Saving the Kite, Andrew Geller's Double Vision

Pearlroth Beach House, 600 Square Feet of Preserved Architecture

Triangular Pearlroth House, Dune Road, Westhampton, NY, 1958, designed by Andrew Michael Geller
Pearlroth Beach House, Dune Road, Westhampton, NY, 1958, designed by Andrew Michael Geller. Image courtesy 2005 press release, Andrew Michael Geller

The diamond-shaped Pearlroth Beach House in Westhampton, Long Island has been compared to a box kite. It's one of the remaining beach houses by the innovative postmodernist designer, Andrew Michael Geller.

Back in 2005, the house was in disrepair and destined for demolition. Jonathan Pearlroth needed a house larger than the 600 square foot structure Geller built for his father in 1958. Geller's grandson, documentary filmmaker Jake Gorst, wanted to renovate the house and turn it into a museum. The compromise was this: move the house 40 feet closer to Dune Road and Gorst could have it. Preservation fundraisers ensued, and eight years later, in 2013, the house was moved.

Andrew Geller's design for the Pearlroth Beach House is one of the most recognized of the series of innovative and provocative beach houses constructed on Long Island in the late 1950s. Also called the "Box-Kite House" or "Square Brassiere," the house has inspired designers and beach-goers for generations. Relocated from 615 Dune Road to the bayside parking facility of "Pikes Beach," the Town-owned beach recreation area in the Village of Westhampton Dunes, the building is being renovated and will be preserved as a museum open to the public.

The project won the support of numerous architects and historians. Alastair Gordon, author of several published works about resort architecture including "Weekend Utopia: The Modern Beach House on Eastern Long Island," has written: "I can say without hesitation that Andrew Geller's Pearlroth House in Westhampton Beach is one of the most important examples of experimental design built during the post war period—not just on Long Island but anywhere in the United States. It is witty, bold and inventive while also being diminutive in scale and built with inexpensive material."

Marilyn M. Fenollosa, the Senior Program Office and Regional Attorney for the Northeast Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, writes:

"The structure's twin-glassed diamond-shaped wings are evocative of the carefree life and times of the beach communities that were rapidly developing."

Architect Joseph Scarpulla of nearby Huntington said that Pearlroth House "represents an important moment in the architecture of the Hamptons, when the migration of second home (vacation home) owners discovered the area and it became the fertile ground for architectural invention, experimentation and creativity."

Charles Bellows, Chairman of the Town's Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, observed that "early, classic little beach houses...from the Modern era are disappearing at an alarming rate."

AIA's past president Jim Martino added this: "When thinking in terms of architects whose work had an impact on our profession and society one thinks of obviously Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropious, Mies van de Rohe, Philip Johnson, and the generation after them, Gwathmey and Meier, and recently, Frank Ghery. We are of the opinion that history will prove, if it hasn't already, that [Andrew Geller's] school of work influenced countless architects after him simply by the virtue of the many diverse homes that have since been built across the landscape of Long Island's beach front communities that emulate his style."

Andrew Michael Geller, born in Brooklyn on April 17, 1924, died December 25, 2011 in Syracuse, New York—before seeing the beach house moved and saved.

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