for more than a decade, bestowed the 2011 Design Center of the Americas Star of Design Award for Landscape Architecture. Last year, he completed the only LEED Certified landscape in Palm Beach County and one of the few Platinum LEED Certified houses in the country. His firm has completed more than 150 public and private gardens for private homes and estates, as well as hotel and condominium master plans and LEED Platinum Certified landscapes.

“We met Nadim Ashi after his wife Marlene saw a magazine article on our firm that led to designing the landscape for their home. Soon after, I was tapped to design the landscape for two of Ashi’s highly-structured condominium projects.” 

“Fast forward a few years, Nadim called to discuss working on the Surf Club with Richard Meier. We met with Meier in New York, discussed the project’s unique mix of a historic landmark with a 21st century modernistic newbuilds, and realized we all shared the same pared-down vision of what would make this Four Seasons an ultimate destination.”

“My palette is very restrained because I only use two colors for each project and one of them is a shade of green. Having that aesthetic was a good fit to Richard Meier’s’ spare, elegant genius.”
Bal Harbour Shops, second level.

Recently, I spent a week motoring every morning at dawn to the closest wetlands in search of a last seasonal glimpse of the snowbirds that, for the most part, have already migrated back North. Each day I arrived minutes before the sun rise, thinking I was early although I usually found more than a dozen photographers already positioned. By 8 a.m., the golden light was gone, turned into a glare. Here is a composite of my week with some images of wet feathery coats drenched by early morning deluges.
Minutes before the sunrise.
"Quick! Wood storks mating, right center island," a spotter calls out … "click-click-click-click-whirr-whirr-flash-flash-click-click-flash …" With the rapt frenzy of red carpet paparazzi at the Oscars, every morning a flock of birdographers claim their prime positions; in some cases, several spots with tripods controlled by remotes.
The main attraction.
Red-winged blackbird.
Double-crested cormorant.
Penthouse living.
Life at the top.
Red-shouldered hawk.
Purple gallinule.
Egrets Nesting
8 a.m. Time to go ...
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.