Palm Beach Time Machine

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North Lake Way, east elevation. Among Palm Beach’s unearthly sculptural landscapes. In 1956, when Tropical Modern architect Robert Bradford Browne designed a house on North Lake Way, he could never have imagined that more than sixty years later, a European Modern Minimalist architect would transform his stone and wood design into an ultra-modern showcase of concrete and glass.

With the 21st-century apparently inching forward in a day-to-day muddle, I recently stepped into Palm Beach’s time machine, visiting a one-of-a-kind Mid-Century Modern house turned contemporary and a 1960s geodesic dome habitat set on one of those incomparable ocean-to-lake parcels sheltered by a tropical jungle. Paradise found for both owners while surrounded by chockablock mansions best known for their immeasurable square footage.

In 1965, the City of West Palm Beach chose internationally-acclaimed architect Bertrand Goldberg, think Chicago’s Marina City, to design its cone-shaped auditorium, reminiscent to some of Alligator Joe’s Palm Beach camp. Goldberg had worked with Mies van der Rohe and collaborated with Buckminster Fuller. While Goldberg’s work became known to locals as the “Leakee Teepee,” South Florida attracted other innovative Mid-Century Modern designs.

At Palm Beach, where fitting-in once meant standing out, Bernard Boutet de Monvel’s octagon house on Hi-Mount Road and James and Ziuta Akston’s circular La Ronda on North Lake Way did not cause a blink. In the North End, Albert C. Bostwick III retained Paul Rudolph to design an ultra-modern oceanfront home, although unbuilt the plans are part of the Paul Rudolph archive at the Library of Congress.


North End, Palm Beach, c.1960. Albert C. Bostwick III residence, unbuilt. Paul Rudolph, architect. Courtesy Library of Congress.

And who can forget Marion Sims Wyeth’s poised Polynesian designs? Even further back, Palm Beach remained unshaken by Paris Singer’sChinese villa on Peruvian and William and Zila Koehne’s “Fishbowl House” on Chilean. On Slope Trail, Blanche Ittleson was ensconced in her Japanese Modern home.

And then, in Manalapan …


“We really have not changed anything … hurricanes have come and gone, and we are still unmoved,” said the owners of this architectural tour de force located along South Ocean Boulevard.

Island Sanctuary:
Marques Javier de Olaso at Palm Beach

“How did you happen on Palm Beach?”


Marques Javier de Olaso at home in the North End.

“I designed a building for Maurice Gozlan in Paris. When it was completed, there was a party and there I was introduced to Damian Soffer, an American developer who was living abroad. Soffer was moving back to the United States, Fox Chapel outside of Pittsburgh, and liked what I designed for Gozlan. So, he came to Ibiza and saw my house and other work on the island. He asked me to fly to the US and look at the seven-acre Fox Chapel property where I designed his house, described by Pittsburgh magazine as Minimalist Majesty. Then, I came to Florida, first someplace south of Miami, then to Boca Raton.”


Javier de Olaso is well-known for his work on Ibiza and Paris with several of his designs featured in Architectural Digest.
A fountain maze designed by de Olaso on Ibiza.

“We were in Boca Raton and Damian said he was taking us to lunch at Palm Beach on Worth Avenue. I remember after lunch around 3:00 pm, we walked around Worth Avenue. The maitre’d at the restaurant had worked at the Las Dos Lunas restaurant on Ibiza. After dinner, Damian wanted to go back to Boca Raton. I would stay at Palm Beach and checked into the Chesterfield Hotel. I was put in touch with an agent at Martha Gottfried’s office and told him I was looking for something like the 400 Building that I had seen in passing. I looked at one apartment there and bought it.”


The 400 Building. Edward Durell Stone, architect.

“Every February I came to Palm Beach from Ibiza but soon thought of a house. I liked the North End, it is like a real island, the beautiful beach, and no sidewalks. The real estate agent said there was a house that had been on the market for four years and was ‘such a horror.” I sold the apartment at 400 and bought it and have been coming here for 20 years.”


From Javier’s second-level terrace, the view to the northeast toward the inlet.

1956


Sherman & Juliet Galin House, North Lake Way. 1956. Robert Bradford Browne, architect. Galin owned the Andover Reed men’s clothing shop on Worth Avenue. Browne designed a classic Tropical Modern house built the same year Alfred Browning Parker designed the 30-60-90 house on Everglades Island for Joseph Maass, developer of the Palm Beach Towers. Courtesy Florida AIA, Florida Architect magazine, November 1956.
Sherman & Juliet Galin residence, North Lake Way. The Town of Palm Beach- Records Division, houses the original Robert Bradford Browne architectural drawings.

1976


In 1976 the Galins added a living-entertainment addition parallel to North Lake Way, designed by Kessler & Powell, an architectural firm on South County Road.

May 1999 

Javier de Olaso bought the house and began an extensive remodel and renovation. Abracadabra!


Sunset at Villa de Olaso, view toward the addition that the current owner gave his own signature Modern Minimalist look. At the south end of the pool, a Montoya/Ortiz sculpture whose studio and was designed by Javier de Olaso.
A formal Modernist facade interjected with seven concrete pilasters capped with granite and stainless steel is highlighted by triangulated ground cover leading to a recessed geometric entry with a black-striped stainless-steel doorway framed with a Mondrianesque composition of stonework.
North Lake Way, a sunset view of the pool area looking south from a second-level balcony.
The carport became Javier’s entrance hall with concrete walls and slate flooring. “I put a frame around the Warhol rug so people might not walk on it.”
The original living room became Javier’s garage.
A stainless-steel staircase leads to the bedrooms and an upper-level terrace and balcony. To the left, a nearly nine-foot window looks into the garage; to the right, the kitchen area.
A view of the garage from the kitchen.
At the top of the stairs, a Roman marble head. “The first piece I ever bought at auction, in London, maybe more than 50 years ago.”
Although the 1959 issue of Florida Architect magazine described the Galin house as “The House on a Palm Beach Hill,” located a distance north of the island’s highest known elevation at the southwest corner of the Palm Beach Country Club golf course, the current owner further raised the backyard to create an even higher level, rising up toward the west of the property.”
A dining patio sheltered beneath a tree is several steps up from the kitchen and level with the pool area.
The L-shaped house’s west wing kitchen and garage are several steps below the patio.
A concrete and steel patio table.
A Louis Montoya/Leslie Ortiz fountain flows down into the pool.


From the fountain, a slope down toward the east-wing living area.
The eclectic open-beamed living area looking toward the pool and patio.
A tabletop sculpture set on a circular marble base, view from above.
A sculptural form.
La mujer, sin cabeza, no?
Sculptural collages of juxtaposed perspectives and materials.
Javier’s study is a work in progress as he acclimates being away from Ibiza for an indeterminate period of time.
In the entrance gallery, I was fascinated by this concrete landscape representing the lunar surface by a Belgian artist.
L. to r.: A sculpture of note; “Eve di Milo.”
A Montoya/Ortiz sculpture.
The Luis Montoya/Leslie Ortiz studio and foundry are located on Georgia Avenue in West Palm Beach.
From up among the trees …
From the terrace, view to the northeast. “This is why I live on Palm Beach.”

Manalapan Pop: A 1960s Habitat Preserved

During the late 1970s a couple originally from South Africa who resettled in New York were looking for a warm winter retreat when they came across a compound of connected geodesic domes situated on one of Ocean Boulevard’s ocean-to-lake parcels. The habitat was built in 1968 for an owner who has since built several geodesic domes in North Carolina. The current owners now share their home with their children and grandchildren. While they considered selling the 2.5-acre property with more than 200 feet of oceanfront in 2011, they have adapted to their home’s casual beach house setting and are settled in for who knows how long …


July 1968. The original architectural drawings were drawn by Palm Beach architect Ames Bennett, long associated with Robert Gottfried. During the early 1960s Bennett is credited with blueprints for several of the earliest buildings at Boca Raton’s Florida Atlantic University.
Central pavilion, west elevation overlooking the swimming pool. “We wouldn’t live anywhere else,” remarked the owners. In an earlier interview, they said, “Just a day and you feel like a different person. In part, it is the house, the house has something to do with it.”
The central pavilion among seagrapes and palms.
Central pavilion. The entrance hall, living area and kitchen are the focal point. The blue tile floors, red fireplace and lavender cabinets evoke another era.
North pavilion, south elevation. The north pavilion has pink tile floor and two bedrooms with a spiral staircase leading up to a loft.
North pavilion, north elevation.
South pavilion, interior ceiling. Paved with yellow tiles, the master bedroom ceiling features a dome within a dome.
South pavilion, west elevation.
Looking southeast across the terrace. “The chairs and tables have not moved since we bought it in 1978.”
A geodesic habitat, overlooking the original inverted-dome shaped pool. 20th-century living in 21st-Century South Florida.
Along the Intracoastal Waterway beach side, the habitat is secluded by a tangled jungle.

Photography Augustus Mayhew.

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